Does Your Memoir Title Pack a Punch?

Posted by Kathleen Pooler/@kathypooler

 

” Next in importance to books are the titles.”  ~Frank Crane

 

_22421274.jpg

Packing a Punch
Photo Credit: dreamstime free

 

We all know that a book’s title and its cover need to pack a punch right away. No matter how great our story may be, it will be the title and cover that sell it to the reader.

The title and the book cover are a promise to our readers.

When I think of my own reading habits and what goes into my decision to read a new book, I know the title and book cover matter.

I’m going to think out loud here and then ask for your input.

In the five years I have been writing my memoir, I have accrued a list of working titles that seemed to fit at the time. These two stuck for a while, the latter has been my current working title until recently:

Choices and Chances: My Jagged Journey to Self

Ever Faithful to His Lead: A Memoir About Choices

My memoir is about getting into and out of two emotionally abusive marriages and finding my voice.

The main question that drives the narrative is:

How does a young woman from a stable, loving home make so many wise decisions about her career yet so many poor decisions about love that she ends up escaping with her two children in broad daylight from her second husband for fear of physical abuse?

But now that I am in my final edits and contemplating book cover designs and publication decisions, I find myself wavering on the title.

These are the questions I am asking myself:

* Is the title catchy?

* Does the title strike at the heart of my story?

* Does my title reveal my promise to the reader?

* Does the title create interest for the reader?

Choices and Chances: My Jagged Journey to Self came from one of the themes in the book–we are responsible for our own choices.

Ever Faithful to His Lead: A Memoir About Choices came from my writing. In a serendipitous moment  before a read-aloud session at the International Women Writers Guild this past summer, I read a memoir excerpt to my friend and colleague Susan Weidener. “Ever faithful to his lead” stopped me. Susan and I looked at one another and I said, “That’s it. That’s my title.”

Ever Faithful to His Lead fits in with the dance metaphor I use as well the faith journey that are both woven throughout the narrative. In my mind, it’s the better of the two titles and the one to which I have felt the most bonded but. . .

Maybe I just need a stronger subtitle? or a new title that more accurately reflects the heart of my story?

Then the other day while waiting in the car for my husband, I generated a few other working titles:

1. Jagged Journey: My Path to Freedom From Emotional Abuse

2. Missteps: A Memoir About Getting Into and Out Of Two Emotionally-Abusive Marriages

3. Out of Step: My Journey Out of Emotional Abuse

4. Ever Faithful to His Lead: Finding Freedom From Emotional Abuse

5. Awakenings: Saying Goodbye to Emotional Abuse

 

I’m working on it and I have a favorite but I wonder, dear readers, what do you think?

Which title, if any, do you feel packs the greatest punch?

Does it make you want to know more?

Is it too vague? too specific?

Do you have any idea what it’s about by the title?

I’m also open to other ideas, so bring it on!

 

I know it is my decision and it needs to come from my heart but I’d appreciate your thoughts and comments.

Thanks ahead of time for brainstorming with me.

 

How about you? How do you find a memoir title that packs a punch?

 

I’d love to hear from you. Please leave your comments below~

 

Next:

Friday, 3/14/14: “ The 7-in-1 Blog Award Nomination”

Comments

  1. says

    I’m not a title wizard for sure, I just know what speaks to me and I don’t care for any of them.
    The word “Jagged” irritates me, I don’t know why.
    The others seem too long or too . . . something?
    The closest is– Missteps: A Memoir About Getting Into and Out Of Two Emotionally-Abusive Marriages
    But it might be better –Missteps: Getting Into and Out of Two Abusive Marriages.

    Sorry. I guess I’m not much help. Good Luck.

    • says

      Hi Lori, It’s nice to meet you. Welcome! I appreciate your honesty. Thanks for stopping by and offering your feedback on my working titles. You’ve given me a lot to think about. I will keep your points–especially about “jagged”– in mind as I move forward.

    • says

      Thanks so much for your comments, Joan. It’s helpful to hear how others react so I appreciate your thoughts and suggestion on this. I keep hoping that something will pop into my head and stick but the creative process is more convoluted than that! I appreciate you stopping by and taking the time to comment.

  2. says

    Hi Kathy

    You’ve got a few titles here that pack a punch, and one that I would probably not normally pick up. I’m writing only to pass along advice I picked up somewhere over these past years of writing At Home…. Each if the two parts of the title appeals to the different sides of the brain. One creative, emotional; the other logical, rational, cognitive. I think a number of yours do this.

    Also, did you know book titles can’t be copyrighted? We could each call our books Gone With the Wind if we wanted.

    Good luck in the choosing. I know you’ll come up with the real title in the end.

    • says

      Gone with the Wind would be good! Thanks, as always, Janet for adding a fresh perspective to the conversation. I never heard about appealing to both sides of the brain but it makes sense. I’m curious what title you wouldn’t choose.

  3. Jan says

    Hi Kathy,

    My title came to me in a dream, as I have heard many peoples’ do. The fact that you left during the day stuck out for me.

    How about something like: “Leaving in the day: The risks I did and didn’t take” or something along those lines.

    It’s fun to roll around the title in my head when I try to come up with one for my poems. Then, other times, I just choose the one that ‘blurts out’. Good luck with your choice!

    Miss you,
    Jan

    • says

      Hi Jan, funny you should mention that your title came to you in a dream. I’ve been wishing that would happen to me! Your suggestion is unique and thought-provoking. Thanks so much for stopping by and offering your ideas. I’m looking forward to seeing all in May. Hopefully the snow will be gone by then! :-)

  4. says

    TItles have to hook the reader. Not yet contemplating a book title, I constantly obsess over titles for blog posts, knowing that sometimes readers will decide to click or not to click based on whether the title grabs or not.

    Now I’m looking at your previous working titles: Choices and Chances: My Jagged Journey to Self
    Ever Faithful to His Lead: A Memoir About Choices

    Another option: Ever Faithful to His Lead: My Zig-Zag Journey to Self. This option takes the title from Choice A and subtitle from Choice B. (One commenter says “jagged” didn’t fit, so I’m substituting “zig-zag.”)

    I have a feeling you may be more confused than ever by the answers to your thoughtful question, Kathy. You’ll land on the right one soon enough, and it will probably come to you subconsciously and when you least expect it. %-)

    • says

      You’re right, Marian, it’s mind-boggling and hopefully, after a period of sensory overload from all the suggestions, it will come to me, as you say, subconsciously. Thanks so much for adding to the creative process here. I know, in the end, it’s my choice but it does help to get feedback. I appreciate you stopping by and am looking forward to featuring you as my guest next week. :-)

    • says

      Hi Wanda, No I haven’t. That’s a great suggestion. Thanks for the link. I’ll give it a try. Tell me, how did you come up with your title Love and Abuse on 40Acres? I appreciate you stopping by.

  5. says

    I prefer Awakening without the s. I would use “my journey out of emotional abuse” as the subtitle. Another suggestion: Surfacing. Also, words like Freedom, or The Prison of Emotional Abuse etc.

    I found it useful to design a book cover for the title. A few weeks ago yet another title occurred to me. I had been trying to figure out just how much of my story was going to be told. The new title was shocking but also put boundaries around the material I would use. Even though there is the possibility I won’t go with that title, it has really unblocked me. Thanks for sharing your journey. I am finding it most useful and inspiring.

    • says

      Welcome, Paulette! It’s so nice to “meet” you. Wow, those are intriguing suggestions–”surfacing” resonates. “Freedom and prison”are a close second. I agree, the title and book cover go hand-in-hand and I am working toward that decision as well. I like the idea of a title “putting boundaries around the material.” Lots of food for thought and I appreciate it. Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. Best wishes on your journey. I enjoyed visiting your blog at http://cdrisarts.com.

  6. says

    Love is better the third time around:
    A journey to myself and how I overcame abuse and you can too!”

    I don’t know whether ;you are in a relationship or not but the third time could have a double meaning referring to you andor your new partner.
    Good luck. “

    • says

      It’s great to see you here, Jan! I love your suggestion. Yes, I am in a third-time’s- a -charm relationship but I haven’t met him yet in this memoir. That happens in my sequel. Now you’ve really got me thinking! Thanks so much for stopping by and offering your feedback. Priceless. :-)

  7. says

    I like number one because it is specific. If you want people to more easily find your book as a memoir, the word memoir should be in the title, as: Jagged Journey: A Memoir of My Path to Freedom From Emotional Abuse. Number four works; if your reference is to God’s leading, however, the word God or Spirit or Jesus or Savior should be in the title.

    • says

      Hi Wayne, Nice to “see” you!You bring up some great points. The challenge is to get all the key words in without being too long. The reason I decided against Ever Faithful to His Lead is that it implies a religious focus. While I do weave in my faith in this memoir, it is not predominant as I have yet to experience the fullness of my faith. That comes in memoir #2, after I’ve found my voice. I do agree that the word memoir is important to include. Thanks so much for your feedback. BTW, you met a friend of mine at one of your workshops in Springfield, Mo. She called me to tell me she had met you! Small world. :-)

  8. says

    Out of Step: My escape from emotional abuse. Short, catchy, with key word. I can’t figure out how to put “memoir” in there, too, as another key word. “A memoir of escape from emotional abuse” might be okay if a bit long. “Ever faithful to his lead” is okay and may resonate best with you and does warn that God is in this story – some people may refuse to read Christian faith stories. But, to a reader not knowing the story, being in an abusive relationship seems out of step, not being faithful to His lead. Maybe “Finding His Lead”?

    • says

      Hi Linda, I realize I do have to disclose that God is in my story and would in fact categorize it under Christian memoir. I know that won’t appeal to everyone nor do I expect it to. Ever faithful to His Lead was meant to convey a double meaning–picking the wrong dance partner and continuing to dance despite wanting to stop and having a spiritual awakening about being faithful to God’s lead.Transformation. But, in the end, I do not feel it conveys the heart of my story which is realizing I have the power of choice and had it all along. My second memoir will highlight my faith journey. Great discussion. Thanks for weighing in!

  9. Frances Rove says

    I like “Missteps: A Memoir of Two Emotionally Abusive Marriages” — shorter and hits a lot of key words for an Amazon sub-category search.

  10. says

    The perspectives you’ve gotten thus far are fascinating! Like you, I’m drawn to book covers and titles. Yet, my decision to buy is made when I open a book and read the first page. So many times (because of feedback from others), I tried to leave out the word, ‘Adventures,’ in my memoir. Your title must resonate with you, heart and soul. From all I’ve read re: your story, Kathy, ‘Ever faithful to His lead’ speaks volumes as to how you made it through. Just for fun, here is the title that struck me: Ever Faithful To His Lead: (no Finding) Freedom From Emotional Abuse. No matter the title you choose, I’ll be reading your memoir. Somehow, I believe that many others will discover it too.

    • says

      Hi Dody, you are so right, my title “must resonate with me and come from my heart and soul”. But hearing everyone’s opinions and thoughts certainly has been fascinating and thought-provoking. Thank you for your generous comments. I remember having a Twitter conversation a few years back where you told me to “let it flow.” I have thought of that phrase many times since. Now I need to do the same with all these suggestions. Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your insights. :-)

    • says

      Oh, wow, I’ve read all the way to the bottom, and so glad I did. I want emotional abuse out of there. It holds so much negative energy it sucks the life out of the other parts for me. While understanding your desire to get the faith aspect in there, I don’t think it’s the strongest selling point, even in the Christian crowd. It’s plain vanilla.

      Then I read Sonia’s suggestions and #2 gave me a full strength CHOCOLATE BUZZ. We both know Sonia is an absolute marketing genius. She’s a gem to have on your team. GOOD GIRL PICKS BAD MEN: TAKING CHARGE OF MY DESTINY packs a wallop. It jumps off the shelf at me, and I expect a cover designer will sit up and salute.

      • says

        LOL, Sharon..”full strength CHOCOLATE BUZZ” says it all. It get the vanilla part regarding my faith, too. Lots to think about. My head is spinning with all these rich ideas. Thanks for weighing in here. :-)

      • says

        Sharon, Glad you liked #2, but since I have not read Kathy’s book, I might be completely wrong. I just know what would make me buy the book. That doesn’t mean it works for everyone. I guess living in LA area, I think about the pitches I hear at conferences about how to get your book into a movie, etc.

    • says

      Yes, Sonia, you are an expert and I am listening. After our conversation, I realized my target audience includes women of any age though. But those titles certainly do “pack a punch” as you have shown us to do through Freeway to Flip=Flops. Much appreciated. Thanks for your feedback!

  11. says

    Great post and comments/replies, Kathy! I love memoir and look forward to yours — what jumped out at me as I read through your post and comments was your reply to Linda Austin in which you said the heart of this memoir is about ‘realising I have the power of choice and had it all along’. So I thought maybe the subtitle (which I’ve read can contain more details about what to expect) could be something along the lines of ‘(a memoir of) How I realized my own power of cnoice’ Then the first (shorter?) title could be something more emotional / other side of the brain.

    I really smiled over Sonia”s direct titles and Sharon’s chocolate buzz too :)

    Cheers and all the best with this stage of your work. I look forward to reading your book.

    • says

      Welcome, Carolyn. it’s nice to “meet” you. I appreciate you stopping by to share your insights. Your suggestions are very astute and give me even more to think about. Thanks very much.Your support is greatly appreciated. :-)

  12. Kathy says

    I felt the title, “Jagged Journey to Freedom from Emotional Abuse” was good as the first two words hooked me by their alliteration and made me think about the journey as a sharp and dangerous way to discover emotional freedom. I’d pick up this book without any qualms as it pointed me towards a way out of emotional abuse.

    • says

      Kathy, your response to the subtitle –”sharp and dangerous way to discover emotional freedom”–is most interesting. Emphasizing a way out of emotional abuse sounds like an important message if it would entice you to read the book. That’s valuable information and greatly appreciated. Thanks so much for stopping by and offering your feedback.

  13. says

    Kathy,
    I am most drawn to Awakenings with the subtitle in #1.

    Every Faithful to his Lead sounds like a reference to God, or some sort of Christian, possibly fundamentalist dogma. Maybe that’s just me but I didn’t get a dance metaphor out of it at all.

    Best wished with this. Titles are important!

  14. says

    Lots of great suggestions for everyone!

    My favorite title is probably “Out of Step.” I can’t quite decide on my favorite subtitle; I think you definitely need to mention the emotional abuse in your subtitle. I think the subtitles My Journey Out of Emotional Abuse or Finding Freedom From Emotional Abuse fit the best out of those you offered. I do like the “jagged journey” metaphor, though—hopefully the best one will just feel right when you hear/read it.

    Good luck with choosing a title to fit your book!

    • says

      Hi Jennifer, Nice to “see” you here. Welcome! I appreciate your perspective, especially since you know my story through your editing. *Take note everyone, Jennifer offers excellent editing services at geist.editing@gmail.com. You can also find her on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/jgeist. I’m hopeful the right title will reveal itself to me soon. Thanks so much for being a part of getting my “baby” ready for the world. :-)

  15. says

    Kathy, I’ve read the post and comments top to bottom. You’ve received a lot of advice, suggestions, and pros and cons are you possibilities. Here’s my personal take for now. I like #3 feel there’s a redundancy with using the word “out” twice. What if you changed #3 to read: “Out of Step: My Journey Away From Emotional Abuse?” The subtitle would then provide some imagery for your movement to a better environment relationally with your title “Out of Step” implying that somehow you’ve been taking chances with decision, or life, or your path. Truly, it’s been said, and I agree, this needs to resonate with your heart and your pride in your work product. After all, this is your baby.

    • says

      Sherrey, I agree with your suggestion. Word choice to so important and I like your rationale for changing it to “Away From.” And,you are right, in the end,it will have to resonate with my heart. I need to step away, let it all simmer down and let it come to me. I envision myself standing in the line at the grocery store–or some time when I least expect it- and saying “That’s it!” Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your insights. Much appreciated. :-)

  16. Alexandra Bogdanovic says

    Hi Kathy,
    For what it’s worth, here’s my two cents –
    I also like the use of “Out of Step” or “Missteps.” Personally I would go with something like “Missteps: My Escape From Emotional Abuse.”
    Essentially all I have done is tighten up the language a little, so I think it still conveys your message. Hope this helps…

    • says

      Welcome, Alexandra! It’s great to “see” you here. I appreciate you stopping by and taking the time to share your thoughts. Yes, “tightening up” seems to be the mantra. I’d love to find a one-word title to capture the essence of my story but in lieu of that trying to trim down the title while still conveying the message is one of my goals. Your “two cents” is worth a lot. Thanks so much!

  17. says

    Kathy,

    What would sound catchy, intriguing and powerful to me is Choices: my jagged journey to self. I believe you made the choice to get into marriages that turned out to be abusive and you made the choice to get out. The reason I don’t respond positively to the word Chances in the title is that I believe in life we have the power to choose to be happy or not. And your choice was to find yourself through a jagged journey that ultimately led to joy. Although chances and luck sometimes play a part in what we do, it’s ultimately our choice that determines the direction we’re going. It’s interesting that you’re dealing with this now. Right now, I too am dealing with the issue of title for my own memoir. I might get your feedback about this in a private email.

    • says

      Good points, Lorenzo. One of my main themes is claiming the power of choice in our lives so your rationale resonates. I’ll be happy to help you brainstorm your titles. I’m learning a lot through all these comments! Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your insights.

  18. says

    Hi Kathy,

    First off, good for you getting yourself and your children out of those abusive relationships.

    On the title, I felt this one did the best job of communicating the story to me:

    Ever Faithful to His Lead: Finding Freedom From Emotional Abuse

    I may be wrong, but I’m assuming “ever faithful to his lead” refers to how you felt when you were involved with your previous husbands, until the pivotal moment when you chose to leave. At that point, “ever faithful to his lead” seems, to me, to refer to your relationship with your God. That transition feels like an essential part of your story, and one that your target audience will connect with.

    I also like that your subtitle clearly signposts what readers are in for. That last thing you’d want to see happen is for a reader to pick up your memoir without knowing they’d be reading some fairly unpleasant truths. Tales of abuse can be really rough material to read if you’re not expecting it, and readers taken by surprise can react negatively as a result (we’ve all seen those reviews on Amazon: I thought it was going to be a heartwarming tale, but…)

    Specifying the nature of your journey helps prevent that and also does a better job of attracting your best readers: people who have had or are having similar experiences. They’ll be more likely to lend a sympathetic ear and eye to the book, and be ready to share it with others they know.

    Best of luck!

    • says

      Welcome, Aaron! It’s nice to meet you. I appreciate your thorough and astute assessment of the message conveyed in the title, Ever Faithful to His Lead. You are right on target. Then when I checked out your website at http://ajsikes.com, I could see why–you are freelance editor. You’ve given me a lot of valuable ideas to think about. it seems finding the right title is both an art and a science. Thank you very much for stopping by and sharing your ideas and insights.

  19. says

    For fun I checked out the aminstitute site for this title, although it deleted the punctuation.

    Goodbye Emotional Abuse: My Journey to Joy

    Your Headline’s EMV Score:

    57.14%

    This score indicates that your headline has a total of 57.14% Emotional Marketing Value (EMV) Words. To put that in perspective, the English language contains approximately 20% EMV words.

    And for comparison, most professional copywriters’ headlines will have 30%-40% EMV Words in their headlines, while the most gifted copywriters will have 50%-75% EMV words in headlines.

    It went went on to classify it as Intellectual and Spiritual.

    • says

      Hi Paul, that’s very interesting. I like your choice,only I might change the joy to freedom. I applied one of the other titles to this same tool and got a score of 33%. More food for thought! Thanks for stopping by and weighing in.

  20. says

    Yes. I agree with Sonia Marsh and Sharon Lippincott. Take away the negative words and just get right to the point and taking charge.
    I wish I remembered how I chose my title, but it was the only one I ever had. Sometimes maybe it’s better not to worry it too much.

    • says

      Thanks, Madeline. I’m thinking you can’t remember how you chose your title because it probably came to you naturally from the heart of your story. LEAVING THE HALL LIGHT ON resonates with the heart of your story and also connects readers to the story. What mother hasn’t left the light on for her child? That’s what I’m looking for and it most likely will come from my own writing. I agree, worrying about it too much is not helpful. Thanks much for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.

  21. says

    I remember a radio show with the title Unshackled. As Janet pointed out, titles are not legally protected. Perhaps many of your baby boomers who grew up with Christian radio may remember it too. How about this one. It offers opportunity for an artist also.

    Unshackled: My Path to Freedom from Emotional Abuse.

    I liked Paul’s suggestion amended by you of Goodbye Emotional Abuse: Hello to Freedom also. Joy is also a good word. Maybe it subsumes Freedom??

    That emotional marketing headline tool is really cool!

    All best as you struggle with this one. It’s really important, but we are all here to support you regardless!

    • says

      Thanks so much for weighing in here, Shirley. I remember you sharing how “Rosy Cheeks” morphed into “Blush” and fit perfectly. I am hopeful mine will morph into the right words. So grateful for your presence and support on my journey!

  22. Sarah Herring says

    I love titles! They’re the best part of story besides the ending for me. I like to play around with whatever best summarizes the plot, theme, ect. I like titles with words that each start with the same letter. It’s catchy and it sounds interesting. Since I love poetry like I love ice cream I try to come up with a poetic title. I usually do. And then, sometimes, one-word titles just capture the whole story and bring it to life. If the title bores me, chances what’s inside will too. I won’t even take the book off the shelf it doesn’t look interesting. I love this blog about Titles!! It instantly caught my eye. :)

    • says

      Hi Sarah, I’m happy you enjoyed the post. I appreciate your comments on why titles are important to you. You have reinforced the very reason I want to find the right one for my story. Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!

  23. Sharon Espeseth says

    I like Awakenings: Saying Goodbye to Emotional Abuse. As someone mentioned above, our responses could be confusing for you. For example, I like “Awakenings” with an “s,” because often there are little awakenings that dawn on you, perhaps as God’s Spirit speaks to you. There might be one big moment in the middle of the day when you know you have to leave, but there could be many tiny steps toward that revelation that forces you to act.

    • says

      Welcome, Sharon! I appreciate your suggestion for a title and the rationale. Indeed ,there were tiny steps toward this revelation along with the one big moment that left no doubts. Thanks very much for stopping by and sharing your insights