How to name your book

Reading time: Less than 1 minute

This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world to find websites, books and articles to help other writers. Today I discuss a blog post about how to name your book…

Is there anything more fraught than naming your book?

You’d think nothing could possibly be harder than writing — and editing — the damn thing. But then you have to name it.

I went through absolute anguish with my most recent book, probably because I had a working title in mind for several years before I decided it was completely wrong-headed.

My original title, Your Crappy First Draft, was too negative, I decided, about six weeks before going to print. A mistake for a book that intended to make the writing process not only easier but also more fun.

I ran though dozens of other titles in my head and surveyed a multitude of friends but couldn’t come up with a suitable replacement. Until I asked my friend Maureen for advice. She was the one who had the idea of crossing off the letters CR from “crappy” and replacing them with an H, for “Happy.” Your Happy First Draft. Problem solved!

Sean Platt offers some straightforward guidance about title construction in a recent blog post under the headline, “How to choose a book title.” His advice that, “clarity always trumps cleverness when it comes to non-fiction titles,” rang a particular bell with me. I also agree with his counsel: “Don’t ever sacrifice clarity for a cute turn of phrase. Someone won’t get it and you’ll lose that sale.”

In sum, Sean advises: “Use your ear for fiction. Then for nonfiction, use your brain and keyword tools to get inside the minds of people asking the question that your book answers. In both cases, the purpose of the title is to make your book’s benefit clear to the ideal readers who want to read it most, while also making your book look and sound really cool. Because, let’s face it, who doesn’t want their book to look and sound really cool?