Traditional publishing companies usually choose titles for their books, but most of us here at SM 101 won’t be working with traditional publishing companies. Instead, we will self-publish our memoirs—and that means we choose our titles.
Because a book’s title is so important, expect to work hard on crafting the very best title for your memoir.
Let’s step back a minute: How do you decide whether to buy a certain book? The first thing you notice is the title, right?
If the title doesn’t appeal to you, you put the book back on the shelf. You want a book that makes you curious, draws you in, and makes it impossible to put the book back on the shelf.
If the title does grab your attention, if you’re like me you’ll read the back cover for more info, and you open the book and read endorsements that might be at the beginning of the book. But remember, it was the title that inspired you to do so. That’s why your title is so important.
So how do you piece together The Perfect Title?
Rachelle Gardner suggests you “identify what kind of feeling or tone you want to convey in the title” and ask yourself, “Does the tone of the title match the tone of the book?”
What is tone?
YourDictionary.com says, “The tone in a story can be joyful, serious, humorous, sad, threatening, formal, informal, pessimistic, and optimistic…. Tone in writing is really not any different than the tone of your voice. You know that sometimes it is not ‘what you say,’ but ‘how you say it.’…The definition of ‘tone’ is the way the author expresses his attitude through his writing.” (Don't miss all the good stuff in Examples of Tone in a Story.)
Daniel Scocco offers additional tips—seven methods of crafting your title.
He suggests listing nouns, verbs, and adjectives that describe your story and “combine them into different phrases.”
Daniel also suggests describing an important turning point or climax of your story, noticing key words. “Mix and match these words,” he says, “to see what works for you.” I like that: “Mix and match.”
Read the rest of Daniel’s seven tips in his post, “Picking Your Perfect Title.” They are intriguing.
With Rachelle and Daniel’s tips in mind, begin jotting down ideas—lots of ideas. Use a thesaurus to look up key words and find alternative, more interesting words.
Then take a break from your title ideas. Over the next days and weeks, you’ll be surprised at new ideas that will spring into your mind at the strangest times of the day and night. Add those possible titles to your list and again distance yourself from them.
Come back later and take a fresh look. You’ll spot some titles that you can eliminate. Polish the other possible titles and again set them aside for a while.
Next time we’ll have more advice
on crafting a compelling title for your memoir.
For now, have fun playing around with title ideas.