Each time I was pregnant, the best day was when we found out if we were having a boy or a girl. Why? Because then I got to call the tiny human growing within me by his or her name.
Names are powerful and important. They declare who someone is, set them apart, make them known. A book’s title does something similar. It makes the story real, alive, tangible.
I love naming characters, pets, vehicles—what, you don’t?—and most of my writing (short stories, poems, etc.) But, this novel has been stubborn. Okay, that’s not accurate. The novel’s been delightful, actually. It’s me. All me.
This book actually began with a title in place. It was a thing of beauty. It was perfection and brilliance … and meant for a fantasy novel, not southern fiction.
Everyone who read the title adored it. But, everyone who read it agreed that it wasn’t for this book.
My husband said it wasn’t right. All four of my critique partners said it wasn’t right. Other friends and family said it wasn’t right. And then I took it to a Twitter poll! Unanimous decision—it was made for fantasy, not literary fiction.
I was the stubborn one. I clamped down on that title like a toddler determined to keep sucking his pacifier all the way through college. Honestly, it’s a bit embarrassing.
Finally I admitted what I knew deep down—though I kicked and threw a bit of a tantrum in the process. Not my shining moment.
Over the course of this two-year process, this book has now had at least nine titles. It’s been title-palooza around here. I am happy to say, though, that Jack’s story finally has ONE title. And, it’s not going anywhere.
My newsletter subscribers—love you guys!—got to see it first this morning, and I cannot wait to share it with everyone on Monday night during my April Logos & Mythos Book Club LIVE on Facebook. If you can’t join me live (9 p.m. CST), you can catch the replay any time or see posts galore all over social media on Tuesday.
Until then, I’ve got a few reflections for you on the importance and requirements of a book title.
A title is like putting breath into a story and making it alive.
No longer do I have to call it “my book” or “the work-in-progress.” Now, it has a name all its own. It’s an identity, a moniker—for a living, breathing piece of literature.
In a few months, readers can say “I just read [A Great Title]; you should too!” [A Great Title] will adorn the spine of books on shelves across the country. [A Great Title] will forever and always be my first full-length book baby. It’s my debut novel.
And, I’m so proud to call it by its rightful name!
A title should fit the book’s genre, tone and theme—in other words, it needs to capture the book’s essence.
As I reveal more of the novel over the coming months, perhaps I’ll go a little deeper with what I’m about to share. Originally, a super famous book series featured prominently in my story. That book does happen to be fantasy. The title came from it and described a particular monster that I was using as a symbol of Jack’s inner demons.
So, at one point, the title made more sense. Unfortunately, copyright laws are tricky little buggers; and I didn’t want to take on the giant publishing company that holds the rights on these books.
I may have shed some tears. I definitely crossed sections out of the original draft with a tad more aggression than I had to. Of course, I still held on to the title. (Have I ever mentioned I’m more than a little stubborn?)
At the end of the day, though, that title no longer fit the story without the influence of those books.
It had never fit the genre.
And, as I began to work my way through revisions, adding layers and discovering the central themes and motivations throughout, it didn’t fit the tone or theme either.
I needed a few words that could join together to capture my story’s essence and convey it to all its potential readers.
A title eventually reveals itself and then adheres to the book like it was always meant to be.
Once I finally got over my stubborn insistence on a title that never truly belonged and embraced the one that did, I couldn’t imagine the cover in my mind with [Any Greater Title].
A title should make sense from a marketing standpoint.
Let’s face it. We live in an age of ad campaigns and catchy hashtags and abbreviations that might not lose attention spans like actual words seem to do.
Also, people like swag.
You know—mugs, T-shirts, bookmarks, jewelry, brown-paper packages tied up with string … with a cutesy quote stamped on them.
So, as much as we want to be serious wordsmiths and curators of the English language, authors also must be savvy marketers who ask themselves when picking a title, “Can I hashtag this?”
#[AnyGoodTitle] definitely works!
And, let’s just think back to junior high when everything suddenly took on double meanings and make sure our title’s abbreviation isn’t going to get us banned from a PG rating.
Of course, you’ve also got to run hashtags through social media so you know that #AGT is off limits. Thank you, America’s Got Talent.
That’s okay. I’m not a fan of letters unless they’re creating lovely words that can roll off my tongue!
A title should be as unique as possible.
You’ve also got to check for other books with the same title. With millions of books out there, chances of finding something that’s never been used before are pretty slim. However, you definitely want to avoid a name already attached to a well-known book, especially if it’s in the same genre.
I thought I’d found the next perfect title after I finally let go of my original one. Let me tell you, I was happy as a clam, tickled pink and any other cheesy phrase you can come up with. I blasted texts every which way.
“I’ve got the perfect title! Yay!”
And then, I typed it in to my web browser.
Curse you, whoever took over Tom Clancy’s empire and stole my perfect title!
I’m not bitter.
Now, I could have used the title. It’s not the same genre. Titles can’t typically be copyrighted. But, only a year would separate the publications. Plus, I would always know—it wasn’t mine first.
A title shouldn’t stop you from the purpose of your book—publication.
At the end of the day, some of us need a reminder that we cannot agonize over titles forever. A title choice may help you cross that line between aspiring author and published author.
Yes, the title is important. Yes, it sets the tone for your book. Along with the cover design, it is what draws a passerby in to pick up your book from among the countless other worthy choices.
However, if you listen to the people whose advice you trust, do your homework to determine what titles fit your genre and think through how to promote that name, you can move forward with confidence.
And that, my friend, is [A Great Thing] indeed!
Will you join me for my title reveal? I would love to hear your thoughts on it, too! If you’re already part of my Fellowship and got the first look in your inbox this morning, I’d love for you to reply to that email and let me know your reaction!
If you’re not signed up for my weekly newsletter yet, there’s no better time than now because I’ve got many more reveals coming soon. They’ll be rolling to my subscribers’ inboxes first, so join in the fun today!