How Do I Come Up With a Title?

Uncategorized Nov 11, 2020


Rather than interviewing a guest or breaking down an expert author's way of launching a book, this week I'm answering the question: How and when do I come up with a title?

The biggest problem I see with authors and titles is that some become so committed to the one they came up with originally that they won't consider changing it to something that's going to resonate with readers more. I break that down and talk about how my titles have changed and which I think should have changed in this episode.

And if you want me to answer your writing question on this show, DM on Instagram at @annabdavid.



Hi there. You're listening to Launch Pad podcast, hosted by me Anna David, where we talk about books, how to launch them, what they can do for your career. And we are now answering questions. So when I say we, I mean, I, so please DM me any questions you have that you would like me to answer about writing? Find me on Instagram @annabdavid. And with that, I'm going to answer the question when and how do you come up with a title? So I've talked about this in previous episodes. I did a play by play breakdown of how Tim Ferriss launches a book. So just back and listen to that. If you want to know more, but his first book that launched him like crazy, The Four Hour Workweek, he had all these other titles, like Broad Band and White Sand, Millionaire Chameleon, Drug Dealing for Fun and Profit.

And he bought Google ads to see which of those titles perform better. He even did this crazy experiment where he had a fake cover mocked up and he put it in the Palo Alto Borders. And he went and hid to see which people responded to better. James Altucher, who is the Wall Street Journal bestselling author of Choose Yourself, has written about how he had all these titles, like The Choose Yourself Era, Pick Yourself and Choose Yourself. And he ran Facebook ads and Choose Yourself came in first by far. I will say that in terms of my, in terms of my own books, my first book, Party Girl, I was very dedicated to that title. I just loved that title. I've talked about that. I talked about this in the Rachel Hollis episode, and I've talked about it before, but when my agent was going out to submit it to publisher, she said, “Ooh, this book called Party Girl just came out, we have to change the title.” And so for the sale, we changed it to The After Party. And then that other Party Girl didn't sell well. So, so we were able to change the title back to Party Girl for the release and that other Party Girl was written of course, by Rachel Hollis. So suffice it to say she's gotten over it that and in retrospect, I don't really know why I fought for that title. Yes. I love that title, but I think if it had been called The After Party, it might have been, it was a little bit dismissed as, as Chick Lit. I mean The New York Post actually said I invented a new sub genre: Chick Lit with a Message. But I think if it hadn't had the title Party Girl it might not have been so easy to dismiss in that way.

So that is definitely something to think about. My fourth book, which is called Falling for Me, I sold it under the title, What I Say I Want, the biography of Tom Sizemore that I wrote, I sold under the title Seizing More: the De-evolution of Tom Sizemore and the title I gave it when it came out was By Some Miracle I Made it Out of There, which is a famous line of his from Saving Private Ryan. And also very much described the experience I had writing that book.

A lot of our clients will come in with titles that we will, we will revamp: Courtney Friel, who's a newscaster on KTLA, came to us and her book at that time was called Pretty Sobering News. And we changed it to Tonight at 10: Kicking Booze and Breaking News. Cause she hosted the 10 o'clock show.

And then we have clients who have a brand. And so if you have a brand already and you are doing your book in order to sort of further support that brand, it should be that name. We did a book for Alexis Haines who has a podcast called Recovering from Reality. So her memoir is called Recovering from Reality. She's in recovery. She's a reality star. Emily Lynn Paulson, we did a book called Highlight Real. She already had a very popular Instagram called Highlight Real Recovery. And so she knew what her title was going to be. And we, you know, used it and kept it. And it was wonderful. You know, but, but I think that a lot of people get committed to a title and they get possibly too attached to it, not realizing what the title is for the title is there.

So you can draw people in so you can make an impact: it should draw attention. And then you have a subtitle, you know, cause we're talking about nonfiction books to break down what that title means. And it's a title that the reader will only understand it if they read the book, it is not a good title. Think about how quickly we make decisions. People have got to know what your book is about to be interested in it. And I also think having titles that are easy to pronounce…my second book was called Bought. Yes, that is easy to pronounce. But whenever I said, “Oh, I have this book and it's called Bought,” people would think I meant, but B O T not B O U G H T. I didn't know till it was out that that wasn't a great title, but, but titles that are easy to spell, easy to say, easy to pronounce.

And it's like, you want a title that someone's going to feel…and this sounds a little ridiculous, but proud saying they read it. We read most books because they're recommended by people we trust. So you want a book that someone's going to say, “I just read this book, it's called, you know, Daring Greatly. And, and so I think that you have to think about it, but most of all, you have to be open to changing it. Don't fall too in love with your title.

And the keywords are important, which is to say, Amazon is the third-largest search engine in the world. So people go to Amazon and search for a topic. And so you want to have keywords that describe what your book what's in your book so that they will find it. But I don't think that's that important. I have almost never gone to Amazon and search for a book using a keyword. I've only really done that as research, not as a way to find a book I want to buy. So I don't think that's such an important thing to focus on, but it is something to think about. And that is it your answer to when and how do I title a book.


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