Choosing the title for a book

A good title is perhaps even more important than a good cover image for marketing purposes.

For my own books, I usually write a first draft of the text before giving serious attention to the title. I make a list of possibilities, look them up on Google to see whether they have been used before or contain any unsuitable double entendres, and may ask some friends for their opinions before reaching a final decision.

Here are some questions to consider when choosing a title.

Is it relevant? There is something to be said for factual titles which clearly indicate what the book is about: Murder on the Orient Express, Seven Years in Tibet or A Street Cat Named Bob are good examples because they sound interesting as well as being informative. More subtle and abstract titles sometimes work extremely well: Gone with the Wind, Heart of Darkness, Catch-22, A Clockwork Orange. But a book with a title which has little relation to its content may escape the notice of potential readers; and even those who have read and enjoyed it may have forgotten its name by the time they want to find it again.

Is it easy to remember and locate? Long titles, and those containing words which are difficult to spell, can be difficult to discover online or to reproduce accurately, so are best avoided. Short snappy titles, including single-word ones, which easily ‘trip off the tongue’ are more memorable and can be very effective.

Is it eye-catching and distinctive? Years ago I picked up a book called Excuse me, your life is waiting because the combination of its quirky title and garish cover made me curious to see just how ghastly the content would be. In fact I really liked this book, which introduced me to the Abraham-Hicks teachings on the Law of Attraction. A title which is different, even slightly outrageous, will stand out from the rest.

Is it intelligent? In this category I would include titles such as Enigma and The Path to Rome, which have both literal and metaphorical meanings. But not all writers can hope to find such clever titles, and not all readers will understand their ambiguity.

Has it been used already? There is no copyright on titles, so it is not unusual to find several different books with the same name. Personally I always prefer to choose something original, which is why the novella I am currently writing will not be called Bomber’s Moon.

A subtitle, used mainly for non-fiction, provides further scope for summarising the content of a book, distinguishing it from others with the same main title, and increasing its visibility to search engines.

Bach flower remedies for writers

The Bach flower remedies are intended for self-help at times of emotional imbalance or life stress. Although their mode of action is not understood, and sceptics claim that they are ‘only’ placebos, they have gained world-wide popularity since being discovered in the 1930s by a British doctor, Edward Bach. There are 38 individual flower essences in the system, five of which are included in the well-known Rescue Remedy for use in crisis.

Having trained as a Bach flower practitioner myself, and run a client practice for several years, I have been impressed with how well most people respond to this safe and pleasant form of therapy. I have written a number of posts about them on my other WordPress blog, and a short ebook on Smashwords. Fuller information can be found on the Bach Centre website.

Four (fictional) case vignettes illustrating how these remedies might be helpful for writers are presented below. These are of course just simplistic examples; each writer has a unique personality and circumstances and is subject to the same challenges in life as anyone else. Remedies should always be selected on an individual basis according to the person’s current state of mind.

‘Lyn’ is a housewife and mother and freelance journalist who works from home. She is very efficient, but has difficulty in finding time and space for writing amid the demands and distractions of domestic life. Walnut to help her focus on her work despite what is happening around her; Centaury to be able to say ‘no’ when family members make unreasonable requests; and Elm to relieve her sense of being overburdened with responsibility.

‘Peter’ is determined to publish an influential book about improving healthcare for disadvantaged groups. After getting home from his full-time job he spends several hours writing and gets to bed very late, but his mind is so active that he cannot get to sleep. He is also feeling despondent and frustrated after having early drafts rejected by several agents. Vervain to help him relax and to moderate his over-enthusiasm for good causes; White Chestnut to calm his repetitive thoughts; Impatiens to curb his hastiness in submitting manuscripts before they are finished; and Gentian for his disappointment.

‘Sandra’ dreams of becoming a famous author, and has lots of different ideas for novels, but has not actually done much writing and often feels tired and unmotivated when she sits down at her desk to make a start. Clematis for becoming more grounded and putting ideas into practice; Hornbeam for the ‘Monday morning feeling’.

‘Matt’ has spent ten years on his first novel, making continually revisions but never quite feeling satisfied that it is good enough. Besides having doubts about the quality of his writing, he feels anxious about having his work read by other people, and about various aspects of publication and marketing. Larch to boost his confidence in his abilities; Mimulus for his shyness and understandable fears; and Rock Water for his perfectionist nature.

I would be interested in comments from anyone who has used the Bach flower remedies to assist with their writing, or any other creative process.