Is it ambiguous enough? “Choosing a Title” has more than one meaning. It can refer to choosing a title for a written material. It can also mean choosing a title of nobility. It can also mean creating a position at a company. A title says a lot.

In my case, my title was already ambiguous enough to have at least three different meanings. This is the reason that authors and publishers are worried about choosing a suitable title for a book. Since I have just explained what I want to talk about in this blog, the title above came into perspective. I am not trying to discuss title of nobility or of profession. I am focusing on choosing a title for a written material. Now that it is clear, here is my thesis statement: Is there a perfect recipe for choosing a title?

Having a background in philosophy and having written at least seventy university essays in my life, I knew how important choosing the title was when I finished writing my first book. Knowing the importance of choosing a title was a double-edged sword. The advantage was that I appreciated the importance of it and, therefore, I took the work of choosing the title seriously. The disadvantage was that I was terrified of making a mistake, knowing that it was important. As a good ex-graduate student, I researched the topic. I spent days looking at websites and books for advice. Needless to say, I was more confused than ever after my research ended.

What do the experts say? A person just has to type in the words “advice for book titles” and hundreds of websites pop up. In general, most authors and publishers believe that a title has to be short, interesting, memorable, provocative, descriptive and unique. Easier said than done? Since more than a million books are published every year, it is difficult to create a title that includes all the above qualities and stands out. In addition, following this recipe may not produce success. Let’s focus on the quality of keeping the title short, for example. Of course, there are obvious examples of bad titles. I found this one on the internet: A Comparative Study of Artificial Neural Networks Using Reinforcement Learning and Multidimensional Bayesian Classification Using Parzen Density Estimation for Identification of GC-EIMS Spectra of Partially Methylated Alditol Acetates on the World Wide Web. Ouch! Can you repeat that, please?! Even if a person is an expert on the topic, he or she will not remember this title. However, there are other longer titles that became very memorable. My favorite book title is: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (1984). This is not a particularly short title and it does not sound exciting; however, it really works. In fact, the book is world famous now. Hence, taking a quality, such as the shortness of the title, does not necessarily make a book successful.

At the end of my research, I was terrified of having to pick a title with the overwhelming amount of information available. So, I did the unthinkable. I just asked myself: What feels intuitively right? I closed my eyes and I let my mind pick it out. The thought of the curse jumped in right away. My book is about a motorcyclist being cursed. The question is about the curse. Voilà! There it was: The Curse. I picked the title of my second book the same way. The book is a collection of stories about people who face realistic, real life choices in situations where unusual events happen to them. The title is: Real Life Choices.  Thus, there is no perfect recipe, but intuition does work.

My advice to authors of any kind is to do the research, but, still, to go with their intuition. Authors know their books well, since they wrote them. All the information and advice in the world is incapable of replacing the intuitive power of the author who knows what he or she wrote and meant to say with it. So, authors! Take a deep breath and close your eyes! What title do you see? Does it sound and feel perfect for you? Well, that is your title, then!

M. J. Mandoki