Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Indecision or What's Your Title

“Indecision may or may not be my problem,” according to Jimmy Buffett.

Indecision is Not My Problem

With rare exception, indecision has never been one of my problems. That rare exception being what to title my works in progress.

I told a friend, a published author, that the other day. She laughed herself silly. Then she said that these days, she comes up with the catchiest title she can that is even remotely related to the contents of her book. I thought we all did that, I said. She said she only does it to catch her agent’s eye. After that, it doesn’t matter. Thus far, her agent or publisher has changed every one of her chosen titles.

Lesson Learned

The lesson to be learned from her experience is that, apparently, we authors have little say in what our books are entitled. That being the case, there is no need to agonize over the perfect title.

Saga of “Fraught with Peril”

I had a manuscript entitled Fraught with Peril. I called it that because I could think of no other title. I was, however, never happy with the title. I fretted over that title the entire time I was writing the book. When it was completed, I sent it out to a couple of agents. Rejections came back very quickly. I asked myself if I were an agent and had a query come across my busy desk, would I even bother to read the query about a book with the word “fraught” in it’s title. The answer was no. I would assume it was an overwrought romance too full of cliches, or maybe it was a historical romance that had too many long-ago forgotten words like ‘fraught” in it. What it really was about, however, was murder and mayhem with a romance as a subplot.

After the rejections, I put the book on the virtual shelf because I’d moved on to the next project and had neither the time nor the inclination to work on Fraught. Recently, while I waited to hear from two publishers who had my two latest manuscripts, I pulled Fraught off the shelf and reread it. The plot was still interesting, but there were some obvious areas that needed work. “Hmmmm,” I said to myself. Could I fix this book? I thought I could. A month later, after working on it every day, I had improved the book.

I still had one problem with the manuscript, though. It was still titled, Fraught with Peril. I was still unhappy with the title. I still couldn’t decide on a good enough title. I redid my original query letter. I wrote a synopsis. I read the book again. Still nothing came to me.

Inspiration Strikes

One morning, as I strolled around a park with my dogs, hoping for inspiration, it came to me. As I stood watching a hawk watching my two dogs. I was sure the hawk was thinking the smaller of the two dogs would make a tasty snack. That’s when inspiration struck. I had a new title for the book. I could finally toss out the Fraught with Peril title and replace it. Three years after completing the book, I corrected my query letter. I corrected the synopsis. I began the querying process.

When I’m Told What the Real Title Is

I’ll let you know if changing the title helped get the book published or whether the titles we choose for our books remain a “working” title and agents barely notice it, and it won’t have a real title until the agent/editor/publisher tell me what it is.

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