Coming Up with a Book Title That Grabs You

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[This post was written by guest contributor Laura Novak, author of Finding Clarity: A Mom, A Dwarf and a Posh Private School in the People’s Republic of Berkeley.]

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If I had a dollar for every person who laughed loudly when they heard the title of my new novel, I’d be a rich woman, according to the cliché.

Finding Clarity: A Mom, A Dwarf and a Posh Private School in the People’s Republic of Berkeley typically causes a two-second pause before hearty har-hars. And that was precisely my intention: to telegraph to someone hearing about my novel for the first time that it is a bucket of fun with a rich interior and unexpected twists in a notoriously wacky city.

It would have been easy enough to leave off with the title “Finding Clarity.” But those simple words evoke healing crystals, wind chimes, and spiritual journeys. Oh, my book is one heck of a trip, filled with robust references to Buddhism and the Berkeley way of life. But the onus was on me to take care in how I presented the entire package because my novel is about much more than “finding clarity” in the ethereal sense.

Instead it has been called a hilarious, gender-bending mystery that takes place during a school year in the posh part of town: the Berkeley hills where the wealthy, white elite look down on the lowly flatlanders dwelling on the other side of the fabled university. Social class, economic diversity, and sexual politics all come in to play as the title character, Clari Drake, takes on the biggest story since her long-lost career as a reporter. With every fiber of her being, weight watcher Clari investigates the tall, thin, beautiful people she loves to hate, while messing up things mightily for her son who, as it happens, is a short person, or dwarf.

In the end, of course, Clari Drake does indeed “find clarity.” But to have left the title at that would have been misleading to a potential reader and would have short changed my writing. So instead, I juxtaposed the serious and more thought provoking main title with a sillier but expository subtitle. The way I saw it, the clearest method of conveying these critical plot elements was to pack them into a tight, meaningful, and alluring title.

When the adage “what’s in a name?” was first formed, it might well have been about book titles. It is, after all, a stranger’s first glimpse into the work you, as an author, have labored long and hard over. The burden is on you to capture the spirit of your book and then sell it boldly to an audience taking a chance on you.

My idea must have worked because Finding Clarity: A Mom, A Dwarf and a Posh Private School in the People’s Republic of Berkeleyhas garnered dozens of 5-star reviews on Amazon and has been downloaded thousands of times.

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