It’s often said that the toughest part of writing a book is deciding on the title.  I recently heard best-selling author, James Clear, tell about the pain staking effort he put into finally deciding on the title of his bestselling book.  He went through hundreds of iterations of titles before his editor finally told him that he had to land on one.  The book we now know as Atomic Habits (over 4+ million copies sold), could’ve had a very different feel had Mr. Clear chose different.

Titles matter.  Details matter.  It feels big.  It feels so…permanent.  As I was coming up with the title of my book, I kept thinking: I get one shot at this.  I’ve got to come up with a great title to my book!

And let’s not forget…the subtitle!  Vastly important!  As if the title wasn’t hard enough, you now have to think through a subtitle to catch the reader’s attention.

Behind the Scenes

My first working title for my book was “For I Know the Plans I Have For You”.  Those from a Christian faith background will recognize that as the first portion of a Bible verse found in Jeremiah 29:11.  This was one of my mom’s favorite bible verses, and it somewhat had a double meaning for me in that I’m a Financial Planner.  So the ‘plans’ part I thought made a cool bridge.

Sometime later, another title possibility popped in my head when I was reminded of a saying I had heard before, but it had been a while.  It’s often used when trying to encourage someone who’s going through a tough time.  The saying goes something like: “Turn your stumbling blocks into stepping stones.”  I liked that imagery.  And I liked the meaning of not allowing the tragedy of losing my mom to define me.  But rather, to use the story to help others, to provide stepping stones on which the reader could place their foot, as they walked confidently toward retirement.

The idea of stepping stones began to catch fire in my mind…and as my mind wandered…I could visualize helping a pre-retiree (or reader) across a path of stones in the midst of a flowing stream, making steady but sure progress along the way.  Each stone representing a next step to getting retirement right.  Each step necessary to complete before moving to the next.  And once one stepping stone had been traversed, they moved to the next until finally, I pictured the retiree stepping off the bank of the stream, and onto the larger path before for them.  The exciting journey awaiting.

And just like that, Retirement Stepping Stones become the official title of my book!

Next up, the subtitle.  The first iteration of the subtitle was “Continuing a Life Beyond Retirement.”  I liked the flow of the words from the title to the subtitle, but I didn’t like that the word “retirement” was being used twice, in the title and subtitle.  So, I decided not to get married to it, but used it as a placeholder during the design phase of the book cover.

One morning I was having a meeting with my Cover Designer and Lead Editor, and I mentioned that I didn’t really like the subtitle since it used the word ‘retirement’ twice.  My Lead Editor had read the manuscript several times, and was immersed in the books content.  And, just like that, she said, “You know, your book really revolves around meaning…and purpose…and legacy.  What if we came up with a phrase that encapsulated those themes?”  Sounded good to me, and we agreed to follow up with an email brainstorm session after the call.  Five minutes later, the subtitle was born: “Find Meaning, Live with Purpose, and Leave a Legacy.”  Perfect!

Each of these 3 themes are found throughout my book.  So, before we hit the book’s release date of September 14th, I thought it’d be instructive to shine a bit of light on each of these 3 themes over the next several weeks, and explore the deeper meaning found inside each one.  Next week, we’ll start with: “Find Meaning”  Stay tuned!  Can’t wait!