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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Title, Schmitle, Who Really Cares? Um, Some Agents Do…

**Agent Giveaway alert--Mark your calendars for TODAY THURSDAY, MARCH 24 and go to agent Natalie Fischer's blog. She's offering some serious prizes including query and page critiques. Click HERE for details!!

Perhaps you think the title of your manuscript doesn’t matter too much—you’re a writer after all, and you concentrate on things like plot and character development before focusing on something so petty, so superficial as a measly title.

Or maybe you’re the opposite—you can’t really get into your novel until you have the perfect title, and you spend hours coming up with it. It's incredibly important, like the sturdy nail that holds up the frame of your masterpiece. I go back and forth on the title issue.

If I'm looking to procrastinate, I'll play around with ideas and have fun with it, but I never stressed about submitting a query letter with a title that I knew was lackluster. The title, I assumed, was the last thing on an agent’s mind, and a good query letter trumps all.

Well, maybe, but…

Here’s a mindbender for you: titles can make a difference. A big one.

At the conference I recently attended, an agent let us know that if the query wasn’t super strong, but the TITLE was particularly intriguing, she would ask to see pages anyway. Keep in mind that this is one agent at one conference. Still, I think it’s a fair assumption that THIS SHOULD MAKE YOU THINK ABOUT THE TITLE OF YOUR MANUSCRIPT!

If it’s something vague like REACHING FOR GREATNESS or FLOATING TOWARD ACCEPTANCE, it’s gonna come off as a nonfiction self-help book. Which title is better for a whitewater rafting story— AND THE RIVER CALLED ME HOME, BREATHING WATER, or DEATH BY PADDLE (maybe they all stink, but I just made them up, so no teasing)? The truth is, it probably depends on the genre and plot--is it a coming-of-age tale or a high-stakes adventure?

We write fiction guys, so use your imagination. I’m not suggesting you go crazy or make something up purely for shock value, but think about your titles.

Right now. Go on…Evaulate them.

Are they evocative? Do they immediately conjure up an image or feeling?

The example given by the agent was BLOOD MAGIC. There you go. Like it or not, those two words are a powerful combination. So think about your title in terms of your genre—if it’s a silly middle grade, consider a very silly title that stands out. If it’s an adventure story, make it gripping. A young adult paranormal love story—give us passionate, thought-provoking words like PERSONAL DEMONS or SHIVER.

There are tons of exceptions—of course there are—and when it comes down to it, your pages matter most. But if an intriguing title can dip you out of the slush pile and get your manuscript a look see, I say it’s worth consideration.

**This is a post I wrote in September of last year, but the topic is still relevant and I have some new followers (thank you!) who didn't see it the first time**

26 comments:

  1. Great post, Jess! Titles can be really tough, but they're definitely worth the time to think through.

    Thanks!
    Vicki

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  2. Thanks for the link.

    I agree, titles are important. While I don't struggle with coming up with catchy titles, is the other parts that don't come so easily.

    If you get a chance, please visit my blog. I'm holding a 500 follower contest. Great prizes!

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  3. I think the title is important too. My 15-year-old will often discount a book with a title or cover that doesn't catch her attention.

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  4. Oh I think this is a fantastic post and by the way, Death by Paddle totally got a laugh out of me:) My most recent co-authored MS has a latin name and I'm hoping that it works and doens't get changed because I love it:)

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  5. Glad you posted this again! I love BREATHING WATER. It elicits all kinds of images. I hadn't thought of the importance of titles. It was good to hear an agent say they have importance.

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  6. Excellent post, very interesting. I've changed my title a few times but I know that agents and editors go back and change it too. I'm not too emotionally committed to my title.

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  7. I've actually been hit by a title first and then the story. In fact, my current MS started out as a title. I like it. I hope it sticks. But, I agree. You want something gripping and as specific as possible. Btw, did I see a winning title of yours over at OA recently? :)

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  8. Oh man, my titles are so lame. I'm not querying yet, but I need to start thinking about them more seriously. Thanks for the push :)

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  9. Thanks for posting this again. It's got me thinking...the title of my current MS came pretty easily, and is a natural fit, and makes a lot of sense at the end of the book (and before, but even more toward the end), but I don't know how exciting it is. Hmmmm *puts on thinking cap and ponders some more*

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  10. Ack, now i haz a sad :( I was just happy that I'd finally got my query and synopsis done... but you reminded me that I still think my title is kind of lame. Time to brainstorm AGAIN.

    What's annoying is that the two novels I started before this (and didn't complete) both had great titles. Typical :)

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  11. I suck at titles. I have a decent working title, but it's really not very exciting or evocative.

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  12. I'm totally one of those who can't write a thing until my book has a decent title. Another smart thing - do a quick Amazon check before you become married to that title. Sometimes you aren't the only one who thought it was brilliant!

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  13. I didn't see it the first time, so thank you for rerunning it. Titles are so important -- of my three books, I like two of the titles but really don't like the other one. It's too vague, and it could be any kind of book.

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  14. Great post!! Titles really do make a big difference.

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  15. Oh, well thank you! I'm so glad you enjoyed the Q&A! ( :

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  16. As always thanks for your nifty-ness! :) I just found a few agents to stalk!

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  17. Oh, I need some serious help with my title. (*rubs temples in angst*)

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  18. I would SO read Death by Paddle. :) I think titles are important to an extent. According to many authors, their titles can be changed at any time during the editing process.

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  19. Great thoughts, Jess! I stink at writing titles so it's good to know what a difference they make to at least one agent. Have a great Wednesday!

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  20. This is an awesome post. I wait until the end of the ms before writing a title and it does have to be relevant to the story. Thanks for this.

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  21. Great point. I think titles are exceptionally important. They are the first impression.

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  22. Hmmm, thought provoking. I definitely to get drawn in by titles. I love two of mine, but one (and alas, the one I'm querying on), I still need to work on.

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  23. Thanks for the link.

    Gosh, you're making me see titles in a whole new light. I better spend more time on them.

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  24. I think you are dead on right. titles matter so much. Elana Johnson's book was originally Control Issues. Sounds like Women's Fiction. Now it's Possession. Much more dramatic and YAish.

    TH Mafi's original title: Touching Juliette. Sounds like a touchy feeling romance. New title: Shatter Me. Oh, it's dystopian! Aha!

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  25. I know when I am buying a book the title is the first hook for me, so it makes sense to create a snappy title for your MS. Thank you for the Natalie Fischer link.

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