Friday, December 17, 2010

Five Steps Toward Finding the Right Title

As you know, the title you choose for your book will greatly impact the success of your publication and/or marketing. Maybe that’s why it’s so difficult to settle on a name for the story. I’ve wrestled with this decision for months now, but the need to begin designing a website and producing marketing materials has forced me to make a final decision.

In my next post, I'll describe how I worked through this process and came to a final decision about my own book title. In this post, I'll give you the basic outline of the process, in case you’re in this stage of your writing and might find the ideas helpful.

So here’s a summary of the process.

1. Do research. Go to a local bookstore, or, and check out titles of books that jump out at you. Since they grab your attention, these will likely be ones that sell well. Libraries are also useful for this purpose, but less so because their books include ones that aren’t current. If you go to the library, browse the "new acquisitions" shelf or the “suggested reading” section. Look at these titles deliberately, asking yourself why you notice them, and thinking about what questions they raise or what associations you connect with in them. Just going through this process will subconsciously affect your thinking as you go back to the task of naming your own story.

2. Brainstorm. Make a list of every theme, keyword, visual image, significant object, or key geographical location in your story. Images and objects will usually make more powerful title words than themes or keywords, but this is a brianstorm list so don’t limit yourself at this point. (A powerful object or image would be one that is linked to the plot, or important to the protagonist, or something that recurs throughout the book.)

3. Choose words from this brainstorm list and try to connect them. If you can connect one word with another word on the list, that's great. But you could also simply create a phrase around your chosen word; connect your word with other words that might be associated in the mind of a reader; or, best of all, connect your word with one that will suggest a conflict or a paradox. When you've come up with some possible ideas. . .

4. Investigate potential titles on the internet. You’ll want to know if there are other books already out there by that name. You’ll also want to check cultural associations with those words, to see if they fit with your story. When you do this, you’ll discover where the internet would take potential readers if they were to google your title in the future. This is important. You don’t want to lead readers into an uncomfortably strange neighbourhood! (More on this next post.)

5. Finally, get other opinions. Try out your top choices on friends, especially those who have read your manuscript. Read their body language when you make your suggestions. Watch their faces. And when they tell you what title they prefer, ask them why. Then weigh the validity of their reasons when you decide what advice to take and what to ignore.

So this is what I did. It helped. If you’ve gone through this process already and have ideas to add, please do so. I love comments. I’ll put them into a future blog post if you don’t mind.

Meanwhile, may this Christmas season bring you Freedom, Unbroken by pain or loss. May you find Room in your heart for the one who longs to be the Light Lifting your spirit as you walk into the coming year.

(Check out these four titles above. They're on Amazon's list of Top 100 Editor's Choices for 2010.)

1 comment:

Robynn Tolbert said...

I've considered changing the title of one of my books, too. This will be quite helpful as I make that decision. Thanks!