How to conceive of a series title
It's time... to talk about titles! Titles are important, we all know that, however, I think it's almost universal when we talk about the difficulty in creating or deciding on one. So, let's discuss!
This is more so for book series, if you wish to read more on individual book titles, I might write a blog post about it another time.
So let's dive right in, shall we?
We'll start at the beginning and ask ourselves, why ARE series titles so difficult? Well, to answer your question in the short term. It's because you are trying to summarize multiple books into only 1-5 words that is not reusing someone else's work and has an impact that will attract readers.
Here's the slightly longer reason. When we are coming up with book titles, we pinpoint what's important in that particular book and bring it to life. We ask ourselves the who, why and how before sitting down and researching what could possibly be the best fit. A book title can be almost anything, sometimes short and sweet, other times a bit lengthier... depending.
So, let's look at a book by itself, and then a book within a series.
A book by itself, ironically enough, has a lot more freedom than one in a series.
That is because, a solitary book isn't constrained to following a pattern or routine. You can almost do whatever you want with it. Do you want a lengthier title? Sure, have at it. A one word title? Be my guest, if you can find one that hasn't already been taken.
Of course, even for a single book you need to do the all-consuming task of: Research.
Researching for a single book title is relatively easy in comparison. Once you find a title you like, you look it up, as long as it stands out, is different enough from the competition, and seems memorable then you are good to go.
Not the case for a series title.
Now, onto the series titles for books. As many of you know, books in a series have their own titles, to tell them apart. Understandable, but it's interesting to point out, that almost all of them have a common theme linking them together. A perfect example would be the Harry Potter series. I don't think I really have to point out how they link together, so let's move on to the next point.
Sometimes, you can get away with having books within a series that don't have similar titles, but those are often more the exception then the rule. The one's that don't have similar titles, WILL have a series title.
The series title:
A series title needs to intrigue the reader, just like a book title would, but it needs to also encapsulate the entire story, from beginning to end, not just the first book. You want to attract the readers attention, make them curious, but not give them any major spoilers with your words. So, how do you do it?
A couple ways, though none of them are completely full proof.
One is to let yourself fall back and use common words like chronicles or journey. Where you want to get your uniqueness is in the name before or after it, or in the book titles themselves. I did this with The Elifer Chronicles, taking a last name not many people would have ever heard about, and using it to pull the story together without really spoiling anything. Yet, it still very much ties all the books together, since it is telling the 'chronicles' of our main characters.
Another example is The Wingfeather Saga, a beautifully written children's series. As you can see, a simple name that packs a punch and works for the whole series.
Another way you can do it, though this is a bit harder, is to set each book up in a way that you don't need a second title. Again, I'll point to the above example, Harry Potter. This can work in your favor if you have a unique character name and very distinctive ideas for each book. But you want to wield your words carefully if you utilize this method, because it is easy to sound repetitive, or accidentally come up with two titles that are a little too close to each other.
The last method is to pick an item or theme of your world and look up every synonym under the sun until you throw your hands in the air, curse at the sky, take a shower, and then suddenly get an epiphany...
Seriously though, if you are stressing over coming up with a title for your series, take a deep breath and calm down. It might take a few weeks... or months... but it will come to you, especially if you are passionate about the story and characters.
Coming up with titles is difficult, no doubt about it. Coming up with series titles is excruciatingly so, mainly because they are also 'your brand'. They need to be both intricate, explaining the story or characters in as few words as possible, but also unique. They need to fit with the tone of your stories, not just one or two books in the series. Which is even more difficult to do when you only have one part of the series written, usually only the first book. However, you want to make sure it's not too complex either.
Keep in mind, you are probably going to have to say the series title, as well as the book title, out loud multiple times when recommending others to read it or talking about it in a presentation.
So, I'm going to use an example from my own works on a series title I came up with. This is a story that's sitting in my 'waiting' list. I want to publish it someday, but I'm giving it some time since it is more... out there than some of my others. (Ironic as that may sound.)
For the longest time I had a name for the book. It was inelegant, but it did it's job in order to help remind me, as a young writer, what the book was about. That book was called: The Children of Darkness and Light. I know, not the most original name, but I was also fifteen when I started writing it. Still, I was at least aware that this was a placeholder name more than anything. You can probably guess why. Other than feeling like it reveals too much of the story, it is also a bit on the longer side, considering it was the series title, which meant there was almost no room for a regular title beside it. Unfortunately, this title stuck for a long time, years in fact, because I could not come up with one that fit the entire series at the time.
One day, while working on the story and developing the ending of the first book, an idea came to me. I wrote it down and then forgot all about it until almost a year later when I was coming up with the ending to the series.
Lo and behold, the name I came up with a year prior actually matched the ending I came up with... even though I had completely forgotten about the title. The new title? After years of rework and finally sitting down and practically writing the ending of the series? It was renamed: Shattered Spires.
So, when you are struggling with a series title, go ahead and throw around a bunch of different options. Don't settle on the 'okay'.
If you don't feel it's right, place it to the side and keep thinking about it, or just let it be and do something else.
A Series title is critical for a book series. So your brain will be working its darn hardest to come up with an answer for you, even if you, yourself, can't.
So those are some ways you can work on a series title and a few pointers of why coming up with one is so difficult. How do you come up with series titles?
Do you follow any of the things that I mentioned? Do you have your own techniques?
After all, every writer and reader is different. So, I'm curious, what are your thoughts?
If you want to check out my writing and see the titles I decided on, you can find my stories here:
Julie Boglisch is a prolific author. At the age of twenty-eight she has already created and published multiple works. Her second series, The Elifer Chronicles, received a glowing Kirkus Review. She is an artist both in character art and cover design and is the creator of her own covers for her works.