Friday, November 11, 2011

Does This Title Make me Look Phat?

I was thinking about all the books that I bought based solely upon their titles. Here are two examples:
Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt and The Strange Theory of Light and Matter by Richard P. Feynman.

What drew me to these two titles? In the first instance it was definitely emotion as Angela's Ashes sounded so melodiously sad (not to mention there was a picture of a very sad looking Frank McCourt on the front cover). This emotion "sadness" made me pick up the book. I wanted to know why Angela was in ashes and why Frank was so gosh darn sad looking.

The second book (The Strange Theory of Light and Matter) did not evoke an emotion in me (except for maybe curiosity). Rather, it startled me with a desire for knowledge: I don't know anything about the strange theory of light and matter --maybe I should know something! Actually, the word strange is really what attracted me to the book. Without that wonderful word "strange" the book would have been The Theory of Light and Matter (boring). Strange sold the book to me.The word held just the right amount of emotion to attract me ... I CAN RELATE TO STRANGE (maybe this book is for me!)

So there you have it. Our mentor M is right. Emotion and interesting information do sell books. But what does this mean for our book titles? Let's take my book titles as example works- in-progress, Saving Mary: The Possession and Deliverance and The MotherHeart of God: Unveiling the Mystery of the Holy Spirit.

Do my titles evoke both an emotional response (emotion belongs in the main title) and an informative response (information can be delivered in the subtitle)?

Are my titles:
* clear
* concise
* compelling
* commercial

My first title Saving Mary does evoke emotion: "Oh, poor Mary is in trouble and needs saving!" The sub-title then delivers the appropriate information: The Possession and Deliverance. Now we know exactly what type of saving poor Mary needs...she's possessed, and we also know how she will be saved--through deliverance. Even though this is a memoir about my life, notice I did not title it Saving Deidre (my name just doesn't flow). Saving Mary, however, is reminiscent of Mary Magdalene of the Bible (the one who was possessed) and  because of this link it becomes commercial.

I am quite happy with this title. It is both emotional and informative. It is also clear "someone is possessed and needs help."  Originally I called it Saving Mary: the Possession and Deliverance of a Modern-Day Mary Magdalene but although this title is even clearer, it is not concise ... so I changed it. And I think I have a winner.

My second book, however, is more difficult. I'm not happy with the title. Of course, I could just leave it as is and hope if someone buys the manuscript they will come up with a wonderful title. Or, I could just fix it. Let's fix it based on M's advice.

The MotherHeart of God manuscript is about all the evidence in the Bible that reveals the Holy Spirit to be our spiritual mother (as opposed to a "he" spirit). But the book is also a journey of discovery as I embark on getting to know the Holy Spirit. Therefore, it is not just a straightforward list of scriptures. So how do I show both these qualities in the title? I don't know. Any suggestions?

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