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How to Get a “SMART” Title for your Book

Next to content, what is the most important thing about a book?

Probably its title.

When you’re thinking about a title for your novel (or your screenplay), think SMART. S.M.A.R.T. It’s a great mnemonic from Stephanie Palmer’s book, Good in a Room.

S is for “Short.” Of course.

M is for “Memorable.” Is your title easy to remember?

A is for “Accurate.” Does it suggest what your story is about?

R is for “Repeatable.” Does it sound good out loud?

T is for “Tone.” Does the title reflect your genre?

The original title for my first novel was “Cicatrix.” The book is a medieval fantasy adventure, and “cicatrix” is a medical term for scar tissue. I liked it because a lot of the characters were scarred in some way. Emotionally, physically, or both.

But when you run “Cicatrix” through the SMART grinder, here’s what we get:

Yes, it’s short.

No, it’s not memorable.

Accurate? Nope—how do we know it’s not a medical book on the treatment of scar tissue? Repeatable? Yes— “Cicatrix”—I love the sound of it. Reminds me of “Matrix.”

Tone—does it indicate the genre? Nope. Two out of five—NOT GOOD.

So, I changed the title to “Scourge.” There’s a deadly plague in the novel. Like in the Middle Ages.

When I talked with the publishing team—Jim Howard and Bethany Marshall of Morgan James Publishing—they liked “Scourge,” and for a subtitle, they liked “The Kiss of Death.” Which I thought was great.

So the book title became Scourge: The Kiss of Death.

I ran that through the SMART mnemonic—Short, Memorable, Accurate, Repeatable, and Tone—and liked it a lot better.

Run all your ideas for titles through the SMART mnemonic and see what you think.

Story Lover’s Log. Tell a great story.

-Terry Weston Marsh | Writer and Director


Terry Weston Marsh brings his YA novel "Scourge" to life both as a seasoned storyteller in the world of film and as a physician who dealt with contagious diseases. As a filmmaker, Terry's writings have garnered several regional Emmy nominations. His recent short films ("Rosie's Rescue" and "Red Red Rose") have also netted numerous awards. He was tapped by iconic artist Bob Ross to write a children's TV program ("The Adventures of Elmer & Friends") prior to Bob's untimely passing. Terry and his wife, Tacy, reside in Mooreland, Indiana.

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