The very last thing I did when tidying the final draft of my forthcoming memoir, was to think about creating the book title and tagline. I had allocated a working title when I began but I always had doubts about its appropriateness; I knew it might attract the wrong sort of reader but initially I didn’t think there was any harm in that after all, readers are readers aren’t they? Happily, it dawned on me that if I titled the book in such a way that it set certain expectations for what was inside the cover, and then those expectations were not met, it was likely to lead to a lot of negative reviews.
It was vital to set reader expectations realistically.
So when I finished the manuscript, I dumped the working title and began to think in earnest about creating the book title. This was probably the most important decision I was going to make about the work I had just spent most of the year on, getting it right was paramount.
As is my usual method of operating, I began by brainstorming (is that term still politically acceptable?) a list of potential titles. I have a tendency towards alliteration when I’m thinking about titles, I like the way they sound, the rhythm that they produce. If I can capture the feel of something in an alliteration, that always feels like a complete circle to me so I set about trying to come up with one that included the memoir’s location. Unfortunately the bar had been set aspirationally high by Jack when he called his memoir Camel Spit and Cork Trees – A year of Slow travel through Portugal. I was so jealous of that title. No matter how many ways I tried to configure it, I couldn’t get anything to come close, so in the long run I gave up on the idea of an alliteration and concentrated on finding something that would not only hopefully draw readers in but would also reflect the setting of the memoir, capture its subtropical landscape and emphasise its remoteness from the everyday lives of the market I was targeting.
I also wanted to somehow allude to the journey that the memoir had taken me on and that hopefully would now take the reader on.
Having come up with a title I really liked, I was then faced with the prospect of creating a tagline. Having given up on incorporating the location into the title, I needed a tagline that would better place the memoir and act as a location signpost to potential readers. I actually found the tagline far more difficult to decide on than the title had been. By the time I was submitting the manuscript to agents and publishers, I still hadn’t come up with a tagline I liked and when I finally signed the publishing contract, it was for a title that won’t appear on the final print.
Researching what makes a good tagline, I found very helpful advice about the boxes it needed to tick…
it should reflect the core concept or highlight something unique or quirky about the book or be clever, funny or memorable.
There were lots of examples of taglines that perfectly encapsulate the pages within their covers, such as One Ring To Rule Them All from Lord of the Rings; Don’t Go Into The Water from Jaws, and May The Odds Be Ever In Your Favor from The Hunger Games but none of those really helped me find my tagline. The only thing I knew for sure was that it should pinpoint the location and somehow, manage to differentiate it from the island’s clichéd image. I managed to whittle my potentials down to two and then left it to my editor to make the final decision.
The Banana Road – it’s Tenerife but not as you know it