Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Title Angst Continued - Yeah, they're THAT Important

Okay, so it has been fascinating reading your comments about our title woes. What's really interesting is that most of us make the assumption that our title will be changed once we sell the book to a publisher.

And that's definitely true.

But (and this is a big BUT...kind of like the size of my butt right now with 20 extra post-baby pounds) your title STILL needs to rock and here's why.

The first time Laura and I spoke to the amazing Dan Ehrenhaft after he'd acquired THE LIAR SOCIETY (aka THE HAUNTING OF PEMBERLY BROWN) the very first thing he told us was that the title needed to be changed. He said that the title made him think of some historical, gothic, Jane Austen inspired novel.

Yeah, not exactly what we were going for.

Even worse, he almost didn't bother reading the manuscript based on the title alone.

Ouch.

The thing about a good title is that it prepares the reader for your book. Our old title probably turned off a lot of editors because they opened the book expecting one thing and got something completely different. The right title is essentially a mini-marketing plan for your book, allowing agents to start thinking of editors and publishing houses that would be interested in your work or helping editors see how your book will fit into their list and how they'd eventually market the book.

Bad titles usually change once you have a publisher (if people even bother reading), but a good title should force people to pick it up and put them in a position where they can't NOT buy your book, right? Right.

And if nothing else, a title helps us avoid emailing back and forth a book called Document1. And our beta ninja usually appreciates it too.

21 comments:

Dianne K. Salerni said...

Oh, I agree. You've got to have a title for your WIP that makes people want to read it. Doesn't matter if a publisher changes it later.

I've never been able to get more than a chapter or two into a WIP without a title. It bugs me to death. Like bringing a baby home from the hospital with no name.

Jen Daiker said...

This is so good to know! I still need to be very cautious on what I choose but know that getting attached could produce a large amount of tears if the title is changed!

I love your new title and think it's so much more fitting!

Jemi Fraser said...

Titles are really important. They really can make people pick up a book they might not otherwise.

Matthew Rush said...

Well that makes a lot of sense but unfortunately doesn't make it any easier. Thanks for nothing LiLa.

Renae said...

Makes sense. It is scary to think that an editor might not read a ms based on the title.

Creepy Query Girl said...

Thanks for the tip- I mean I always figured the titles should be intriguing but never realized just how important they might be in the agent querying stage.

Kerri C at CK Farm said...

I agree and it gives you a preview of what to expect. But I still will remember a book cover more...oops did I say that?


Since Laura changed the blog title do we have to call you LaLi now? LOL!

Lisa Desrochers said...

I agree that you want a KILLER title when you're querying and submitting to editors. The thing is, the title that seems KILLER to the author may not seem KILLER to the agent/editor.

I think people sometimes stress too much about titles. When in doubt, pick something simple that fits your story. I've been very surprised that none of my titles have changed so far. Even though it's the perfect title, I fully expected my publisher to change the title of my sequel (Original Sin) because it's a little racy for YA. I just got the cover comp and it says Original Sin, so...

Samantha VĂ©rant said...

Forgot to tell you, or maybe I did, but I love the title LIAR SOCIETY. I remember when it was Gmail - so long ago. Getting ready to query (yes, did you hear that? it's the ghost of Samantha coming back from the grave. not to be confused with an email from a ghost) I'm thinking my title may sound boring -- but there is so much meaning behind it. Bah. We'll see.

Marsha Sigman said...

I think having a great title is very important. It's the first thing an agent sees in the subject line when you query.

Listen, try free association. Have Laura make a list of things from the book, then sit down and throw them out at you. Say the first word that pops into your head and maybe you can come up with a title that way. Even if you don't...it would still be fun. Drink wine first though.

Sara McClung ♥ said...

Wow--that's crazy that he almost didn't read the book based on the title! I NEVER thought a title could be that big of a stopping point in the publication process!

Ooo, and I like Marsha's idea about coming up with the title! Though it could be the wine part I like the best ;)

Lisa said...

Great post! In defense of your original title, I'd read anything with the word Pemberley in it, so I guess it goes both ways :)

Krispy said...

That's a very good way to sum up title appeal. It's true. I will look into something with a title that intrigues me. In defense of your old title though, I did like Haunting of Pemberly Brown, but yeah, it does suggest something old gothic.

Sara B. Larson said...

Oh wow, that's crazy! Thank heavens he still read it. ;) But yeah, that's exactly why picking a title is so stressful!

Elana Johnson said...

Document 1! Ha ha ha! Not that I've done this...no. But I totally agree. I think titles are important (I missed yesterday, oops) and that they can catch attention before someone even reads. I agree that time should be spent on titling your work the best you can before you send it out there.

And yes, titles do change. Even good ones.

Carolyn V. said...

Yeah, I guess it's true. You need a good title at least so the crit groupies will know what to call it. =)

Claire Dawn said...

I must be crazy. 7 times out of ten the first thing I know about my story is my title and 2 of the other 3 times, I've got it figured out within the same day as the idea.

Lois D. Brown said...

With the first book I wrote, the title just came to me so easily. The current novel title is killing me. I change it every day.

Pam Torres said...

One way I keep myself open to a new title as my WIP moves forward and getting attached is to put the words, Working Title: in front of the title.
That way my WIP isn't untitled and I know it can change. Of course that comes off in the Query letter and final manuscript.

Chandler Craig said...

Good point, L&L. It's easy to write off the whole title issue because you know in the end it might not stick. But then I think of how excited I get over books with awesome titles. Like I think I picked up Ally Carter's books just because of the awesome titles! I can imagine editors are no different.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Let's just say I'm glad your title changed. Your old one sounded middle grade-ish.

The new one is S.E.X.Y. :D