Two years ago, I did a Kickstarter campaign to cover the research costs – archival trips, photocopies of documents, etc – of writing my book. To launch that campaign, I needed a book title, and so I picked up the tiny post-it note I had on my desk. I had written five words down as I began writing:
You Will Not Be Forgotten
It was the heart of what I wanted to say in my book – what I wanted to say to these people who were so important to me. I wanted them to know that I knew them and remembered them.
That title stayed with me and the book for two years.
But when it came time to publish, wise friends suggested I rethink the title because of length, because of vagueness, because of point of view. So I did. We tried out, The Slaves Built My Home, but that was too proprietary – something I definitely wanted to avoid when talking about people who had been, quite literally, property.
In conversations with a wise woman, I mentioned that these people were the ancestors of my friends and the ancestors of the place I called home. Thus, the subtitle came to be.
Another writer suggested I go even shorter, maybe use one of the names of the people I write about. I considered that, but well, how would I choose just one? And would people then think the book was only about that person?
So I took another suggestion for the title. . .
The journey has been hard – it is amazing how much of myself I had invested in a title – and one that I had just jotted down a few years ago. It’s amazing how quickly I became defensive and territorial and sentimental.
But then, as someone wise suggested, putting a book into the world is a bit like giving birth to a child. Or for me, it’s like introducing my friends to a world that I know will not always be kind to them. So how I make that introduction – that really matters to me.
Yet, here we are with the title – The Slaves Have Names: Ancestors of My Home.
I hope it is a gracious introduction of Malvina and Ned, Billy and Kessiah. I hope the world will be kind to them.
What has your titling process been for your work? Have you struggled with that part of writing and publishing?
Soon, we will have another video to share more about the book, but for now, I hope you will enjoy this little piece I made back when I did the Kickstarter.