Friday, June 22, 2018

Tobi Alfier - Meaningful Book Titles

You have put together a manuscript. You are proud of it, sick of it, relieved, and ready to send it out. What are you going to name it?

What you name your book is as important as what’s inside.

Think about what entices you to buy a book by someone you don’t know. Because people who love your work will buy it, no matter what you name it. But if someone who doesn’t know you buys it, and loves it, they will go back and get everything else by you too. And they will tell their friends about you. I do this all the time.

Carrying this forward another step, if you are published by a small press, someone who buys your book and loves it will look at who else that small press has published, and they will find another book that sounds intriguing or by someone they recognize. And they will order another book from that small press, and one day, when they have a manuscript, they may submit it to that small press and the whole circle begins again.
ALL because you were thoughtful and wicked smart about the title of your book! Nice work!

  1. Many poetry books are titled after a poem in the manuscript. Go through your poems and find the one that best represents the content of your book. Or find the title that you love the most - that you would be proud to see on the cover. Remember that most of the time you are going to be responsible for most of your marketing and many of your sales, but poetry is also emotional. It’s okay for you to be both businesslike and emotional.

  1. Decide where you want to put the title poem inside the manuscript. If you move it, this will have an effect on the order of the Table of Contents (TOC). If you need to change that, do so before you send the manuscript out.

There are no fixed rules regarding any of this. For anyone who has my new book, “Somewhere, Anywhere, Doesn’t Matter Where” is NOT the title of one of the poems. It’s the last line of a poem. I chose it because the initials are S A D, which went with the cover photo. Also, since the manuscript contains poems of place, but not all the same place, it made sense to me. And I loved it in my heart. Business and emotion.

This is your book. Choose a title that works best for you. Don’t hesitate to ask people you trust for their opinions, but in the end it’s your decision.

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He’ll Tell You Once He Knows

He comes in from watching the chiminea,
smells like woodsmoke and olive branches.

Your wandering man—adventure in his mustache
when he kisses you. Could be Puglia, could be Crete,

if next time you smell sage, you’ll know he’s decided.
The orange tree in the backyard could point him

toward Spain. He’ll tell you once he knows.
There will be laughter, desiccated barns reduced to earth,

trains and sky, that much you know without doubt.
A shy waitress who remembers he loves reds,

a dried horse hoof in a rutted road—the picture
will be worth five thousand miles. For the both of you—

every night you will hear his adventures
and share yours back, while the music in the wind

is your guide for tomorrow. The dawn,
a coffee kiss, you watch as he strides away,

then follow your own song until reunited,

two travelers, somewhere, anywhere, doesn’t matter where. 

coffee kiss photo by Dimitris

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Tobi Alfier's most recent collection of poetry is Somewhere, Anywhere, Doesn't Matter Where. She is also co-editor with Jeff Alfier of the San Pedro River Review. Don't miss Tobi's columns on the craft of poetry: insert your email address in the "Follow By Email" box to the right of this article and you'll be notified every time a new article appears.

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