Thinking Up A Title For Book

Considering What A Book’s Title Should Be Before Publishing It

Before my book SEETHINGS was finished and published, I reviewed many titles for its cover. That name didn’t appear until eight years later. During the book’s long development, various titles were applied to assist me with writing the content. Few were considered to be permanent fixtures. A couple were contenders but none made it in the end.

There are fair and good reasons why a book starts with one title but finishes with another. Sometimes the story takes a different direction during its development and the old title makes no sense. Sometimes the title sounded quirky at the beginning but the author figured out that its quirkiness would’ve been lost on readers. In SEETHINGS’ case, I used my first title, as a sort of mission statement, for the purposes of keeping me on track as I wrote the yet-unknown story. It was always meant to be temporary. I wrote it on a post-it note and stuck it to the top of my computer’s screen.

In the beginning…

This was SEETHINGS’ guide notice because I knew the story was always going to be about a storm. I love a good thunderstorm and wanted to write a sophisticated story about one, but how that’d translate into an entertaining story was uncertain. I wrote Stormfront on that little yellow tag and it kept me on-task during the first draft (and it stayed around for another couple of rewrites). And then I wrote a new post-it note to replace the old one.


As is usually the case when I write a story, something else was discovered during the process. The story developed the nucleus of another plot and then it grew. It paralleled the first one but, while the hot, summer rain dominated the core of the early narrative, a frosty relationship story slithered right up against it. I saw the irony, wrote a new title on a fresh post-it note, and labelled it Cold Climates. It stayed around for one rewrite.

Why not seven or five?

Attracted to that second plot line, I kept working on developing the chilly relationship thing between the two principal characters. I aimed to create six identifiable occasions in the story when the couple’s life soured and their bedroom turned icy. Thank goodness that title didn’t remain. Neither did those six occasions. Some key ones stayed while the rest disappeared into oblivion.

SEETHINGS' test-drive title
Long enough?

Stop laughing. This title will make perfect sense after I explain why I chose it.

The writing process was nearing its end and things were getting really serious. The book had been written ten times and it was due for some real-world testing. The beta-reader journey was next on the project list. Feedback mattered (but not for the book’s title). I handed my readers the loose-leaf manuscript in a four ring-binder. This long title appeared on the first page. It acted as a type of synopsis. If the reader didn’t like the sound of it, then they didn’t get to read the book. Those who tolerated the title got to read the story, and then I waited for their comments/reviews to return to me. The book was never going to be called Pink Tears In The Hot Rain And The Cold Stench Of Death. A real title would come much later. That’s when I started doing the graphics for the cover.

Structural edits were being finalised while four titles were selected for proofing (I can’t remember the last of them — yes, they are mock-ups of mock-ups. Original files have gone astray). Each of these simple proofs was printed using the same image on the background. I dropped the titles on top of them and then handed them to friends, family, book club members, strangers, and anyone willing enough to give me their opinion. I didn’t tell them what the story was about (and the beta readers used earlier weren’t involved this time around), I just wanted a new set of eyes to look at the mock-ups. “Which book title would make you stop and look twice?” I asked.

The votes came back and the book officially became SEETHINGS in mid-2012. Of course, it wasn’t yet ready for the reading market. Sorting out a title was just one step in many more to come. The next thing to consider was a suitable cover graphic (clearly, I didn’t go with the lightning bolt) but that’s another post for another time.

Until then, enjoy your reading. Michael. (P.S. Here’s the book I mentioned. It’s free for a limited time)

Five women’s bodies are discovered after the nights of thunderstorms. Their spouses are suspected of the crimes, but it becomes clear that someone else is responsible. There’s no blood and few clues. A storm photographer specialising in taking lightning pictures may be the only witness.


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