Write an Engaging Title
The next lesson in the fundamental sections is let's write an engaging title. So the title at this point in the process is a working title for you. So the title is to help you wrap your mind around this book and it doesn't, yeah we're bringing back the title. We're never gonna get to the cover in this class 'cause the cover is way later but we can get to the title. So a working title helps you really picture what this book is and helps you see it. I wrote a novel that for the longest time had this title, my working title, it was called The Encyclopedia of Grief. I deeply loved this title, I thought it was so great and it really helped me write the story but then when I started to get ready to bring this book out and show it to people, they would ask me "What are you working on?" And I would say "This novel, "it's called The Encyclopedia of Grief." and they would have this look on their face like oh, that's horrible, like it was just this conversation dead end thing, it was so bad and I...
ended up, that book came out in the marketplace with the title The Threadbare Heart which is much gentler, it's still in my head The Encyclopedia of Grief but you want a title that helps you kind of center yourself on the story. A great example of how this works is so many famous books have ridiculous titles that the authors had in mind when they were working and The Great Gatsby is one of those. There are several working titles that Fitzgerald had. One of 'em was Trimalchio in West Egg. I mean, what, and then one was called Among Ash Heaps and Millionaires. I don't know that any of us would pick up those books but you know here it is so the title is really for you. That being said though, you wanna really think about what type of title will help you envision the book. So a friend of mine had a novel about a woman who has lost everything and I'm sorry, a woman who has lost everything is hired to clear out the house of a woman who won't let anything go, great little catchy tagline for this novel. These were some of the titles that she had for her working titles and she actually sent them around to a bunch of her writer friends and asked us all to vote. There was one on the list that I did not include 'cause it had a bad word in it and that was the one we all picked actually (laughing) but the one that you can see. Okay this is the little snippet about what the book is about, you can see that these titles are circling around a feeling, an idea, an image. They're all sort of great. The one that she picked to work as her working title was just Stuff, it was just a book about Stuff and that helped her, you know it's just I'm writing a book about stuff. That book came out in the marketplace Objects of My Affection by Jill Smolinski so not on her working title list, not anything but just that idea of stuff was a thing that really helped her. So I like for people to take a little bit of time to brainstorm their list of titles and if you're turning your work in to a book coach as part of our special program, we want you to show your work. We want to see all your brainstorm. If you've got a whole page of title brainstorms, bring 'em on, let's see it because oftentimes there's things that are very resonate that we see that you might not see and then we ask you to pick your favorite so we can see a sense of why you like a title, what it's doing for you, it's meant to work for you but this is also another sneaky way of doing a little market research. So you can go back on to those sites we looked at, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, maybe Goodreads and just look at the titles in your genre and start getting a sense of what people are doing in that. You know certain genres have very particular kinds of titles and they signal to the reader what that book is and you just wanna start doing that for your own self. So it may seem like a really small thing but I think having a working title that makes you feel good, that makes you see that book is a really powerful tool and you can say to yourself, I'm writing a book called Stuff. (laughing) If that helps you, that's great. Then as always, we will later go back and think how can we make this title better, how can we as the book grows and the story grows and your understanding of it grows, you're probably gonna be changing it and iterating on it which is a great thing. You can change your working title many times, that's what we saw Fitzgerald did. So that is definitely a thing that you can do. Are there any questions about working titles?
Just to ask about titles in general. Is it legal to have the same title as another book?
That's a great question.
Like how do you solve that?
Yeah, is it legal to have another title as the same book. Sort of, it sort of depends. If it's another genre, we see this all the time. Different genres have different titles, they just mean completely different things in the different. You know you might have a thriller with the same name as a nonfiction book, that, we see that all the time. If you have a title and you do a title search on Amazon and you find other books with the same title, you wanna look at if it's a self-published book that's sold 10 copies, it probably doesn't matter. (laughing) So there's kind of versions of the answer to that but in general, if you see a book that's done fairly well that has a similar title, you probably wanna steer clear of that and frequently you can do that by adding a the. A famous story that I love is Stephen Hawking's book, A Brief History of Time, that was actually the subtitle originally and I can't remember what the subtitle is but they flipped it so it's just kind of an interesting thing to think about.
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