Wednesday, January 18, 2012
How to Pick a Title
I almost always have a working title in mind when I’m writing my first draft. It makes me feel like I own that story. Plus, when I talk about the book with others, I have something to refer to it as. Often, I’ll try to judge people’s reactions when I mention the title. I want to see if they lean forward or their eyes widen. I know, weird, but it gives me a sense that my title might draw an agent or editor to my book when I query.
For example, at last summer’s PNWA conference I had a consult with a well known agent. He seemed to like my pitch and asked for me to send him some pages. Before I left, he asked me if the manuscript had a title. When I said Drained, he smiled really big, shook his head yes and told me he really wanted to see my work. I left floating off the floor. You see, my title not only reflects what is happening in the book, but it is intriguing, people want to know what is being drained or how. (I'm still in edits, but can't wait to send it to him soon)
One word of caution, the first MS I tried to get published was called The Awakening. I loved this title. It went along with the book in two different ways: the awakening of an old evil villain and the awakening of our hero's magic. It wasn’t until I began querying and researching that I realized that the title was overused. At the Whidbey Island Writers Conference last Spring, I was told by an editor that all the one word titles have been used. So, I think it might be a good idea to run a search on your title. You don't want there to be 30 books with your title. How would anyone ever find yours?
So, are there rules to picking a title? Yep. I turned to one of my resources, You Can Write Children’s Books Workbook by Tracey E. Dils, for some guidance. She suggests that there are 3 rules for a title.
1. “A good title makes the reader want to read the story.”
2. “A good title doesn’t give away the story’s ending.”
3. “A good title reflects what the story is about.”
She also lists a “title test” you can use if you’ve already picked a title. Ask yourself, does your title capture the essence of your story? Does it develop suspense and draw the reader in? Is it clever or a good word choice? Does it hint at the conflict of the book? And finally, can it help suggest an illustration for the cover of the book? This last question is very important. Besides that title, the cover art can really make a reader pick up your book.
One other thing, no matter how much you love your title. Remember, the publisher gets final say. I’d much rather have a book published than not, because I argued over a title.