Title Time

Of all the aspects of writing a book, selecting a title is the one I least enjoy.  The pressure to try and encapsulate everything the book is, exclude everything it isn’t, and make the title memorable with some little twist or play on words is exhausting.  And annoying.

But that doesn’t mean I can get out of doing it.  Even if I don’t self-publish this second book, I need to select a working title to use while shopping it around to agents and publishers.  Nobody will consider a proposal titled “Book 2”, as it is currently labeled on my computer.  So, time to get down to work.

I have a feeling that the perfect title is already fully formed somewhere in my head.  The trick is to shovel all the crappy ones out of the way so I can find it.  Some people can probably do this internally but not me.  I’m a list guy.

Ideas get scribbled down whenever they pop up–either on my phone or on scrap paper next to the computer.  Usually sitting down with the express intent of coming up with potential titles produces only crap.  Here’s a short list of garbage titles from last night’s attempt:

Death, Taxes, and the Challenges of Coming Home:  This one highlights the concept that the challenges of coming home are as inevitable as death and taxes, but it still sucks.

Finding the Boon: Bringing Veterans All The Way Home:  Reference to “the Boon” is too obscure.  It factors in strongly in the book but a potential reader will likely not get it.  Confusing the reader is not a positive characteristic of successful book titles.

Reinventing The Wheel: Changing how veterans come home:  It’s true, the information I present in this book is not new.  It’s just been buried for years.  I’ve dug it up and packaged it in a wrapper that I hope modern veterans will find attractive.  To drive this metaphor all the way into the ground, the concept of the wheel we currently use to adjust to life after combat is missing important components.  It’s like one side is really flat.  But the wheel used by other societies throughout history was nicely rounded on this particular part.  The objective of this book is to reinvent the wheel we currently use–not by discarding it and starting anew–but rather by incorporating the attributes of the ancient wheel into our modern one.  But if your title requires a full paragraph to explain it, it’s no good.

I did uncover one title that had potential.  It highlighted the focus of the book, brought the title of my first book into play, and had some highly searchable key words in it to boot.  It was The Warrior’s Return: Moving forward After Action.

What’s wrong with that, you might ask?  Nothing.  It pretty much fits the bill–except that on 1 November, Dr. Ed Tick is releasing a book titled: Warrior’s Return: Restoring the Soul After War.

Name this movie: “Look… me and the McDonald’s people got this little misunderstanding. See, they’re McDonald’s… I’m McDowell’s. They got the Golden Arches, mine is the Golden Arcs. They got the Big Mac, I got the Big Mick. We both got two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles and onions, but their buns have sesame seeds. My buns have no seeds.”

Well, my buns may have no seeds but I still don’t want to sail so closely to Dr. Tick’s book.  I like his earlier book, War and the Soul, and even quote from it in “Book 2” but a little separation is needed.

My voice is significantly different from Dr. Tick’s.  He is a well established mental health professional with years of experience helping veterans heal the invisible wounds of war.  I’m a combat veteran who’s stumbled along his own path to recovery–and figured out how others can do the same.  There’s value in reading Dr. Tick’s work and I’ll certainly be buying a copy when it comes available.  But I need to make sure my title differentiates between our work.  There are many veterans who will not listen to even the best advice if it doesn’t come from someone who “was there.”  This audience, the one few people can reach, is the focus of my book.  Reaching them and providing information from my own reconnaissance through the minefields of “coming home” is the entire goal of this endeavor.


So, where does that leave the title search?  Back to the drawing board, I guess.

Any suggestions?

13 thoughts on “Title Time

  1. Patrick Najmulski

    Hey Shoe, just my two cents here:

    -Mission Creep
    -Hot Wash

    All pretty shitty, unless you read between the lines…



  2. Mary Gold

    With regard to the marathon reference, I believe the distance is 26.2 miles. Just when you think you’ve made it home, there is still the Point Two.

  3. Brad Cornali

    First off, you are my hero. I am so proud to call you a friend. Now, about the title of your next book. This is more of suggestion for your list to jog your thought process than it is for a specific title. I was thinking of something referring to “actions on the objective.” The objective being “home”, and the actions being how you react once you get there. I’m by no means am a war hero, but in my experience, the actions you take once the objective is reached can make or break you. This analogy may not resonate with everyone, but would surely hit home with your returning veteran audience. All the best , brother.

    1. Dan Sheehan Post author

      Brad, great to hear from you my friend. “Actions On” is a great title suggestion. It fits the concept of the book and will resonate clearly with my primary audience. Many thanks for sending it my way. I’m going to figure out an appropriate subtitle so the analogy will gain clarity for folks who might not have studied FMFM-1.

      Again, great to hear from you and I hope you and the family are all well.


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