Recently we have chosen this title for the book I am writing: Edges of Truth: the Mary Weaver Story. If you’ve ever written a book, you know that choosing a title is a big deal. The title is one of the first things a reader looks at to determine if she wants to read your book or not. A great title helps sell the book. A bad title may send the reader to look for a better one.
If you are trying to choose a title for your book you may want to read this article:
http://debbrammer.com/writers-circle/writing-articles/Choosing%20a%20Title/ . This article tells you some characteristics of good titles and how to choose them. But today I want to take you on our personal journey to finding a book title. How we did it. Perhaps you will find an idea that helps you.
First of all why are we looking for a title? Most books have one author, but this is the personal, true story of Mary Weaver. Her lawyer was Steve Brennecke. I am directing the writing process, but Steve has also written some scenes and we are all involved in the process.
Also, if you go with a traditional publisher, your editor or the marketing department may suggest a different title than the one you have chosen. It’s not always up to you. But in this case we are self-publishing so the decision is up to us. It’s nice to be in control, but that also means we don’t have the safety net of someone else helping with the process and eliminating ineffective titles. So choosing a title was up to us and it was important that, at least the three of us, all needed to be happy with the final choice.
1. I thought through the plot line for our book, searching for words that stood out in the text that could be used for titles.
This Present Chapter came from a quote by Mary while she was in prison. She knew this wasn’t the end, that God was still working and prison was just “this present chapter” of her life.
2. I viewed a video clip of a national news program which featured Mary’s story to look for concepts that could be used in a title.
This led to writing this promo sentence: Better to let 99 guilty people go free than to take the liberties of one innocent person—but what happens when the system doesn’t work? Two titles worked with that promo sentence: One Innocent Person and Stolen Liberties.
3. I wrote a list of nouns, verbs, and adjectives that characterized our book. I shuffled them around in different combinations to find titles with a good ring to them.
That led to the title Uncertain Evidence.
4. Our book is a true story which is similar to legal fiction. I Googled legal phrases to find phrases we could use or alter for a play on words.
This led to Under Oath, Final Appeal, Presumption of Guilt, and Beyond Reasonable Doubt. An article that talked about a similar situation talked about medical witnesses who were “dancing on the edge of truth.” That concept comes into our final choice of titles.
5. I Googled legal fiction and true stories on Amazon or Christian Book Distributors to see what existing titles are out there. While you can’t copyright a title, we wanted to avoid prominent titles in our genre which were already used. Viewing these titles also help me think of similar ideas.
We liked Shadow of Doubt, but Terri Blackstock already has a prominent suspense fiction book by that title. We considered using a similar titles, Shadows of Doubt, Shadow of a Doubt, or Beyond the Shadow of a Doubt, but didn’t choose any of these in the end.
6. I typed words like these into the search box of Google images: prison, freedom, innocence, guilty, legal, court, child abuse. This gave me an idea of visual images related to those words. That suggested images we could use on our cover, images that could be related to the title.
My search gave me images of abandoned teddy bears, helium balloons flying, prison bars, people in orange jumpsuits and handcuffs. Some of these images would work with some of the legal titles.
Mary and Steve used similar ways to come up with their own titles. At the end of that process we found out one very important rule.
Titles are Subjective
They didn’t like some of my favorite titles! (Why couldn’t they see what a great choice these were?) I didn’t like some of theirs. One scary thing about self-publication is knowing that you are choosing this very important title without the help of an editor or a marketing team. We knew we needed a broader perspective.
I made a list of sixteen titles we had come up with and sent them to family members of the three of us. We suggested each person mark their top six picks for titles and number them from one to six. I had hoped that this would give us some very clear guidance about the best choices. What it did show was that people varied widely in what they thought were good titles. But it did help us eliminate the less popular ones. I narrowed this list down to the top six titles, making sure that the top choices from Mary, Steve, and I were reflected in the list. After all, we need to feel good about our book.
Then I listed those top six titles in a survey on my website blog. I asked my Facebook friends to vote on their top three, listing them in order. I asked Mary and Steve to do the same thing with their friends. I told all these people that if they took the survey they would go into the draw to win a free book of mine. I left the survey open for one week. (Thanks to all of you who participated in the survey! Your votes were key to choosing our title.)
At the end of the week two titles stood out as the most popular. Steve and Mary and I emailed back and forth, compared notes, thought, prayed, weighed the pros and cons, and finally chose Edges of Truth.
Is this the best possible title? Probably not. Maybe five years from now we’ll think of the perfect title. Even then, if I thought it was perfect, others might not agree. But we needed to make a choice now so that we could proceed with book design and promotion. We chose one we all could live with. And then we move on. “No turning back, no turning back.”