The Contenders

Received a lot of good responses to last month’s blog about coming up with a better moniker for Knock Softly.

Everyone agrees that the title is a deciding factor when selecting a new read. That and the cover image(s) are the only things people see before they pick up your book. Those two things and the blurb on the back cover have to say “buy me now.” If not, every other word you’ve written is pointless. I want a strong title that not only draws you in, but also carries its own ballooning weight as the story progresses. Ideally, this title should cause an afterglow effect once the reader has finished the novel. That’s what I’m shooting for.

The need for a title to “sum up” the story came into question, and that was unexpected. I was reminded that some of the best titles intrigue or entice without explaining themselves at all, or not until the very end. Pat Conroy’s Prince of Tides is a good example. Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind is another.

As far as which title everyone thought best, I have to laugh. As responses started coming in, I was reminded of something my brother, Dave, once told me way back in the 20th century. He’s ten years older and light-years wiser, and he said that, “People don’t know what they want, they only want what they know.” I laughed because all the first suggestions said don’t change the title, or put the ellipsis back in. Then, I started to get other suggestions. I’ve narrowed it down to seven, but first, here’s a draft of a 100-word synopsis for the back cover blurb:

There are things worse than death. Reoccurring cancer is one.

Elizabeth Bergman, mother, lover, wife and special education teacher, won her first bout with cancer ten years ago. She recovered and led the perfect life until an unexpected pregnancy coincided with cancer’s return.

Only mitochondrial DNA can save her now, but to get it, her husband must first unlock a dark and secret past his wife has kept from him and the children. Her desire to die with her secret is almost as strong as her will to live for her children and the child she carries, and for the life she hopes to carry on.

And now, the Contenders…

  1. Knock Softly…
  2. Knock Softly
  3. Ring Around the Twisted Ladder (the double helix & ring around the rosy)
  4. Carry on, Mrs. Bergman (or, Carry on, Mr. & Mrs. Bergman)
  5. Elizabeth! (Several by this title, none with the !, almost all about Queen E. or E. Taylor)
  6. Both Sides Now (Joni Mitchel’s song. Look up the lyrics if unfamiliar; spot on.)
  7. All to Die For (or, All to Die For, Baby. Liz’s outlook from start to finish)

The last two are somewhat ambiguous, but so are the first two.

Now what works best in your mind?


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    • Book Lover on March 3, 2015 at 5:33 pm
    • Reply

    Sometimes I wonder which is harder, writing a story or selecting an attention grabbing title. Without a good title, people may never give a book a second look. Good luck, Phil. I want your story to get more than a second look.

  1. So would I! A quick BookFinder search shows no other titles exactly like this, so it checks that box. But, does it recall the story once finished?

    • Sue Remisiewicz on March 1, 2015 at 5:04 pm
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    Out of the seven I’m certain I’d pick up a book titled ‘All to Die For’ and read the back page. The twist of Die vs. Live is what grabs my attention. I’d want to find out what that is all about.

    • Mary Gibbons on February 26, 2015 at 10:12 pm
    • Reply

    Ring Around the Twisted Ladder works well because Elizabeth lives a twisted life. She is a married woman carrying her lover’s child while fighting cancer. Her cancer likely has a genetic component, so the double helix is appropriate.

    1. I like Twisted Ladder, too, but the Ring Around part sounds too childish, but maybe given Liz’s circumstances that’s OK?

    • Claire Murray on February 26, 2015 at 5:14 pm
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    Phil, I like to think of the title as the book’s elevator speech. It catches the crux of what it’s about in a very interesting way.

    • Kook-Wha Koh on February 23, 2015 at 5:28 am
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    Phil, It is very hard to decide but as our friends mentioned that the title and cover are very important to get the attention from readers.
    I enjoyed to read your stories.

    1. Thanks, Kook-Wha, I’m getting some interesting suggestions.

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