“What’s it about?” is one of the more difficult questions for an author. A novelist wants to reply with a summary of the plot, while a non-fiction writer is tempted to launch into a lecture.
Coming up with the right flash reply is a blessing.
My elder daughter, for example, pointed me to the “recovering from deep personal loss” theme of What’s Left. Yes, that’s what it is ultimately about.
Finding an appropriate – and hopefully catchy – title is hard enough. One or two words, if you can.
And then there’s the cover design – another long consideration regarding a quick impression.
For books on paper, there’s the back cover and the spine for added impact.
Ebooks have the blurb on the screen beside the cover.
A related challenge comes in giving a potential reader a good welcome to the volume at hand – a sense of what to expect. Is it playful or tragic, insightful or superficial, emotional or witty?
I’ve often flipped a book open and sampled a sentence inside, which has often been all that I’ve needed. Not an option with an ebook. You first have to download a sample of the book itself.
Over the past month, something that should have been obvious all along has finally come to my attention.
Novels don’t have subtitles. Non-fiction usually does, as you know all too well if you’re doing scholarly citations.
So why doesn’t fiction?
I’m sure there are exceptions, and maybe mention of being part of a series could be considered one of them. But none of what I’m pulling off the bookshelf parts from tradition.
Still, I started playing and realized a subtitle would be a big boost.
Rather than redoing the covers or the blurbs, I decided to put the subtitle on the title page inside as an extra touch in easing the reader into the text.
Here’s what I’ve come up with:
- WHAT’S LEFT … Within a daughter’s own living Greek drama
- DAFFODIL UPRISING … The making of a hippie
- PIT-A-PAT HIGH JINKS … Of housemates, lovers, and friends
- SUBWAY VISIONS … Along the tubes to Nirvana
- YOGA BOOTCAMP … Welcome to Big Pumpkin’s ashram
- NEARLY CANAAN … With an enduring promise of snowy mountains
- THE SECRET SIDE OF JAYA … A vagabond’s surreal and fantastic encounters
- HOMETOWN NEWS … Reports from Trump country
What do you think? Do the subtitles help?
And by the way, how do you settle on a title? As a reader or as a writer?