Choosing a Title for Your Cozy Mystery

Note: This post includes lots of examples of published cozies. Click on the individual title links or any image containing book covers to go to the listing page for the first book in the featured series.
If you are indie publishing, you can choose a title for your cozy at any point in the planning or drafting process. You can even put off the decision until editing is complete.

If you are submitting your manuscript to agents or publishers, you will need a title before doing so (although there’s a good chance the publisher will opt to go with their own title of choice if they accept your book).

If you are going indie, you do need a title before you can have a cover designed. Covers are essential for prerelease promotion, so there is wisdom in choosing your title before your manuscript is complete.

There are a few things you should have solidly nailed down before trying to title your mystery:

What is the setting?

Who is your sleuth? 

What is the crime?

What are the sub-genres you are targetting? Culinary? Animal? Historical? Paranormal? Something else?

What is the tone? Semiserious? Comic?

Is this book going to be part of a series? If so, do you want to plan for consistency in titles?

Knowing what sub-genres your cozy falls into is probably the most important factor. I did a whole post about cozy mystery sub-genres here.

If you know the sub-genre of cozies you are aiming for, you can do a much better job of surveying the covers of books that are selling well and make sure your title and cover design conform to reader expectations.

Titles (and the covers they are placed on) are the single most important signal to readers about what kind of story they can expect from you. Let’s look at some common conventions for cozy mystery titles:



Titles like Family Feud in Savannah, Gunshots at the Gala, Lantern in the Lighthouse, and Murder at the Mansion all fall into this category. 

A series using this title format across all of the books is Courtney McFarlin's Razzy Cat Series.

Another example is Cindy Bell's Little Leaf Creek Cozy Mysteries.

These types of titles are extremely popular within the historical cozy murder mystery sub-genre: Murder at High TideMurder at the FairMurder in an English GladeMurder on the Pier, etc.

A historical cozy murder mystery series example is Lee Strauss's long-running Ginger Gold Mystery Series.


Closely related are titles like Murder and the Mermaid, Murder Over Easy, Murder by the Slice,  Murder of a Stacked Librarian, and Murder with Cherry Tarts.

These types of titles are very popular in culinary cozies and historical cozies. I wasn't able to find a series that consistently used this format across all titles, but here are some individual covers of books using the Murder-Something-Something title formula.


Switch the format around and you get titles like The Fiesta Burger Murder, Whispering Hills Murder, Mai Tais and Murder, and Blackmail can be Murder

These types of titles are widely used in culinary cozies, probably because the queen of baking cozies, Joanna Fluke, used this format for her Hannah Swensen Series.  

I used this title format for my Bitsie's Bakeshop Series.

Another example is Rosie Point's Miller Pepper Mysteries.

And, finally, K. E. O'Connor uses a slight variation of this format for her Holly Holmes Mysteries.


Moving on from titles with the word murder in them, we arrive at the ubiquitous Death-by-Something format: Death by Vanilla, Death by Dumpling, Death by Didgeridoo, and Death by Pirates

A series using the format is Jennifer Alderman’s Travel Can Be Murder Mysteries.

You could substitute any other crime-related nouns in the place of murder for any of the previous examples and still have a serviceable title. Mysteries do not have to be centered around a murder, although most are.


And in our final stop on the tour of death words in mystery titles, we come to the likes of:  A Fatal Reunion, Fatal Fundraiser, The Fatal Flying Affair, and Fatal Brushstroke.

Tortured Puns 

We now move on to the quirkiest corner of the cozy mystery universe, my personal favorites, titles concocted by twisting puns: Assault and Batting, A New Leash on Life, For Better or Hearse, and Paws for Concern.

Chelsea Thomas uses this format to title her Apple Orchard Cozy Mysteries.  

Another example is Nora Page’s Bookmobile Mysteries.

Tortured Titles 

If we take tortured puns a step further and apply them to well-known titles of movies, tv shows, songs, and famous literature, we get an even bigger bang for our punny buck: A Tale of Two Cookies, Pretty Little Fliers, Swine and Punishment, and Another One Bites the Crust.  

These types of titles are most popular in animal cozies but are also used for culinary cozies, bookshop/library cozies, and paranormals. 

Ellen Riggs mixes generic puns with twisted titles in her Bought the Farm Series.

I used a similar strategy when coming up with titles for my Little Tombstone Mysteries, although I concentrated on using titles of old westerns as my starting point. 

Krista Davis's Paws and Claws Mysteries is another series using twisted titles.


Titles that Rhyme 

Continuing with the wordplay theme, we arrive at titles that rhyme: Ghosts, Lore, and a House by the Shore, Tall Tales and Witchy Fails, One-Time Crime, Cutie Pies and Deadly Lies. 

Rhyming titles are very popular in witch cozies. For example Amy Boyles Southern Belles and Spells Matchmaker Series.

Alliterative Titles

Scones and Scandal, Hardcovers, Homicide, and Hairballs, The Stiff in the Study, and The Barista Bump-Off

A series using this title format is the Southern Charms Series by Bella Falls.


Another good example is Emerald Finn's Life's a Beach Cozies.

I hope this little round-up of common conventions for cozy mystery titles was helpful. I'm sure I missed some. Let me know in the comments.   

If you're just starting out in the writing process, I've written a helpful post here that outlines all the essential elements that go into a cozy mystery. 

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