Book Titles, and Why They So Often Sound Alike

Back in March I told you about my struggles finding a title for my book in progress.

book titlesHere were some of the contenders:

  • Really, Truly Sisters
  • Life After Love
  • More Than Sisters
  • Sisters Once Removed
  • Joined At the Heart

Well, really? Now that I look at them, I can see why my editors weren’t doing back flips after I made these suggestions. When Nemo and I came up with the winner, the response was much warmer. In fact my editor swears it’s the best title I’ve ever had.

When We Were Sisters will be out in June. I’m finishing the first draft now.

In spring 2012 I blogged about title problems with another book. I said that for me, titles needed to

  • Fit the genre
  • Capture my imagination
  • Be the right length to be memorable.

In your comments you chimed in to add that titles should:

  • Evoke the story
  • Be short
  • Highlight emotion
  • Be different enough to grab attention

Don’t I have great readers?

This week I got an interesting blog post from BookBub Partners. BookBub is a service that features “sale” e-books. The books range anywhere from free to $3.99, and I have bought and downloaded many to my Kindle. I also get their blog with tips for authors.

This time the blog included word clouds for thirty different genres, everything from horror to middle-grade children’s books. The clouds are made up of words that are often found in titles for that particular genre. BookBub downloaded and categorized every title of the 10,000 books they’ve featured, so the data is particularly interesting. These are not the bestselling but the most frequently used words. Here are some of the results in three genres I’ve written in:

Women’s Fiction:

Home, Summer, Color, House, Life, Good, Wedding, Finding, Mother, Daughters, Sister. . . and many  more.

Checking my most upcoming and last six titles and highlighting words that appear in the cloud I found: When We Were Sisters. The Color of Light. No River Too Wide. Somewhere Between Luck and Trust. One Mountain Away. Sunset Bridge. Fortunate Harbor. Happiness Key. Water words (river, creek, water, upstream, sail) appeared over and over. Mountains? Nope, not even hill. Luck, Trust? Fortunate? Surprisingly, no. But most surprising? Neither happiness nor key.

“Light” does appear in the Christian Fiction cloud. Since I’m fond of all those titles, including the ones with words not in the cloud? I draw no conclusions.

Contemporary Romance:

Billionaire, Love, Bride, Texas, Wedding, Cowboy, Married, Forever, Heat. . . and many more.

Since I’ve revised a few of my contemporary romances–the genre I started in–and put them online as ebooks, I thought I would check those titles against the contemporary romance cloud. I’ve highlighted the words from that cloud: Once More With Feeling, Twice Upon A Time, From Glowing Embers, Smoke Screen, Rainbow Fire, Out of the Ashes, The Unmasking, and Season of Miracles.

Don’t adjust your screen. None of the cloud words appeared.


I wrote five mysteries in the Ministry is Murder series. Obviously Murder was in the cloud. But of all my titles, only the fourth, A Lie for a Lie was included on the cloud. Even Suspects was missing.

So what does any of this mean? Mostly it means I had fun checking, and then creating the word cloud at the top from my own titles. I didn’t always use words that were common enough to be included in the many selections that BookBub has advertised. You tell me if that means the titles are wonderfully unique or if readers will be less apt to pick up my books. I think the jury is out on that one.

I will note that the word “sister” or “sisters” appears on several different lists. I’ll assume that’s a good sign for the new book.

If you want to see more of my titles? You can find all my books listed here.

Do you like a title that includes words that suggest a type of story? Or do you prefer an unusual title that makes you open the book to see what it’s about? I would love to know.


  1. Jill Eliot on September 1, 2015 at 2:36 am

    Finished The Color of Light two days ago. Loved the book, as I love all of them. The story of Analiese and her Priest were of great interest to me as I had an interesting relationship with a man who went into the priesthood when I couldn’t be a part of his life. I was a married woman. It was a summer romance and they are always sweeter. Hope you had a wonderful time in my favorite place, Chautauqua. Thanks for writing such good stuff. I, too, am writing. Have written lots of musicals, etc. Now I am trying to get my life on paper!!!!
    Jill Eliot

    • Emilie Richards on September 1, 2015 at 10:51 am

      We had a wonderful summer. Programming ended on Sunday after nine weeks and now we rest a bit and look forward to another season next year. Good luck with your writing. You sound primed and ready to go.

  2. Martha O'Quinn on September 1, 2015 at 7:30 am

    All of the above! How is that for making a decision? Good morning Emilie. Either or, a little of both. The cover usually grabs my attention, then the title, then the back cover or the inside flap. I enjoy mysteries but the cover and title usually determine whether or not I will even pick it up. Mysterious? Yes. Gory? No. I am also pleased that titles are not copyrighted.

    • Kathleen on September 1, 2015 at 10:35 am

      Aptly put !

    • Emilie Richards on September 1, 2015 at 10:52 am

      Imagine a world with copyrighted titles? I think we might have to give books numbers if that happened.Book Six-Billion thirty-two.

  3. Kathleen on September 1, 2015 at 10:30 am

    Good questions. A title that suggests a genre to my liking catches me first yet the best titles have more then one layer of meaning – ex. One mountain away.

    Memoirs of a geisha, Tuesday’s with Morrie, she’s come undone, ten thousand secrets are all more direct titles yet the books took me places I would never have experienced otherwise.

    Thank you

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