What’s in a title?
What’s in a title?

What’s in a title?

My memoir took nearly fifteen years. I needed time to understand that our journeys are the beautiful message. Nine hundred versions litter my mind and my hard drive, various titles reflect the evolutions of my perspective.

Originally, I thought Metamorphosis would make a great title, but time and contemplation changed my mind. I then tried With Conviction, believing the book would be a sensationalized story of the escape, but salacious details weakened the power of my message. My courtroom and prison stories followed my leadership of the world’s largest prison dog program; therefore, the title became Unleashed. Although my message is not a dog story, the title remained for a decade. Writing down, in words, filtered out the chaff, clarifying what is most important within me. Finally, the memoir became the story of a woman standing up for herself and rebuilding her life.

Several years ago, I created a series of personal development workbooks for women called The Unleashed Series. The success of the brand clouded the title of my memoir. By that time, my publishing team stunned me with their idea for a title, “What about Living with Conviction?” My title journey had come full circle.

There are two definitions of the word conviction:

1. a formal declaration that someone is guilty of a criminal offense.

2. a firmly held belief or opinion.

Each describes me. Shunned by all, the first emphasizes the darkest element of human experience. The second, coveted by all, contains strength of character. I stood on either side of the prison bars like a conflicted living symbol of the difference between living with a conviction and living with conviction.

The phrase living with conviction becomes entirely nobler and altruistic. So, what does ‘living with conviction’ mean? I found several connotations, each revolved around purpose, clarity, integrity, and compass.

I live with conviction, undeterred by the pressure around me to conform. Conviction requires courage. Tell your own story in a way that inspires others to find purpose and clarity and live with conviction.

Titles should tell a story, ask a question, and provide the answer. Living with Conviction does just that.

Stay tuned for next week’s blog post about what goes into designing a book cover…


  1. Marilynn James

    Yes, living with conviction takes courage and determination to stay the course. Life has many paths. If we lose sight of our dreams, we falter in our convictions to ourselves.

  2. Thanks for your wonderful post, Toby. Living with Conviction is such a strong title, and universal as it has so many meanings. A very timely post for me, I am at this moment working on titles for my next book. I’ve done my title research, created my huge word list of possible words to mix-and-match the perfect title, but as yet, have not found the right title. Thanks for the thoughtful ideas that I will now mull over in my search, as my next book is very much about conviction.

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