The Title of the Book Is the Hook

An important aspect of any book is the title itself. Lewis Smedes wrote a book about forgiveness in which he discusses some of the psychological, spiritual, and relational dynamics of being hurt and then moving towards healing and forgiveness.

He wanted to title the book, Healing the Hurts We Don’t Deserve, but the people at HarperCollins insisted on something catchier, something that might spark more interest on the popular level. So the publisher decided to name it Forgive and Forget, a title Smedes hated because as he says, “Forgiving has nothing to do with forgetting. In fact, sometimes the best forgiving happens because we remember.” The negotiated compromise kept the publisher’s preference, of course, and Smedes’s working title became the subtitle. This solution worked. It has sold more than a half million copies.

Of course, the book itself is excellent. It is interesting and helpful. It starts with a European folk tale about a husband and wife who are unhappy. The husband is devastated when he learns that his wife had an affair. But they manage to work through their unhappiness, come to forgiveness, and experience personal growth. Their end state is better, despite the affair.

The author keeps it interesting all through the book, with examples, information, and personal experiences of betrayal, pain, struggle, and triumph. Each anecdote in this nonfiction work reengages and pulls readers back to the author’s theme, showing how to more effectively handle our own struggles of hurting, hating, healing, and forgiving. Each page reveals a little more of the complexities and dynamics involved. Each issue is common to every one of us.

Good writers, therefore, understand that the open or lead is not the only place for a good hook. How about mid-chapter? Or at the end of a chapter? Or even the title itself?