Some say a title can make or break a book. I agree. A few years ago, I pitched a book on aging I called 60 is NOT The New 40. After testing the title in a small group of fellow writers, they agreed it wouldn’t be something they’d pick off a shelf.
“What’s it about?” they asked.
“It’s a humorous book on aging,” I replied.
They shook their heads. “Nope,” was the resounding response.
“What about this: Why Are My Eyebrows Growing Out of My Chin?”
“Yes!” Everyone agreed the title promised:
- It would be humorous
- It was about getting older
I’ve heard the original titles for some very famous books were way off the mark. Here are a few examples of well-known books and the titles they almost had:
- The Great Gatsby. F. Scott Fitzgerald kicked around such titles as Among Ash-Heaps and Millionaires and Gold-Hatted Gatsby. Which do you prefer?
- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. The original UK title was Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. But the publisher was concerned that American readers wouldn’t know what a Philosopher’s Stone was, so he suggested Harry Potter and the School of Magic. Lucky for her, Rowling nixed the idea and went with Sorcerer’s Stone. Yay for us!
- Jane Austen’s original title for Pride and Prejudice was First Impressions. Not bad, but it doesn’t quite have the melodic ring that the famous chosen title has.
You see how important a title is? It’s the first thing we look at when choosing a book. Based upon the title, we judge whether to take a deeper look: the back-cover copy (that’s an entirely different blog post), and the first few pages.
Being the discerning Inspire Writers that we are, we also look to see who has endorsed the book (also another blog post) to see if there are any familiar names. If Francine Rivers has praise for this book, then it must be great! I will buy it.
Consider carefully when brainstorming ideas for your title. For some, naming their WIP is easy. Others struggle. I’ve found it helps to make a list of all the adjectives describing my book. I put a few together, mix them up, and see if I can make something that fits.
For instance, Lipstick and Gunpowder was the title of a book I wrote for a series of women in the FFBI. The female main character is girly, and the male lead is a rancher. I wanted to show how they were diametrically opposed. The second in the as-yet-to-be-published series is High Heels and Horses; city FBI agent meets masculine rancher. Opposites attract.
Try working with opposites, then with similarities.
Now imagine you’re writing a book about social isolation during this recent pandemic. Dig deep into the emotions many folks are feeling when brainstorming your title. Try this exercise – see how many thought-provoking titles you can come up with. Answer in the comment section below. I’ll get you started:
- Porch People – How Social Isolation Traps Our Most Vulnerable Population
- The Four Stages of Social Isolation – Disbelief, Doubt, Depression, Death
Now it’s your turn. Let’s see what you’ve got, Inspire Writers.