“We have to have a meeting,” I said to Jill.
“I’ve finished the book, and it still doesn’t have a title. How can I get this book out the door without a title? I can’t do the cover . . .”
“Okay, okay. Let’s do it tonight. We’ll just brainstorm it until it’s done.”
It’s great to have someone to help with things like your book title, because it can be pretty difficult to be objective about your own book. When it comes to book titles, you want to hit just the right note. And the combination of a title and a subtitle brings both a chance to expand on your title, and the complexity of playing title and subtitle off each other to get just the right combination.
Getting to Work
Before we got started I made lists of the titles I had been thinking of. I kept the page proof open in Acrobat so I would have the content right in front of me while I worked.
Here are some of the first takes:
- Get Booked: Publish It Right
- TheBookDesigner.com: Wise Advice, Action Tips and Deep Reflections from a Self-Publishing Advocate
- Tips and Tales: Advice, Guidance and Reflections on Self-Publishing Today
These seemed to range from the improbable to the absurd, although some words—tips, advice—popped up more than once. I shook it off and tried to find some more inspiration.
- Be the Book (A clear ripoff of Dave Matheson’s Be the Media)
- The Book of the Blog: Advice, tips and reflections from the front lines of the self publishing revolution
- Getting Into Print: Advice, tips and reflections from the front lines of the self publishing revolution
I quite liked the sound of “book of the blog” but had to admit that it told you nothing. Each title seemed off somehow, not quite right. Like a jacket that doesn’t fit. But those two words—advice and tips—still came up.
We went back to work.
- Publish it Right: Inspiration and advice from a life in indie publishing
- Indie Life: The making of a self-publishing revolution
- The Author Within: Wit and Wisdom about the Self-Publishing Revolution
No, no and no. Nothing was working, and I was beginning to feel like I was standing at the bottom of a dry well. Why was this so hard? At least I had plenty of subtitles to choose from.
I kept going, reeling off one title after another. Maybe if there were enough, there would be one sticking its head up above the others.
I won’t bore you with the dozens of titles that followed. Near the end, I knew I was getting punch drunk:
- The Book of the Book: Inspiration and Advice for Self-Publishers
- 40 Yards and a Mule: Trials and Tribulations of the indie publishing life
- The Amazing Disappearing Book: Advice and Inspiration for a new Generation of Self-Publishers from The Book Designer Blog
Through elimination we weeded the garden of title invention. This is what we were left with at the end:
- Tips and Tales from TheBookDesigner.com: Advice on Self-Publishing Today
- The Self-Publisher’s Companion
- FYI: Self-Publishing
Each had something to recommend it. In the end we settled happily with this:
A Self-Publisher’s Companion
Expert Advice for Authors Who Want to Publish from TheBookDesigner.com
This title had everything I wanted. It had my main topic, and the top keyword in my niche—self-publishing—in the title. There is a long tradition of books named “The [whatever]’s Companion” and I’ve always gotten a good feeling from those titles. Having a companion is good, especially a trusted and useful one.
The subtitle contained the keywords “author” and “book design” which will help in searches. But the real coup was Jill’s idea to put the whole blog URL into the subtitle. This has intriguing search engine optimization possibilities.
Covers Flow From Titles
Now that I had a title I was anxious to dress this book. I set up an InDesign file with single pages in at the 5.25″ x 8″ trim size. While I was doing this I remembered a book cover I’d seen recently that really appealed to me. It’s rarely possible to tell if these memories are accurate, or if they present some mixture of memory and invention that’s produced in one;s own mind.
In just a few minutes I had a cover that looked remarkably good, fitting and typographically sound. It was simple, and used the colors from my blog design; red, black and white. This is not my usual style. I shook my head and started to work on some more ideas.
I ended up with six covers. Some had beautiful textured backgrounds. Some had delicate effects added to the title typography. One looked like a primary school composition book.
I kept going back to that first cover. I set up a slide show for Jill and we went through them. There was no contest. The first cover, the first inspiration, was the clearest expression of what was in the book, and what the book wanted to become.
We were on our way.
A Personal Note
I’ve been bringing my client’s books to market for many years. Both publishers and self-publishers have trusted me to give them a book that looks good, is technically sound, that honors their work and respects their readers.
After free writing for two years, and blogging for 15 months, I feel like I’ve come around to where I started, since I haven’t published a book of my own in many years. Getting this book out has given me quite a jolt.
Today I sent the files for the book out for advance copies and ebook conversion. I felt that old thrill again: half wanting to hold back; half rushing into the future where the book has already become a reality. The sheer enjoyment of publishing has returned stronger than ever.
Thanks for sharing this journey with me. From here the story swings into the realm of marketing, and that’s where I’ll pick it up next time.
Photo by J Wynia