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Best Title for a Memoir: How to Choose

Writers ask me how to choose a best title for a memoir. Because I have worked with them, usually as their coach or editor and know their story, I am in a position to brainstorm with them to come up with a decent —and sometimes even a great—title for their book.

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There are many possibilities available to a writer, but one thing is certain: a writer must choose a title for a memoir strategically.  It is a marketing opportunity. The title printed on your book cover can—and ought to—promote sales of your memoir.

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Here are some guidelines I use to generate a memoir title—for my own titles or for those of clients. I hope they prove helpful to you, too.

How important is a working title?

When you are working on a memoir, you may want to have some way of distinguishing one manuscript from another. You may also be working concurrently on a second or a third book—and that is not unusual for some writers. In that instance, you will want a name so as to be able to distinguish this manuscript from another as you speak to your writing group, your writing coach or a friend.

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What would happen to the memoir conversation if…

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7 Responses to Best Title for a Memoir: How to Choose

  1. Charlotte Hyatt February 23, 2018 at 11:08 PM #

    I am glad to see this. I want to have a meaningful title, something that will be meaningful both myself and the reader. I agree, it is the reader’s interest and attention you want to catch.

    I have been thinking of “3-wheeled Annie – life with Ataxia! Hopefully, people will want to know what that is.

  2. Denis Ledoux March 3, 2018 at 12:16 PM #

    I would say there is too much that is unknown in your title. Enlist the empathy of the reader more.

    Something better might be: Saving Annie / Making a Life after Ataxia or Ataxia Needn’t Destroy Your Life/ How One Woman Coped with Degenerative Nerve Disease.

    In a sense, your title has to be a little story in itself. Better than evoking a thought, it ought to evoke a feeling.

    I hope this helps.

  3. Charlotte Hyatt July 16, 2018 at 9:57 PM #

    Thanks Denis. That is more engaging.

    I have not disciplined myself to the 30 minutes a day (or whatever time frame I decide on) I need to feel productive. I am to old to be a “work in progress”, but I am. The book series won’t leave me alone so I HAVE to get it down on paper and out of my head.

  4. Rennie June 17, 2019 at 1:07 PM #

    Do you always recommend a sub-title?

    I am writing “The moon for Yemsi” – story of my adopted son, legally blind, and we spent months looking for the moon until he
    was finally able to see it.
    Juxtaposed to the search for permanence and peace for him.

  5. Denis Ledoux June 17, 2019 at 6:50 PM #

    Rennie, Lovely concept for your memoir.

    I do usually have a subtitle as I like the clarity it creates for its intended audience. Our books generally address specific audiences, and a subtitle make sit clear which audience we are focused on. My mother’s memoir mentioned above had a title that I loved but it did not say to its audience, “Hey this is for you!’ My subtitle said just that. To quote from above:

    “For my mother’s memoir We Were Not Spoiled, I chose the subtitle: A Franco Memoir. Any person in our ethnic group would intuit immediately that this memoir was possibly of interest.”

  6. Karen Tormey July 27, 2019 at 11:35 AM #

    This article was so helpful! I’ve been struggling to choose between two possible titles for the Memoir I am working on. One title is “Snow in Summer.” The other title is “Growing up Swedish.” Now I see that I can have them both. Something like —

    “Snow in Summer”

    ” A Story of Growing Up Swedish”

  7. Denis Ledoux July 29, 2019 at 2:09 PM #

    Thanks for sharing that the article was helpful. The only other suggestion I would make to your otherwise fine title idea is to distinguish if by “Swedish” you mean Swedish of Sweden or Swedish-American. They are different audiences.

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