Which One Won? Sometimes a one-word book title isn’t enough

Some of the most memorable book titles are one word long. Holes. Americanah. Atonement. Beloved. It. But how do you know if your idea for a one-word book title is enough? Test titles of varying lengths on an audience of PickFu respondents, as this author recently did.

The author presented these three titles along with the question, “Which book title is better?”:

  • Insignificance (Option A)
  • One of Us is Buried (Option B)
  • The Factory Above the Jail (Option C)

Can you guess which one won?

And the winner is…Option B, with a score of 54. Option C was a close second with 46 points, and Option A got just 16 votes.

Here’s what respondents had to say.

Intrigue is more interesting

Schadenfreude — the natural tendency for people to take an interest in others’ misfortunes — probably explains why Option B got the most votes. Respondents said they were curious to find out who was buried and why.

“Option B pops out as more intense/eye-catching since it jumps right into someone dying,” said one respondent. “Option B sounds incredibly intriguing. It sounds like a very dramatic story that I would like to know more about,” said another.

Option C was too wordy. Most thought it sounded uninteresting. One person even found it pretentious: “[Option C] just screamed no, because it [looks] desperate for attention.”

As for Option A, respondents agreed that the single-word title “has much too little to go on.”

Use the title as a teaser

A book title is a window into a novel. It’s also a teaser. Of the three titles, respondents felt that Option B offered the most compelling hook.

“B is a really interesting concept. It gives you a clue without giving anything away,” said one respondent.

Another respondent agreed, adding, “[Option B] seems very intriguing and intense and gets my interest a lot. [Option C] seems descriptive and somewhat interesting. [Option A] feels really generic and not very descriptive and makes me think the book is probably gloomy and not well written.”

You definitely don’t want a title that makes readers think your book is poorly written. Tease your story’s hook in the title, and you’re more likely to earn readers.

Key takeaways for one-word (and longer) book titles

Your book title should hook readers, whether it’s a one-word title or longer — and especially if your book is a mystery or thriller.

Learn more about testing book titles and targeting specific audiences — people who read mystery and crime books, for example — on PickFu.

Laura Melchor

Laura Ojeda Melchor (she/her) is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Parents.com, Mom.com, Gardener’s Path, and of course, PickFu. She holds a Master of Fine Arts in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her debut middle-grade novel, Missing Okalee, was published in the fall of 2021 by Shadow Mountain Publishing.