By Jeanne Marie Leach

The title of your book is as important as the story. You might get a title first and build the story around it. Other times, the title occurs naturally during the course of writing the book. Certain words sometimes string together and you know that’s what the title should be. Then there comes a time when titling the book becomes a tedious task.

Regardless of how or when the book is titled, you must assess it to make sure it is the best representation of your book. You may be surprised to hear that editors carry a lot of weight on a book’s final title. Even the first, big-name author I met, who had over fifty books published at that time, had a lot of editorial changes to her book titles down through the years.

Another well-known author in the ACFW absolutely loved her title, but the publishing house wanted it renamed something entirely different. She launched a campaign through the ACFW, asking other published authors to weigh in on why they liked her title the best. In the end, they came to a compromise that everyone could live with. The author still didn’t get the title she had wanted, but at least they didn’t name it something that would embarrass her.

I had written a short novel that was accepted for publication in the mid-2000’s. It was a Christian historical romance with a twist of an unnamed, mysterious danger in it. I had titled it “Out From the Shadow,” because that’s what the character had done in the end. I took it from this sentence from the book: Rachel had come out from the shadow of danger.

The editor told me it didn’t really give the best representation of the book, but I thought it had. We went back and forth while trying to come up with a good name, and then the editor hit on the perfect name. It was actually in the same sentence. Rachel had come out from the shadow of danger. It described the story much better because pretty much all but the last few pages took place under a shadow of danger. She’d only come out from the shadow in the last ten pages of the book.

As the author, it is important to assess how well your book’s title fits the story. Titles can take one of the following forms:

  • An entire sentence, including a noun and verb.
  • A phrase
  • A single word

This is why a manuscript title is referred to as a “working title.” Until the final galley copy has been approved, it’s subject to change the entire time people are working on the manuscript. So I just want you to be prepared that you may or may not be able to keep the title you place on your book.

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