A few years ago, I wrote a book called ‘Celebrating Grandmothers’. Some people wonder what the title was all about. Was it a good title or, in retrospect, should I have given it a different one?
The purpose of a book title
Book titles are supposed to catch the reader’s eye. But they are also supposed to give that reader the flavour of a book and a sense of what is inside. I found this difficult because the underlying messages of this book are rich and complex – and hard to communicate in a catchy title.
The working title (what you call a book during the writing process) was Being a Grandmother, but that sounds exceedingly boring. Out come all the clichés – old, grey, dull! And very static.
So, what to do? An American journalist, who subsequently published a not dissimilar but very successful book, called her book Becoming Grandma. That, rather cleverly, communicates a sense movement. I wish I had thought of that.
I wanted something positive – but not too much so. Most grandmothers light up when you ask them about their grandchildren – they genuinely sparkle. How to communicate that fact without going over the top? I thought the word ‘celebrating’ would provide a sense of enthusiasm.
But not all grandmothers are happy with their lot. I also had to manage the complexity of family situations. Some grandmothers live far away from their families and ache with longing to see them. Some have difficult family relationships. I didn’t want these to feel excluded from the book, as they are very well covered in it.
Is this a good title?
Like many other things in life, the answer is complicated.
I had liked the ambiguity of the title. Is ‘celebrating’ a verb or an adjective? Is it the act of celebrating grandmothers or is it about grandmothers who are celebrating something? In fact, no one has ever asked.
But it really doesn’t convey very much. One might think the whole book is in praise of grandmothers, which it really isn’t. You wouldn’t guess from the title that it conveys the inner thoughts of a wide range of women about many aspects of grandmotherdom – the image, the difficulties and the many joys.
Fortunately, the sub-title conveys what the book is about – grandmothers talk about their lives – but I sometimes think there should have been something more up front.
Yet the best aspect of the title is that it is a nice one to give as a present – many women have found that it makes a perfect gift, in part because of the title. How nice, in short, to give your mother a book called ‘Celebrating Grandmothers’. In fact, I never thought of that at the time.
Are you a grandmother? Read and find out what you think.
Celebrating Grandmothers can be purchased as a paperback from Amazon and from bookstores, distributed by Ingram. It is also available as an e-book from Amazon and other e-book providers, such as Apple, Kobo and others.