Sock Patterns and Office Chairs

Although I’m a bit late for April Fools, a little silliness seems in order on this sunny spring day: Moby Lives, the blog connected to indie publisher Melville House, features the winners of the Oddest Book Title of the Year. http://mhpbooks.com/oddest-book-title-of-the-year-award-winner-named/ Although the winner was a Thai Cookbook from Australia titled Cooking with Poo (prompting me to wonder whether my six-year-old son was among the judges) I was more partial to four.


2. Mr Andoh’s Pennine Diary: Memoirs of a Japanese Chicken Sexer in 1935 Hebden Bridge by Stephen Curry and Takayoshi Andoh (Royd Press)
3) The Great Singapore Penis Panic and the Future of American Mass Hysteria by Scott D Mendelson (Createspace)
4) Estonian Sock Patterns All Around the World by Aino Praakli (Elmatar)
5) The Mushroom in Christian Art by John A Rush (North Atlantic Books)
6) A Taxonomy of Office Chairs by Jonathan Olivares (Phaidon)
7) A Century of Sand Dredging in the Bristol Channel: Volume Two by Peter Gosson (Amberley)



As this list perhaps does not reflect, but as we all know, coming up with titles is apallingly difficult.  Or rather, coming up with effective titles is difficult, though I cannot help but think A Taxonomy of Office Chairs is awful by design. A Century of Sand Dredging in the Bristol Channel: Volume Two is so bad it’s brilliant.  A good title is crucial, both for the purposes of selling a book to a publishing house and thereafter for attracting a book-buyer/reader.  Regardless of the degree to which my client and I believe we have come up with the precisely right word or phrase, there’s a good chance our title may change. Not only the acquiring editor, but the publisher, the publicity department, and the sales and marketing teams generally weigh in, and with so many cooks in the kitchen, it’s sometimes hard to create a wining recipe.  One editor for whom I worked swore by the racing forms: from scanning the names of the colorfully named thoroughbreds she could arrive at a title.

How do you proceed? I know some writers begin with their title, which–in the wake of yet another title brainstorming session–I am beginning to think is the right approach.  How about you? How and when do you come up with a title?

4 Responses to Sock Patterns and Office Chairs

  1. Silver James says:


    7) A Century of Sand Dredging in the Bristol Channel: Volume Two by Peter Gosson (Amberley)

    VOLUME TWO?!? I can’t fathom the reason for a volume ONE!!!!

    As to your question, I usually have a title in mind before I start a WIP, mainly because that’s the way my Muse works. She grabs a phrase or idea and then spins a tale from there. Occasionally, though, it works the other way, especially when I’m dealing with a trilogy/series. I’ll have the first title and plot, plots for additional books, and then I have to scramble to find fitting titles.

  2. Julia Pierce says:

    I’ve never thought about it this way before, but I actually think my answer is similar to what Silver James said above. I usually have my title, if not before I start, then very soon thereafter. I’m drawn to short titles that sum up a main theme, often just one word.

    Now whether or not they are GOOD titles or even salable titles… well that is another thing entirely. Though I think if I used the word “Pennine” I might have something that would at least attract some attention…

  3. I’m terrible at titles. I usually just slap something on there as a working title and then get on with it. Like characters who should make the name, not the other way around, I’ve always found story to be more important than title.

  4. Siri Kirpal Kaur Khalsa says:

    Oh, titles! The title of my first book changed when the publisher explained that eight words is too long. He came up with a three word title. For the second book, I came up with a snazzy three word title. After no takers, an independent editor explained that non-fiction requires nice practical titles that really tell you something about the subject. I changed my snazzy title to a plain and simple three word title; the book sold. So, no, I don’t have the awesome saleable title when I start a book.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Please type the characters of this captcha image in the input box

Please type the characters of this captcha image in the input box

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>