Friday, November 20, 2009


Some great blog posts in the kidlitosphere on titles and covers today:

First up, EDITORIAL ANONYMOUS answers every writer's burning question--Do I have to come up with the perfect title for my manuscript when I know if I ever sell the darn thing my editor will probably change it?

Second, ANDREW KARRE, Editorial Director of Carolrhoda Books/Lerner Pub Group, shares the trials and tribulations of choosing a YA cover and why that decision is so very important in a two-part post: Why YA Covers are Hard & We've Been Busy.

And for the all titles and covers affect book sales, let's go back to the PW article WHAT TEENS WANT?

What Motivates Them to Buy

Consistent with our 2005 survey, book copy was the most important factor that would make teens pick up a book. A stunning 91% saw this as the most important influence. The cover was important to 79%. The next most important influence, with 77%, was familiarity with an author's previous work; 74% were looking for the next book in a series. For 73%, the title was important. (See related post HERE)

As writers, you have little control over what your cover will look like, but you do have control over the title you stamp on your hot, new love-it-so-much-I-hope-every-agent-and-editor-who-reads-it-sees-why manuscript you submit.

When a submission hits my inbox, one of the first things I notice is the title. It is usually in all caps or italics or bold so it's hard for it not to be the first thing my eyes track to. Titles are not something to anguish over, they are your golden opportunity to attract someone to your manuscript. To make an agent or editor think....I have to stop what I am doing and read this query/ms now!

What I find interesting is that many writers think a manuscript title must tell me what your story is about. Let me make this clear...A book title's job is NOT to sum up your story. A book title's job IS to entice an agent/editor to request your full manuscript and/or move your full to the top of their reading pile.

Your book title is your whistle, your magnet, your bullhorn.

So, how do you write a title if it is not what you are good at. Ah, this is where the 'it takes a village' comes in.

Fee associate a bunch of titles. Type them out, double spaced, and eliminate the ones you hate. Send the list to fellow writers, friends, kids. These writers, friends, kids do not have to read your book first. Heck, the agent/editor you are querying hasn't read your book yet and that is who you are trying to attract. Ask 'which title would make you want to pick this book off the shelf?' Let each person only pick three and order their winning choices.

Don't pour years into a book and short change your title. You are just short changing yourself.

And yes, not every title of famous and super seller books are bullhorns. But that argument does not hold water with me. Don't look towards the mediocre and say it worked for them, aspire to the stars and look towards the neighboring galaxy.


  1. "...aspire to the stars..."

    Great advice, and thanks for such an informative post.

    I'm having a difficult time titling my WiP, so it's nice to know all that hard work isn't in vain.

  2. I love coming up with titles, and don't feel done with the creative process till I have one really exciting.

    Thanks for this post!

  3. Great post Jill. I love how you bring in such great evidence to your posts. I agree. There is something about a catchy title. Plus if it's good, then I won't forget it and when I'm roaming the bookshelves, I tend to search for the books where the titles stick in my head. Hence my love for short titles!

  4. I agonized over my title. The theme of my book, the "heart" of my story was my title. I loved my title. You can guess what happened. My title was the only major change in my manuscript!

  5. Thanks for the advice, Jill. I love that last line. Very inspirational.

  6. Hey, Jill. I blogged on this a few weeks ago and I completely agree with your advice. I talk a lot about titles during my Picture Book Peek critiques because so often I've been led astray or turned off by a title. It sets my expectation for what I'm about to read and it's difficult to shrug off - even a few pages in. More importantly, as you've expertly illustrated, a title is an opportunity to catch a reader from page one. Golden!

  7. Great post, Jill!

    Generally, I love coming up with titles for my manuscripts, sometimes I agonize over them, but until recently, I didn't know how important they are.

    Thanks for this useful information!

  8. Now that is a great post, Jill! As a reader, I cannot pass up a good title. As a writer, I've had good luck getting agents/editors to read manuscripts because I do try to create titles that stand apart. Of course I realize that those titles are merely working titles and may get changed.

  9. I get very attached to my titles. The one on submission I especially love, and fear that when an editor picks it up (soon, I hope) that they'll change it.

  10. "your whistle, your magnet, your bullhorn"
    Love it! So true!

  11. Such great advice--thank you! I think I'll take your suggestion and send out a poll to my family, friends and some former teachers. It'll be fun to see what title wins!

  12. Thanks again for this great post, which inspired one of my own today.

  13. Note to self, my new novel titled "The Book" might not cut it. Thanks, Jill.

  14. You have the best posts and links for writers. I love coming up with book titles. When I was searching a title for mine I sent out 4 choices to my friends, fellow writers and to my daughter's then 2nd grade class. I chose Spaghetti is Not a Finger Food (and other life lessons) because it was fun and quirky just like the main character. Yes, there is a spaghetti scene in the book! But it is not a novel about pasta. When I visit classrooms kids always ask about the title. It makes them curious to read the story.


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