Subtitling — help, please

I’m reading — again! — through my first draft of Mosaic. It needs to be in to my editor by August 1. My 7-year-old and I have been discussing the idea of drafts, and that first versions are seldom as good as the final copy will be. So when he saw me scrolling through the manuscript, he said “Mommy, is that the bad version?” Thanks kid.

Bad version or not, the book does need a subtitle. To be sure, subtitles don’t always matter. Can you quickly produce the subtitle to either The Happiness Project, Lean In, or The 4-Hour Workweek? I doubt you can. However, when something has a more cryptic or metaphorical title, then a subtitle becomes more critical for explaining what the book is about.

My book is based on a time diary study of professional women. It looks at how people combine big jobs and families, and also offers strategies for anyone looking to build a full life. I’m currently thinking of subtitling it “The Art of Winning at Work and Life” but I welcome suggestions.

35 thoughts on “Subtitling — help, please

  1. I know that “Having It All” is a bit of a pet peeve of yours but how about “Having All That You Want”?

  2. Can you tell a bit about why it’s called Mosaic? That might help spur some subtitle ideas.

    1. @Sarah – good question. When I had people keep track of their time, I had them use a time log that’s a 336-cell spreadsheet. Lots of people color code categories like work, sleep, tv, housework, kid time, etc. When you do that, the cells of the spreadsheet look like a mosaic. More broadly, the metaphor is that the life is made up of many hours/tiles and that we choose how to arrange those hours/tiles — ideally creating something beautiful and satisfying.

  3. I like the idea of referring back to a mosaic so I thought of “putting the pieces of work and life together” or “putting life and work together to win” or “combining the areas of your life to win” or “making the areas of your life work together” or “combining the different pieces of life together to win”

  4. How to create your best life at work and at home, creating your best life at work and at home one piece at a time…

  5. Fitting It All In
    Putting/Fitting Together the Pieces
    Fitting the Pieces Together
    Fitting Your Pieces Together
    Fitting All Your Pieces In
    Fitting In All the Pieces
    Fitting/Putting Together Your Life’s Pieces
    Or if it’s a how-to book, any of the above in present tense with “How to” in front of it.

  6. I have to be honest . . . first reaction? Charlie Sheen has damaged the word “winning” for me. Love “creating” though, per Natalie’s suggestion.

  7. What about something like:

    “Arrange the Pieces of Work and Family to Create a Beautiful Life”?


    “Arrange Your Work and Family Time to Create a Beautiful Life”?


  8. I was thinking about this some more and I really don’t like using “win” in the subtitle because it feels then like I might be losing at life if I read this book and there is the charlie sheen thing someone else mentioned. Anyway I came up with two more: “pulling the pieces together for a life that works” or “designing a life that works”
    Now re=reading your comment above I’m thinking you’re on to something with “Creating a life that is beautiful to you”

    1. I have the same reaction to “winning”.

      I really like “designing a life that works”.

      And Laura, I agree that a subtitle is especially important for a book with a somewhat mysterious title like this one.

  9. I dislike the word “winning” as well, it seems “trendy” (ie. “for the win” and “winning at life” that the youngun’s like to throw around) and also brings up the idea of losing.
    I love the use of the word “art” because a mosaic is a work of art.
    I really don’t like “fitting it all in” or anything with “fitting” because it conjures up cramming things in willy-nilly and sitting on the bag to keep it shut—not the artful elegant way most of us aspire to manage our lives!
    “The art of managing work and life?” “The art of modern life?”
    just noticed Frugal Girl’s idea above, “designing a life that works”–its perfect.

  10. Such great suggestions! I would love to see you include some form of “you” or “your” – so you are identifying with or talking to your reader. I would also like to see you allude to a very positive outcome. With those goals in mind:
    > (How to) Design Your Life to Thrive and Succeed
    > (How to) Create Your Life with Purpose and Meaning
    > Live Fully in All of the Pieces of Your Life
    > Creating the Masterpiece That is Your Life

    Or some variations of those . .

  11. I do like the ones that make reference to art and pieces, given the mosaic anecdote (which I really like).

    Admittedly, I’m feeling a bit snarky…but all these subtitles should have an additional subtitle “when you make more than 100,000 in individual income”

    The fact that I don’t come close to qualifying for inclusion in this project (financially)–despite being a university professor, published author, and mother of two–says a lot.

    In terms of actual curiosity: who is the target audience for this book?

  12. A few thoughts rushed to mind! 🙂

    The Work/Life Art Project
    Master the Art of Work and Life
    The New Art of Work and Life
    Mastering the Art of Work and Life Harmony
    For the Love of Life and Work
    For the Love of a Full Life – A Time Diary Study of Professional Women (your words!)

    Good luck Laura. I’m really looking forward to reading Mosaic – regardless of the subtitle!

  13. 1001 Days of Designing a Life Full of Family, Work, and Love.

    (I recognize that some just blanched over the love part. I think it’s to capture that elusive other. My guess is that you plan to highlight that these women just don’t work and attend to their children. The third noun is supposed to capture that.

    Personally, as an aside, I would be put off with a subtitle that included words like “winning” and “successful.” As others have said, it inherently sets up a world of winners and losers, based on income and maternal status. I say this as a person who “qualified” to submit a log and have worked with dozens and dozens of women who also qualified. I’m always skeptical of those who use my salary or family size as an alleged measure of “success.”

  14. Some great suggestions above. Here are a couple more:
    – Fitting together the pieces of a busy life
    – Piecing together a fulfilling life of work and family

  15. Thanks everyone for all these great suggestions. I can see that “winning” inspires a lot of pushback. The word “success” might be different (it worked in my before breakfast ebook) but I will think on that one. I’m currently liking “The Art of Thriving at Work and Life” or possibly “Designing a Life that Works” or “Mastering the Art of Work and Life.” I do like the idea of going from pieces to masterpiece (thanks jd!) but I’m not so sure about the implication that life is problematic for my target reader. I picture her as mostly having things together — she just wants an extra edge and new ideas she hasn’t thought about.

  16. I agree that “winning” doesn’t have the right connotation for me in this context. I also don’t particularly like “beautiful life.” It’s a little too Oprah-y or something (no offense to Oprah! I read her magazine). I like the idea of tying in “pieces” to fit with the title of Mosaic:
    Piecing together work and family for a successful life… or something 🙂

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