I just read that the Stieg Larrson series has sold 40 million copies worldwide. Amazing, isn’t it? And so encouraging! People still are reading books after all – lots of them. I also learned that the book that started it all, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was originally called Men Who Hate Women. Glad they dumped that one! The Girl is a great read, but it’s not a stretch to think that the earlier title would have sunk the book like a stone — and sandbagged the whole series.
This led me to reflect on titles again (see my post, “Whynot, Mississippi” ) – and to think about naming my book, Birthing the Elephant. During the draft stage, we went through a ton of ideas. Key contenders: “Women Who Launch” and “A Business of Her own.” Lackluster, I admit. But when the publisher emailed an idea from one of its sales staff: Birthing the Elephant, I practically fell off my seat.
Luckily, my Aunt Sandy was visiting me. A lot like Mrs. Claus, she’s cheerful and upbeat. I asked her opinion. “I like it!” she said in her bubbly way. “Starting a business is tough – I get it. And people love elephants!” That warmed me up a bit. Then I walked over to Watchung Booksellers, my local bookstore, and consulted Margot, the owner. There’s “A Business of Her Own” and then there’s this way-out title, “Birthing the Elephant,” I told her. Her take: “I can see people coming into the store and asking for that elephant book about starting a business. It’s memorable!” Later, I had the smarts to call my friend Katie, who’s a brand strategist. “Birthing the Elephant – that’s a branding goldmine. That’s definitely the one to go with!” she said with comforting conviction.
Fortunately, everyone else’s advice prevailed, because Birthing the Elephant turned out to be a winner. Entrepreneurs love it and so does the media: it’s an attention getter – and that’s what a title should be.
Any title stories you can share – disastrous, inspired, or otherwise?