1) Look at other books in your genre that are currently published.
You're looking for patterns, for example, lots of one word titles or titles which contain place names. Are there puns or plays on words? Slightly risque?
I was picking out titles recently to do a class exercise and realised that a lot of women's fiction titles contain either women's names or place names.
2) List 'special' words.
There are some words that have more power than others. Lucky. Secret. Desire. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is one of my favourite titles ever (it's a good book, too), and all those nouns are special words.
3) What is the central theme, or themes of your book?
Patricia Highsmith's Tom Ripley knows he is talented, but no one seems to recognise his abilities and he is poor and friendless, hence The Talented Mr Ripley. Lu, the main character in my new book, is searching for Mr Right and makes lists of the characteristics of the perfect man. I played around with lots of ideas about Looking for Mr Right or Knowing Mr Perfect, before I realised that the book is about falling for someone who is off the list at which point the title was obvious: Kissing Mr Wrong. It's what the book is about.
Armed with your lists of words and themes and an idea of the sort of title you're looking for, brainstorm. Do mind maps. Ask friends. I struggled with A Single to Rome. I knew it had to have an Italian theme - ciao, Rome, Romeo, ice cream, bella, amore were all on my list of words. A friend suggested A Single to Go, and it sparked off A Single to Rome. Believe it or not, I only realised there was a double meaning ages later when everyone kept saying what a clever title it was - Natalie's single and goes to Rome on a one way (single) ticket.
Having come up with a brilliant title (or several brilliant titles) check them on Amazon. Ideally no one else will have had your title before, but the chances are it will have already been used. There is no copyright in titles. You can call your book The Da Vinci Code if you want. What will land you in trouble is if you appear to be 'passing off' your book for Dan Brown's, perhaps featuring a similar cover or contents.
6) Try it out
Ask around and see what people think of your title. Another Woman's Husband was originally called Another Man's Wife, but sales and marketing thought readers might get confused as to the contents of the book (I know - I didn't think it made sense either) so it became AWH. Recently I saw a book called The Faithless Wife. I prefer A Faithless Wife as a title, because it feels more inclusive, less condemnatory but that's my personal preference. What do you think?
Come to the launch party for Kissing Mr Wrong, 6.30pm on 20th May at Waterstones, Milsom Street, Bath. All welcome, but please ring 01225 448515 to let them have an idea of numbers.