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The Oasis Book Project

A record of our work at The Oasis Book Project. Our Mission is to better the reading and writing culture in Uganda by fostering local authors and providing Ugandan children with educative, entertaining and relevant stories.

On choosing book titles

The naming game

Choosing a title for your book is more or less like choosing a name for your child; in fact it’s even even harder. Unlike children’s names, where you have celebrities, the Bible, and a dictionary of names to guide you, for books, you only have your imagination to come up with a cool and intriguing title.

On top of this, you also need to be careful not to replicate a title that has been used by a popular author before. Let’s look at an example - whereas it might be cool to name your new son Brad Pitt (a popular name already in use), it would be a bad idea to name your new book The Cat in the Hat because you risk consumers confusing your book for someone else’s (in this case, Dr. Seuss’). Writers, like expectant parents, therefore have to sift through a raft of prospective titles, discarding so many for various reasons, before finally deciding the title for their latest book.

My experience 

For my first book called Saving Little Viola, I considered two titles - Saving Margaret Ryan and Saving Little Margaret. But, these other options were not African-based and were a little too close to a popular movie title.

My second book, The Little Maid, was initially titled The Little Maid and the Private Tutor. Because of its length, I cut it to just The Little Maid.

For my third book, The Wise Milkboy, I waded through six titles. I started with a lengthy title: The Milkboy, the Mzungu girls and the Village Sorcerer. Then, I considered The Milkboy, but discarded it because it was dull. My next choice was The Mzungu Visitors, but I still didn’t like it, so I toyed with Wise Jomo for a long time, then ditched it at the last minute and finally settled for The Wise Milkboy.

After book three, I thought I had mastered the craft of book naming, but was in for rude awakening. My latest book, The Jewels of Amuria, saw me wade through sixteen titles before somebody else suggested this final title. For lack of space in this blog, I wont name all of these titles, but some of those that were dropped include The Village Thinker (boring), Marrying Pretty Aliyah (you can’t have the word ‘Marrying’ in a children’s book in Uganda), The Free Bride (objectifying women) and Pretty Aliyah’s Dowry (the word 'dowry’ could be inappropriate).

Some tips

Always have a working title - it could be anything, just have SOMETHING. Be patient with yourself, you won’t get it the first time every time.

* Get feedback from other people about appropriateness and its likability.

* Research other books which may already be using the title you have in mind.

* Make it short, catchy and intriguing.

Posted 474 weeks ago

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