The Evolution of a Book Title


Ever wonder how authors and publishers come up with titles for their books? Well, I can’t take credit for mine. A colleague thought of it for me … and then threatened to steal it if I didn’t use it immediately.

Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors started out as a personal “cheat sheet.” When I was doing proofreading for Moody Publishers, they required that I cite the source for every punctuation or spelling I thought should be changed. I found myself looking up the same rules and words over and over, so I came up with a list. And since The Chicago Manual of Style guidelines aren’t always easy to understand, I rewrote the explanations in words that made sense to me. That list got longer and longer. And when I told colleagues about it, many of them wanted a copy.

When the folks at American Christian Fiction Writers found out about my list, they asked me to teach an online course about punctuation and spelling, but “give it a catchy title.” After some thought, I came up with “Polishing the PUGS: Punctuation, Usage, Grammar, and Spelling.”

Shortly after that, several people suggested I put my online course material and my proofreading notes into book form. Since people had started referring to me as “the PUGS lady,” I kept that title for my self-published book. I sold it to clients, collages, and writers’ conference attendees. Whenever someone told me about something they thought should be included or changed, I made a note to myself about it. So when I came out with a 2nd edition, it had those revisions in it.

A few years later, when I got an agent, she suggested I come up with a new title—one that would appeal to people who didn’t already know what “PUGS” meant.

About that time, I made a trip to Texas to visit my son and daughter-in-law. To combine business with pleasure (and get some tax deductions), I drove to Austin to visit a long-time friend and colleague, Thomas Umstattd. He took me to lunch at the UT Club (on the University of Texas campus)—gorgeous place!

As Thomas and I sat on comfy armchairs in the waiting area, he asked what I was working on. I told him about my PUGS book and my agent’s suggestion for a more recognizable title. After a few minutes of thought, he said, “How about … Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors?” I immediately fell in love with it. So did he! He told me that if I didn’t go to NameCheap and purchase the domain name within 72 hours, he would! Talk about motivation. I secured the URL before I even left Texas.

The more I thought about that title, the more I liked it. And with that title, I knew I had to have more than just PUGS stuff. I thought about all of the best-selling authors I’d met at various writers’ conferences over the years and wondered if some of them might be willing to provide me with proofreading tips for the book.

To my delight, many of the authors I contacted responded with great suggestions on proofreading for typos, inconsistencies, and inaccuracies—the perfect accompaniment to my PUGS material.

That title even worked well as the first book in a series. I’m already making plans for Editing Secrets of Best-Selling Authors, Keyboarding Secrets of Best-Selling Authors, Publishing Secrets of Best-Selling Authors, and Marketing Secrets of Best-Selling Authors.

I loved the series title so much, I actually trademarked it. Check out my new website,, for information about the Proofreading Secrets book, later books in the series, helpful resources for writers and editors, and a “Just for Fun” page of amusing typo sightings.