What’s in a Name?

How do you come up with titles for your stories? As any astute observer can see, mine has changed again. After years of debating this topic, getting advice from agents and editors, and being stubborn, I took all of the feedback and it hit me: For a first time author, your title has to be marketable.

Rule #1: Naming books after characters will not produce sales if you have nothing else on the shelf. My first title was given no thought at all and called, HENDERSON, after the main character in my story. Time for a change.

Rule #2: Try giving your title a name worthy of a certain theme or an important phrase in your story. Make it catchy and never before used. This brought about the idea of friendship so prevalent in my draft, that I changed the name to, HENDER’S CONNECTION, the trail where two best friends always meet and connects their two lives. I liked this one, but it disappeared in favor of not connecting to the audience. Next came, AWESOME SAUCE, the cute phrase used between the two friends. Okay, but the name is being used for a brand of Barbecue Sauce and an alcoholic energy drink. There could be some confusion.

RULE #3: When in doubt, survey your target audience. So I did. I surveyed a group of 12-year-old who had read my story. I listed five choices: HENDERSON, HENDER’S CONNECTION, AWESOME SAUCE, M.D., and HALF BRAIN.

HALF BRAIN won in a landslide (Well, sort of: 22 votes for Half Brain, 3 for Awesome Sauce, and 2 thrown out since they circled all the choices). It makes sense to me now. Half Brain is the nickname Hender gets since he thinks so differently from everyone else. The story is really his struggle to rid himself of that label and show everyone he can do a lot more than act stupid in the eyes of family and peers. Of course with a catchy title you also need writing that will capture an audience. Writers call this re-writing and I’m in the final two minutes of that process.

Lesson Learned: Don’t worry about the title. A publisher may decide to change it anyway. Write the best story possible and let the title surface from your edits. For me, I’m finally a half brain.

About Greg Pattridge

Climbing another mountain...writing middle grade novels.
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