Picking the right title can make all the difference when your book goes on sale. But how do you find it? The possibilities are endless, as David Baird discovered.
What do these phrases have in common?
Sunstruck, Fiesta fever, Follow that mule!, Whitewash and olives, The vintage years, Is there a Spaniard in the pueblo?, Everything under the sun, The blossoms of spring, The sunshine life, The donkey that roared…
Answer: they are all suggested titles for a new book.They came from friends and acquaintances when I asked for their ideas.
One thing was plain: some of them had been over-imbibing. I mean: The donkey that roared, for heaven’s sake!
And something else was evident: finding a good title for your opus is not so simple.
It’s a problem every writer faces sooner or later. Choosing the right words can be critical. A book title must grab the browsers’ attention, persuade them to scan a few pages — and fork out their cash.
But the title must not defraud. If a purchaser feels he or she has been tricked, they are never going to trust you again.
When I finally typed “The End” on a work that I had been toiling over for months, there was no way I could think of a neat, catchy title.
So I called for help from everybody I knew. First I asked their opinion of “Are there butterflies in your pueblo?” Poetic, whimsical, I thought. They fell about laughing, scoffing “What does it mean?”
But these allegedly bright folk could do no better. When I explained that the book was about how complicated it could be to escape to the ‘simple’ life in a Spanish pueblo, they cried as one: “Whatever you do, don’t put a Spanish word in the title — Brits are confused by even the simplest foreign words!”
So out went “Garbanzos for breakfast”?
“Ho! Ho! What are these garabanzos? Is it a cookbook?”
How about “Street of bitterness”?
“Please!” they retorted. “Too sombre, too downbeat. Depressing. Is this a Greek tragedy?”
When I offered “We came to the village”, scorn was rampant. “Bland”, “dated”, “boring”.
But they didn’t only mock my ideas. They ridiculed their own. These bright sparks could not agree on anything.
Indeed, as more wild suggestions rained down, I got the impression that my advisers had all been hitting the vino.
A certain hysteria appeared to take over. Just look at their ideas — and comments:
Pueblo experience — Dry, must be a sociology primer.
Brandy for breakfast — Wet, must be another alcoholic saga.
When the grapes are ripe — Oh no!, more fruity reminiscences.
Driving over peanuts — Er, hasn’t that been done?
South of mañana — Surely a rip-off from another title.
Yes, they HAD been hitting the vino. The suggestions and comments became more ludicrous by the moment.
The grape escape — For wine connoisseurs?
Love in the afternoon — Has Hemingway risen from the dead?
Days of wine and whitewash — A dozy Brit waxing lyrical.
My head was spinning. Time to open a bottle of good red and re-read my manuscript. Inspiration would surely strike, sooner or later.
And — you know what? — it did. In the end I settled for Sunny Side Up — The 21st century hits a Spanish village.
Don’t ask me what exactly it means. But you must admit it has best-seller potential. Just like my other literary efforts: Between Two Fires, Typhoon Season, Don’t Miss the Fiesta!
Catchy, right? One day, surely, titles like these are bound to take off.
As for my next book, everything is starting to fall into place, including the title. You know, “The donkey that roared” does have a certain something…
What was that about film rights? Glad you asked. Yes, I’m open to offers.
(David Baird’s books are published by Maroma Press, https://maromapress.wordpress.com/)