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The Evolution of a Book Title

Posted on April 11, 2016 By In Writing With no comments

What is your process for hanging a title on your book? I suppose there is no right or wrong method but the title is supremely important or so I am told. Still not sold on that point.

Just for kicks, here’s a short list of New York Times best sellers. Hold up your hand if you see a title that jumps out and grabs you.

  • Private Paris by James Patterson & Mark Sullivan
  • Property of a Noblewoman by Danielle Steel
  • All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
  • The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
  • Off the Grid by C.J. Box
  • The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

That’s enough to get an overview of what’s selling. By the way, these really are superb novels. As a reader, is there anything in the titles that says, “Buy me. I’m worth the investment of your hard earned dollars?”

Forget the author’s name for this exercise. Danielle Steel could sell books without a title or a cover.

I’ll keep this short and to the point at the risk of making much ado about nothing.

All the Light We Cannot See? Of all the titles, I was drawn to this one. I recall seeing it on a table in a bookstore and selecting it first from among all the other choices. A longer title, for sure, yet utilizing short, crisp words. I like the use of WE. Draws you in. There is light that you and I cannot see. Peeks curiosity.

Private Paris? This title employs two power words. PRIVATE and PARIS. There is something in that amazing city that is private and if you read this book you will know about it.

Property of a Noblewoman? Here’s our third P-word. PROPERTY. Another power word regarding ownership. NOBLEWOMAN. Implies sophistication, social status, and possibly wealth.

The Nightingale? That’s another title that immediately attracted my attention. To be honest, I don’t know why. Possibly I am drawn to titles with birds. To Kill a Mockingbird. The Raven. The Nightingale. There is an incident involving a sparrow in the book I am currently writing. Unfortunately, there are just too many books with Sparrow in the title. Oh well.

Off the Grid? That title attracted my attention because it has personal appeal. How wonderful it would be to be totally self sufficient. Goodbye power company, cable provider, internet provider, water authority. Now if I could just get my neighbors to work my garden.

The Girl on the Train? Yeah. I want to know about her. Why was she singled out? It’s interesting that we are fascinated by trains yet few of us travel on them anymore.

Admittedly, I like all of the aforementioned titles. Not once did I have a “that’s dumb” response. Which brings me to the titles of my books that I have never really liked. I suppose that’s why I have felt compelled to add subtitles.

Authors use the term Working Title when referring to the work in progress. Implies that the final title has not yet been etched in stone. Back to the current work. Started with Divinity Falls. Changed it to Angels Diner. Now it’s titled Alexandra’s Song. (If you’re an amateur sleuth, then you can solve how Alexandra replaces Molly as the star of the story.) No doubt I will change my mind again.

What about those power words in the best seller titles? Something to add intrigue. Create interest.

The book is about a gifted girl, Molly Sanders, with a troubled past who comes face to face with Angelica (Angel) Lopez, her guardian angel. Angel persuades Molly to pursue her destiny to which she agrees resulting in demonic opposition from the angels of darkness. If Molly can hang on through all the trials and painful adversity she will gain a victory that is far greater than anything she can imagine. If…

A Bible verse comes to mind when writing this book. Galatians 6:9 KJV – “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”

Today, the working title remains Alexandra’s Song but it could change any minute. I am definitely open to your ideas for a title.

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