Work At Your Titles By W. Terry Whalin

W. Terry WhalinYou can’t underestimate the value of a good title for a magazine article or a book manuscript. Many writers don’t put much energy into those few words since they figure it will be changed in the editorial process. That’s not true. If you choose a good title, I’ve found it will remain and appear in print for the magazine article or the book.

Those few words are the first thing an editor will see with your submission so don’t slap something on the top of your manuscript then never revisit the title before you send it to the editor.

For some writers, the title can be a stumbling block–since it’s the first thing on your manuscript. To get around this difficulty, often I will throw the first thing that comes to my mind into that spot on the page. BUT I always revisit it at the end of the process, create several titles, and then select the most appropriate one before I send it off to the editor.

Titles come from many different places. Sometimes they are a play on words and for other titles, they are buried in a phrase inside the actual article or book. When I was on the staff of Decision magazine, we spent hours in Title Meetings where we debated the merits of a particular title for an article. Why? Because at the time the magazine had a circulation of 1.8 million copies and we knew a good title would draw readers. Each of us would suggest possible titles, and then we selected what we determined as the best title for that article. If the writer proposed a good one, then it stuck.

Some of my personal favorites are: Two Words That Changed My Life, the title of my personal testimony,  A Strange Place To Sing, a children’s book I wrote about Paul and Silas in jail; Never Too Busy, another children’s book about Jesus and the children and finally Lessons From the Pit which I wrote about the Eurodollar Pit of the Chicago Mercantile.

Titles are definitely worth a bit of your creative thinking. The title might make the difference whether you get the editors’ attention or not.

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W. Terry Whalin is a former magazine editor, book editor and literary agent. He is the creator of an online course to teach writers how to create excellent book proposals, ( and an Acquisitions Editor at Morgan James Publishing, a NY based publisher (  Get his free Ebook, Platform Building Ideas for Every Author: ( Terry has almost 40,000 followers on Twitter:

Don’t have a copy of Become A Successful Author? What are you waiting for?Become A Successful Author will be used in the “How To Write That Novel” course at Chicago State because it covers everything from branding to writing to editing to formatting and uploading electronic and print books to marketing and so much more. Your time is money. Look at all the time, thus money, you’ll save by ending your search for answers: Purchase Become A Successful Author for only $4.99 (eBook) or $9.99(print) from: Amazon (US), Amazon (UK), Barnes & Noble

3 thoughts on “Work At Your Titles By W. Terry Whalin

  1. piinnkkii

    I was always told to consider your title last, or like you said, revisit it after the book is done. For me, I have only had one issue with title and it was after sending it to a editor that they pointed out the title issue with me… I like to send my work to friends for reading. I am going to start asking them how they feel about the title as well. I like lost of perspectives!

  2. N. L. Armitage

    For my series, I choose the name that represents a recurring theme throughout the work. I think the title is unique in that whenever I have searched for other works with the same or similar title the only ones I have found are a manga series, or science books which include a subtitle. I’ve thought of including a subtitle to make it catchier – something that gives people a hint of what to expect for that particular part of the story – but I’ve not decided on whether I will or not. But I suppose I should definitely include which volume of the story it is. Thank you for sharing!

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