Monday, May 16, 2005

Get It Right From The Start

As a book editor--for fiction and nonfiction, I've repeatedly seen the importance of titles to draw the reader to the book.

Titles for the book often happen early in the path to publication or on the publisher’s production schedule. Most nonfiction books are contracted from a book proposal, so often the writer hasn’t completed their manuscript. Yet the title needs to be determined for the catalog and sales copy to be created and the cover to be designed.

I've been involved in hours of title meetings where we have an entire white board filled with titles and are trying to select the right one for the book. What are we working with for this process? Often it's your original proposal. What have you provided the publishing house? A single title or a title and a list of alternative titles? As the author, you know your book better than anyone else--and have the greatest passion for the topic. Make sure that passion shows up in your title and alternative titles. It will be significant.

Publishers work hard at the title--but don't always get it right the first time--and some times they change it in the process. For example, the nonfiction book from Frank Peretti was first released as The Wounded Spirit and now the title is No More Bullies. This book has been repositioned in the market with the new title.

I love the title of the new book (already available) and movie which will release next month about an unusual boxing upset. It's called Cinderella Man (book by Jeremy Schaap from Houghton Mifflin) and the movie will be from Director Ron Howard and star Russell Crowe. Why this title? It's revealed in the opening lines of the jacket copy on the book:

“Lost in the annals of boxing history is the sport’s true Cinderella story. James L. Braddock, dubbed “Cinderella Man” by Damon Runyon, was once a promising light heavyweight for whom a string of losses in the ring and a broken right hand happened to coincide with the Great Crash. With one good hand, Braddock was forced to labor on the docks of Hoboken. Only his manager, Joe Gould, still believed in him, finding fights for Braddock to help feed his wife and children. The diminutive, loquacious Jew and the burly, quiet Irishman made one of boxing’s oddest couples, but together they staged the greatest comeback in fighting history.”

Titles can make or break a book or magazine piece. Draw the reader or make them pass on to the next possibility. Put lots of energy toward this detail. Your title might just be the tipping point which makes a difference whether your book idea or magazine article is published or whether it catches lots of attention.

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