Finding the Perfect Title for Your Mystery Novel


If you think writing your mystery novel is hard, just wait until you try to come up with the perfect title for your mystery novel! The devil is in the details – and coming up with those brief few words to grace the cover of your book can be a painstaking process.

The title of a thriller or crime novel serves an important purpose: It’s your big chance to make an impression on potential readers. Whether they’re very familiar with your work or they’ve never heard your name, readers will respond – or won’t – to the title they see on your book cover. It has to be catchy and memorable, informative and succinct, exciting and restrained. With the right title, you’ll get readers to pick up your crime novel – or click the Amazon link – to learn more and potentially read your book. Considering how much work it has to do, it’s no wonder finding the perfect title for your mystery novel is so much work itself!

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, never fear! These tips can help you get started with finding the perfect title for your mystery novel.

  • Keep it relevant. Start by making a list of the important themes, ideas, locations, and characters in your thriller, and see if any of them translate into titles. You can go for something literal – like The Maltese Falcon or The Talented Mr. Ripley, or choose something descriptive – like The Hangman’s Daughter or The Last Witness.
  • Keep it catchy. You’ll want readers to be drawn to your mystery novel title – and to remember it. Incite their curiosity with a popular phrase or idiom that has a double entrendre specific to your book – like Vital Signs – or give a well-worn expression an unexpected twist – like Motion to Kill.
  • Keep it short. You’ve written a mystery – so keep it alive! Never give away too much with a crime novel title. Think of your title like an advertising headline – a few words designed to lure and hook potential readers. Chevy Steven’s Still Missing is a great example. Who’s still missing? Why is that news? What does that mean? In just two words, readers are intrigued.
  • Keep it consistent. If you’re writing a series of mysteries, you can have a lot fun with a theme for each title in the series. James Patterson’s Alex Cross titles – Along Came a Spider, Kiss the Girls – are all lines from nursery rhymes, while Janet Evanovich includes the book number in each Stephanie Plum title – like the latest bestseller Top Secret Twenty One.
  • Keep at it. Don’t settle for a title because you’re tired of brainstorming or you don’t think you’ll find something better. Like everything worth while, finding the right title is hard work! If you get stuck, make a list of your favorite give and get feedback from friends and family.
  • Keep it original. Once you’ve found the perfect title for your mystery novel, search the internet for it. While a title can’t be copyrighted, you won’t benefit from giving your thriller the same title as a crime noir classic or another famous book like the Bible. Aim for a mystery novel title that hasn’t been used in several years so that when others pop it into Google, yours is the one they find.

Finding the perfect title for your mystery novel might feel more challenging than writing the book itself, but your efforts will pay off in the end. We may know better than to judge a book by its cover, but the title is a whole different story, literally! Do the work, and your mystery title will ultimately do the work for you.

One Response to “Finding the Perfect Title for Your Mystery Novel”

  1. Jessica Swanson

    Thanks for the post Joel! I’m finishing up book 1 of a series and this is helpful. Any tips (or dangers) for attaching place names/locations to the title (actual towns/mountains/counties)?