Books Waiting for Titles. Titles Waiting for Books.

I’m thinking about titles this week because I just got word that the title of one of my books is going to be changed. I know that happens but it hadn’t yet happened to me. So I’m looking at the new title out of the corner of my eye, turning it over on my tongue. Getting used to it. It’s an odd feeling. It still feels a little other.


Insert your book title here.

Titles are important. That’s why editors and sales departments spend a lot of time thinking about them. They’re like a book’s name–how a book is known to the world. Even if you haven’t read a book, you might know its title. Does the title make you pick up a book? Or pass it over for the next one?

I’m also wondering. Why is it that in writing sometimes the title comes before the book? And other times a book arrives completely lacking a title? I have whole lists of funny titles waiting for books that I haven’t written yet. I will go to great lengths to create a story for a title that I think is particularly clever. Yet other times, I can write an entire novel (twice) with no other title in mind except “that Augusta book.”

What do you think? Are titles something you struggle with? Or are they the best part? Are there books that you loved first just for the title?


Mylisa Larsen has been telling stories for a long time. This has caused her to get gimlet-eyed looks from her parents, her siblings and, later, her own children when they felt that certain stories had been embellished beyond acceptable limits. She now writes children’s books where her talents for hyperbole are actually rewarded.

She is the author of the picture books, Instructions for Bedtime (Katherine Tegen Books) and If I Were A Kangaroo (Viking.)

You can visit her online at


Filed under Writing and Life

12 responses to “Books Waiting for Titles. Titles Waiting for Books.

  1. When I teach writing to middle school students, some of them get hung up on titles. I actually had one student tell me that a teacher told her that you CAN’T BEGIN WRITING until you’ve come up with a title! I tell them all — and that young lady in particular — that the title will come when it comes, that she would find it in the story in a great turn of phrase or in the name of a character or in an incident that she loved. In short, I never worry about it. I wait for it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think title and cover are kind of a package deal, they both interest me at the same time. Then the books blurb and first couple of pages let me know if it’s a book I would enjoy reading.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. mariagianferrari

    I hope that you’ll grow to love your new title, Mylisa! 🙂

    I struggle with titles, and they do capture my attention, and draw me in to a closer inspection of a book. I love taut, clever titles, especially for picture books, like The Right Word–it’s just the quintessential title for Jen Bryant’s book, and for someone like Roget.

    Another that comes to mind is Joan Holub’s, Little Red Writing, a red riding hood/writing fractured fairy tale–it’s also perfect, since the entire book is filled with clever puns and word play–the main characters are pencils! And I just realized both books are illustrated by the AMAZING Melissa Sweet–one of my favorite illustrators!

    My original title for Penny & Jelly was Penelope, Untalented, but it didn’t quite work for the two book deal I got, so it became Penny & Jelly. And the funny thing is, I was looking through some really early drafts and musings a couple of weeks ago, and I had listed it as a possible title–and hadn’t even remembered it! 🙂

    I’m working on a picture book manuscript now which started with a title–I’ll see what I can do with it! Thanks for the thoughtful post!


    • I’m putting Little Red Writing on the reading list. Sounds fun. Tara Lazar has a Little Red Gliding Hood featuring an ice-skating Red coming out soon. (What is it about that fairy tale that begs for fracturing?)

      Liked by 1 person

      • mariagianferrari

        It’s just so much fun! I can’t wait to read Tara’s book, and tomorrow I’ll be picking up Ninja Red Riding Hood from the library 🙂


  4. Yes, I also have a list of titles waiting for me to write their stories. So funny! I’m like Maryanne, where I assume the right title will come when it comes. Sometimes when I’m struggling for the right title for a project, it’s a sign that I don’t have a strong enough grasp on why the story matters to me or what it’s about.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Janet Fox

    OMG, Mylisa, I’m going through the SAME thing at this very moment. I’ve never had such trouble with a title. I think we’re getting closer now, but it was a marketing decision to change. I’m sure they’re right………..but……..

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Rebecca Van Slyke

    It’s kind of like when our daughter was born and the “perfect” name we had chosen didn’t seem to fit her. So she went almost a whole day without a name. And all night I kept wanting to ask her, “Please, just tell me your NAME!”
    I hope your book “grows” into its new title and it feels perfect soon.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I have a list of titles waiting in the wings, too. I’m hoping their stories will come. Titles are a huge deal to me. I definitely pick up books based on titles. I’m looking forward to hearing your new title because I really like the titles listed on your website. It’ll be interesting to see the change. And I hope you come to the conclusion that its the best title EVER!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. tamaraellissmith

    I am in the “never have the right title the first time around” camp so I am in awe of you all who have lists of titles waiting for their stories. Mylisa, I too hope that your title feels like home soon…

    Liked by 1 person

  9. The title for my first novel came fairly easily, although it wasn’t the first one I thought of (and it is borrowed), but the second is proving much harder. I’m currently at the stage of writing lists and going ‘nope, nope, nope’.


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