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Choosing a Title
Copyright 2023 © by Jim Potter
Your book is copyrighted, your title is not.
Did you know that upon writing your book, it’s copyrighted, but its title is never protected? Other authors can use it again and again.
I enjoy brainstorming titles for my books. I’m big on alliteration and I often use subtitles to help describe the book.
While writing a draft of a book, an author may change the title several times. It’s understandable because it’s incredibly important. You want to get it just right.
When writers are asked the title of the manuscript they’re working on, the reply may often include a disclaimer that it’s only a “working title.” I’ve changed the title of my children’s book during its draft phase several times, most recently this past week, and I may not be done.
Fifteen years ago, I wrote a draft for this same book. I titled it, B is for Badge.
Even when a title’s not catchy, it must be accurate. Let’s use my police memoir, Cop in the Classroom: Lessons I’ve Learned, Tales I’ve Told (2007), as an example. I believe it reflects my working assignment as a school resource officer, telling my deputy sheriff experiences. And the alliteration still gives me joy.
Unless there’s a spark, some manuscripts sit and wait but never meet a printing press. Alex, my gifted partner, first reader, and supportive wife, was my spark. “Have you considered having a police dog be the narrator of your children’s book?” she asked. Like a dormant volcano erupting, her question ignited my creative juices. Instantly, I imagined a canine character sharing police stories.
In a flash, I copied my rough draft from my spiral notebook to my computer. While transcribing, a police dog named Kudzu began narrating.
Since then, the book title has evolved. The ABCs of Law Enforcement was lengthened when we added “as Told by K-9 Kudzu.” Again, we thought it was perfect . . . until last week.
We were talking with Tim Givan in his office at the First National Bank of Hutchinson. After giving Tim my elevator speech and explaining how the book was for children ten years of age and up, he recognized that the title was inaccurate. Tim commented that a title with the ABC’s in it implies it’s a primer book, a first reader.
With his fresh perspective, Tim was correct and we understood that immediately. While my original draft was geared to younger children, it now targets a middle school audience and up.
The ABCs of Law Enforcement as Told by K-9 Kudzu is history.
After considerable brainstorming with Alex, her descriptive suggestion has me pleased and smiling. Here it is. K-9 Kudzu’s Guide to Law Enforcement: Observations from a Working Dog Who Loves to Play.
One of Cheryl Unruh’s masterful books is titled Gravedigger’s Daughter: Vignettes from a Small Kansas Town (2021). The primary title has a deep personal meaning to Cheryl because her father dug graves. The subtitle gives the reader a descriptive picture of the stories in her book.
Because of subtitles, Unruh’s book should not be confused with the The Gravedigger’s Daughter: A Novel (2008) by Joyce Carol Oates.
I don’t know if Unruh did a Google search of book titles or was aware of the similarity of her book’s title to Oates’ but if it was my decision, I wouldn’t have altered a single word. The title’s personally and professionally perfect.
PS – Author Cheryl Unruh commented on the above blog post.
Until next time, happy writing,
alex potter says
It’s not finished until it’s finish…
Jim Potter says
When you’re on the journey, you understand how many decisions must be made to arrive at your destination.
Nancy Julien Kopp says
Great post, Jim. Titles are so important. I don’t think enough writers give the right amount of attention to a title.
Jim Potter says
Yes. Titles are important but they’re also fun. As an author, I wouldn’t miss the opportunity of creating a title for every chapter in the book.