Saturday, February 11, 2012

More Proof That Book Titles Are an Important Part of Your Query Pitch

In a previous post I'd mentioned that there is a common belief among unpublished writers that it doesn't really matter if your title isn't quite as good as it can be when you're at the query stage because "an editor is just going to change it anyway."

This viewpoint really bothers me, especially since it is the published authors who are to blame for it. Unpublished writers didn't figure this out on their own, they were told this by people who have experienced it. But as an author, it's your job to make sure every part of your work is as good as you think it can be before you query it to an agent or an editor. It's a crucial part of your pitch as well, which I'd explained in the aforementioned post. I've discussed this in some of my public query critiques, too.

But who am I to tell you what's what? Perhaps you'd rather see an agent's thoughts on the subject? Consider it done! This is from literary agent Molly's Jaffa's Twitter feed:

You should include "query" and your book's title in your query's subject line. That title makes a big first impression!
If your title sounds dated or seems unoriginal, I'll read your query with that mindset.

Your title is important. Your title is important. Your title is important.

I had an editor tell me in his acceptance letter that my title was what initially piqued his interest in the story. He hadn't read a word of the story yet and already, I had him hooked. That story was published last year--the editor did not change the title.

Every time someone makes a comment to the tune of  "the title doesn't matter now because the editor might change it anyway," somewhere in the world a book flings itself from a towering shelf. If it's an ebook it contracts an incurable virus.

Don't be a book murderer. Give your title the attention it deserves before you send any queries.

~Lydia

10 comments:

  1. I do believe this. My first manuscript had an okay title, not very original.

    My second and third (IMO atleast) had much better titles. They were also better written but I think title plays a big roll in making a good first impression.

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  2. I know I've never understood that mindset either. Don't you want to put your best foot forward? I'm still working on mine, but currently my time travel romance is MUST LOVE BREECHES

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  3. I've always thought titles are important. The cover and title are the first things I'm drawn to at the book store. And then if I like the description, I'll probably buy it. It took me two years to come up with a title for my MS! Thanks for sharing this:)

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  4. I don't quite understand why one would think the title isn't an important part of a query. When I participated in the critique forums at WriteOnCon, intriguing titles compel me to click on the queries. Obviously agents will read all queries regardless of titles, but still. That's the reason I'm constantly changing my titles.

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  5. This is such important information. A lot of people are misinformed about titles. Even if the publisher doesn't use it, you need one that grabs attention to market the ms. Great topic. Amateurs tend to use generic or cliched titles, and that's going to be a tip off: stuff like "Love's Journey" or "Choices" are not titles that will signal you have something original to say.

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  6. I have a title that I'm not totally in love with, but have never been able to come up with anything better. The good news is, I won a query critique from Molly Jaffa and she never mentioned the title, so maybe it's better than I thought???
    erica

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  7. I remember reading on Suzie Townsend's blog that she sometimes changes up her reading order for fulls/partials based on good (or bad) titles. Titles are definitely worth a lot of thought!

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  8. To be honest, it would never occur to me not to put the very best title I could think of. Apart from anything else, my name is going to be on the query. Why would I want to be associated with something half-assed?

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  9. I agree with you wholeheartedly. In fact, Save the Cat by Blake Snyder really pointed this out to me. Your title needs to pique interest and convey what your story is about. It's an important part of the project. Sure, it might be changed, but if you pick a great title, it might stay the same. Wouldn't I rather pick my own title if possible? Great points, Lydia.

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  10. Thanks for sharing this. I put a lot of thought into my WIP's title and am glad to hear agents care about them.

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Thank you for reading and commenting!