*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.