Wednesday 30 April 2008

Good Titles are It - and Some Shameless Advertising

Putin's Labyrinth by Steve LeVineI've just found out that the new book of my good friend Steve LeVine is now listed on Amazon (out this fall!!!) and it's got a beautiful cover and this humdinger of a title:

As it happens, the book of my other good friend, Elizabeth Pisani, is coming out next week and she's got a terrific title too which is amazing given her subject which is AIDS and the bureaucracy surrounding it.

Here's a screenshot from the outro I made for her video (that's the opposite of intro - and I'll talk about the video in another blog post):
The Wisdom of Whores by Elizabeth Pisani

I know, I know, this is a blog about children's book writing but there's no harm in a bit of shameless publicity between friends? That's what the internet is for.

Anyway, the main point I wanted to make was TITLES MATTER.

This became crystal clear to me at the recent SCBWI before-Bologna conference when a panel of agents read the first pages of blind submissions from the audience. They were asked to react the way they would to any submission.

The Agents Panel, SCBWI Bologna 2008

Agents shredding submissions at SCBWI's Bologna conference

And react they did. It was at times a painful experience. It was like American Idol or any other show from TV's humiliation genre. It made me think of all the rejections I ever received and it made me imagine how agents must have opened my submissions and snickered over my leaden words, my unprofessional presentation, my ... but let's not tread that path again.

The main thing is: the agents always, always, ALWAYS wanted to read more when there was a good title.

So work on that title, folks. It opens doors.

Meanwhile, do feel free to buy Steve's and Elizabeth's books. I mean, it's sooo important that we children's authors inform ourselves about affairs in Putin's Russia and the state of the AIDs industry.


  1. Oooo, thanks for the shameless plug. Titles are important. But as I do the round of interviews, I find it's really important to have a "tagline" about the book too -- to be able to describe it in a sentence. It's probably more important for non-fiction than it is for young adult fiction, but still, aspiring (and even published) authors all need to be able complete the phrase "It's about..." in not more than 7 words.

    I overheard my editor describing my book as "about AIDS and bureaucracy" and I wanted to slit my wrists. Candy says it's about "the state of the AIDS industry" (but then she hasn't had a chance to read it yet. I think it's about sex, drugs and money. Ho hum.

  2. Two great titles....

    it's not just agent's... I'm one of those readers who will buy a book if I love the title -even if the flap copy doesn't sound that great.

  3. Elizabeth - you're right... a book about "sex, drugs, and money" is a much better tag line when compared to "AIDS and bureaucracy"

    No wrist sliting!!!! Stay healthy!

  4. The cover design is important too. I would have suggested putting your picture on the cover ... except for that excellent title.

  5. An aspiring novelist friend of mind, Carolyn Braby, had a great title for one of her books: Rocket Science for Girls. It was universally turned down, just before a welter of books with similar titles came out... e.g. A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian. But I wish to make it known that she anticipated the trend...! Here's hoping that she too one day escapes the Slush Pile.

  6. ooh rocket science for girls! sounds brilliant, nick! i wish caroline a speedy escape from the slush.

    readers, since we are all shamelessly advertising our friends' books, don't forget to add a link to pertinent websites! we writers need all the help we can get!

  7. >It was universally turned down

    just to add. i guess the door opening is just the first hurdle.

    why do we do this to ourselves?

  8. This is - perhaps - an advertisement.

    I thought I'd jump on the bandwagon and make full use of my friend's most popular (and popular it is, believe me!) of all Blogs, Notes from the Slush Pile, to set up a poll and find out whether the title of my book - alas, still in first draft - is captivating enough:
    "The Vespertine Hour"
    Would you want to read it?

    [Candy you can kill me at the retreat. I'll pass you a knife ;)]

  9. ooh...just looking at all those agents lined up there again makes my skin tingle in fear. by the way - is there a place where we can view more photos from bologna?

  10. paolo, this is the shameless post so go ahead. i like vesepertine hour. there were a few iffy moments during the agent's panel when they found it hard to pronounce some words and decided not to read on. so you might think about if vespertine might be hard to pronounce? i don't find it so myself. anyway at the end of the day, this is just an exercise in getting through the door.

    >pass the knife

    no worries. i've got my own.

  11. lenore - re bologna - i saw quite a few amongst my facebook friends. i've posted a bologna album on multiply but i think the main pics are already on the blog.


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