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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Title, Schmitle, Who Really Cares? Um...Agents Do


*This is a tweaked repeat of an old post, but I thought it was relevant as we head into WriteOnCon next week (August 14th and 15th--BE THERE!). Many of you will be posting your queries and first pages in the Forums. With so many choices for ninja agents (see my post from last Friday) to sift through, a clever/compelling title might just demand attention and lead to a request!!




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 may 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 silly title that stands out. If it’s an adventure story, make it gripping. If it's 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. And, yes, it's true that titles are often changed by the publisher once you get a book deal. 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. 

18 comments:

  1. I think titles are paramount. I've bought books because of the titles. Cover art doesn't sway me at all, but a good title catches me. See my recent review of The Skin Map to see what I think about titles.

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    1. I can be a cover art junkie :) The Skin Map is a fabulous, creepy title!

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  2. I've been thinking a lot about titles of late. Much harder than it sounds! :) Love me some WriteOnCon, too!

    Not sure how much I'll be able to take part in 'live' this year, which I'm sure the moderators will be thankful for. My goal each year is to keep them entertained during the agent, etc. chats. :)

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  3. Even though a publisher will often change a title, a really good one may stick, and like you say, it can make the editor or agent take note. One of the best ones that WiDo got recently was a chick lit manuscript with the title: Tanned, Toned and Totally Faking It. Awesome title! And it's now a published book with the author's second novel in editing with us as well.

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    1. What a fun title! Makes me want to head to a beach and read it :)

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  4. I just signed up for WoC!!! *nervous* I agree with kareng above me - the title will often change. I spoke with an agent on the phone once who said she loved her client's original title and then the publisher changed it. Of course the agent couldn't say anything but she wasn't thrilled with the title they ended up going with (neither am I but....publishing marketers seem to know best). It took me WEEKS to figure out the perfect title for my novel. Originally it was called 'That damn novel' LOL!!!!!! Then it got changed to the boyfriend in the novel's name, Cass, since he was the most used word in the document. Then it was Downward Spiral. Then it was ALL THESE TITLES SUCK. LOL!!! Finally it got to what it is today :-)

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    1. 'That Damn Novel'~ HA! Love it. I've definitely gotten angsty over titles before :)

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  5. I think titles are really tough. I've spent a lot of time on them, and sometimes it seems I'll never get one that works perfectly. But I always dream about nailing that perfect title!

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    1. Same here~ I don't think it's happened for me yet, but I'm still hoping that someday I'm struck with a moment/title of genius :)

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  6. I'm guilty of becoming too attached to a title. You've inspired me to brainstorm some more.

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    1. Oh good! And it's okay to be attached if you love the title and think others will too!

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  7. Great post! I love coming up with Titles - they usually morph as I'm writing and find themes hidden in my drafts, but each new one is fun all the same.

    My current WIP used to be called ALL IN, for instance, because it's a romance/poker story. But as I've found layers of plot and character in my drafts, I'm thinking of changing it to KIND OF because it's turning into more of a coming of age than a fun romance. We'll see.

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    1. That's awesome that you know how to adapt it based on the tone of the novel~ great titles!

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  8. I decided one day to change my title. I spent two days slaving over it and sent my results to my CP and a beta reader. Their reaction? They hated them. Turns out they liked the original one. Oh well.

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    1. Ugh! Same thing has happened to me before :)

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  9. I agree that titles are important, but for some reason they are one of my least favorite part of the writing process. That, along with, choosing character names. I hate doing those things.

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