Titling Your work

Vintage Printing Press

Vintage Printing Press

Over the last week or so I’ve been consumed with thoughts of book titles. I remember a Chapter meeting some time ago where we discussed changing the name of your protagonist or “killing your child.” If you’re a writer reading this, then you should be very familiar with that phrase. I don’t think, however, there is a term or phrase labeling the act of changing the name of your novel. Although, it is the same premise. Recently, I located an off the wall website called Titlescorer. What features are offered at this website? For one, it rates the title of any work by giving the percentage of chances it will publish with that current heading. I’m just mentioning this in passing, I haven’t been sold yet. Personally, I don’t know if I’ll ever be won over. In any event, I placed my first work there, “A Mother’s Prayers,” and got a score of 10.2% – meaning that is the chance of that book being published if I kept it that way. I then added my second work, “The Wrought Iron Bridge,” and got a score of 20.2 – somewhat better. Mind you, I stopped right there, and didn’t bother assessing anything else. I’m not one who’s sold on these type things.

It is pretty commonly known in the industry that a large publishing house will most assuredly change your original choice. But, a small house is more willing to let you hold onto it. I must say, for someone like myself who is aspiring, and have been for some time, that is a fairly scary thing. Meaning, what I already call my manuscripts have become like cement in my brain; changing them now would most assuredly bring on a tantrum. However, I made the firm decision to change that first manuscript, “A Mother’s Prayers.” Reason being – I already knew a movie existed with the same title. I didn’t know this though, until way after I had completed the work, and for so long I had a kind of stubbornness with regard to any alteration. Nevertheless, after some thought, and researching the issue I had a sort of epiphany, which gave me inspiration and the willingness to make changes. Subsequently, I actually became quite excited.

I’ve been thinking about Sidney Sheldon’s The Sky Is Falling and J. D. Salinger’s Catcher In The Rye. There really is no hard and fast rule when it comes to titling your book. Although, through the years I’ve learned it’s fairly common to use something from the language in the manuscript – be it dialogue or otherwise. If you’ve read the two books I noted here, then you’ll know these authors did just that. Personally, I like that process – that is, if you’re certain not to give away any clues on plots or the like. I’ve also realized you should put Google to the test, and then, make notes as to your results. This way, you can remember what you have to work with. Some time ago, when I googled that first manuscript – if I hadn’t entertained a new title, I’d deserve the sentence of working at that day job forever. But, how does one invest hour after hour – putting body and soul in a work, and then, have someone say, maybe callously even, this should be called whatever. On the other side of that coin, however, this is one profession that doesn’t fit with inflexibility.

So, after all of this, I refuse to walk around believing that a website can make a decision on my book publishing based on what I called it. Ten, twenty or ninety percent does not matter whatsoever to me. I’m one who believes you have to go with your instincts, and that holds true for book names, as well as genres and story ideas. I mean, if you’re going to bed and waking up with a specific idea in your head, and you know nothing has been done similar – go for it.  Now, since I like to share, tell me what method you like using when it comes to titling your work.

Image courtesy of 123rf.com

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3 thoughts on “Titling Your work

  1. You know those old musicals that had really vague titles? And I can’t think of one right now… Oh! High Society. Or Singing in the Rain. They have nothing to do with the storyline. (Okay, Singing in the Rain just made up a storyline for the songs.) That drives me crazy. I’m the type to pick up a children’s book with a quirky title like, “When There’s Tape on your Ice Cream Cone, Don’t Lick it .” I also like made up words or phrases in a title that make me think, ‘I wonder what that is exactly.’

    I don’t mind changing my titles. There’s usually a backup rolling around in my brain anyway. I do look up my titles, name choices, etc. just to see if I’m using something too common. One word I’m replacing in my current manuscript is “portal.” It’s my opinion there are too many portals in stories right now.

    I’d probably be fine with changing my title, as long as it was relevant to the story. And as long as I felt like it was an attention-getter. Basically, I want to present my work in a way that I know I would pick it up off the shelf. There are a ton of books that I’ve skimmed the title and never given a chance.

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