Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A Killer Title

I'm currently reading SAVE THE CAT by Blake Snyder. In it, he discusses the importance of a killer title.

I have to admit, I had not worried too much about my titles, because I've heard so many times that the title most likely will be changed along the publishing path.

However, I have also recently read more than once that agents request pages based on the killer title alone.

This started my wheels turning.

And, then ... I received a query rejection yesterday that said my plot seemed more intent on teaching a lesson than telling a story. This was based solely on the query letter, no sample pages. (You can view a version of my query HERE and/or HERE.)

Hmm. I read the query and thought, wow. Really? But then, I just kept thinking ... maybe it's the title?! The title could be construed as condescending or preachy. Not my intention. I thought it sounded cool.

So ... now I'm on the hunt for a better title. Not easy.

Blake Snyder writes, "One of the best titles of recent memory, and one I still marvel at, is Legally Blonde. Whe I think about all the bad titles it could have been -- Barbie Goes to Harvard, Totally Law School, Airhead Apparent -- to come up with one that nails the concept, without being so on the nose that it's stupid, is an art unto itself. I am jealous of that title. A good sign!" (page 9).

What's the best book title that comes to mind for you? Does it "nail" what the concept of the book is about?


  1. I thought the same thing until I read Save the Cat. Totally changed my perspective on titles.

    I'm particular to For Love or Money (haha - just kidding)

  2. I'm particularly fond of one word titles--you know, the word that just grabs you by the collar and pulls you in.

  3. Sometimes a title makes all the difference, but it really comes down to the plot for me.

    My dad recently asked me if I didn't think my book about Rwanda should have a more accessible title - would kids understand Kwizera? I explained that titles get changed by the publisher, so I wasn't really worried about it. But I think my title says it all: Kwizera means hope. That's what the word means and it's what the book is about.

  4. Maybe one of the worst titles I've ever heard is for a movie that's coming out. "Battle LA". Really? That's the best they could come up with? My husband and I were watching the previews and thought it was going to be an "Independence Day" sort of movie. Then that title came on the screen and we started laughing. Every time I see the preview on TV now I just shake my head. But then, maybe that's all the movie is about, and the plot isn't any better than the title.

  5. Yeah, titles. I can't title anything. I can't even name my characters. It's a failing, I know.

  6. I don't know about good titles, but I'm seeing a recent trend in "The [noun] of [noun] and [noun]". Such as "The Daughter of Smoke and Fire" and "The House of _____ and Sorrow" (sorry, I can't remember the word there). I find this style cool, but I'm wondering if it will eventually get over-used. I know someone who thinks "The [noun]'s [relative]" is an overused title: "The Time Traveler's Wife" and "The ______'s Daughter" and such. I have a feeling titles have trends, like genres and other things.

  7. I'll give you another example of a movie title -- Jodie Foster in "The Brave One." It's a horrible, weak title, and Jodie hated it. When she promoted the movie, she always criticized the title. That's not good when your star doesn't get behind it. And here's a classic killer book title: "The Secret." I hope I don't offend you, but that book was such mumbo jumbo, so hokey (yet I know millions rave about it). But because of that title, in combination with the book jacket picture, people were intrigued and just wanted to open up the book. I'll go one more on your killer titles -- you should try to make killer titles for your blog posts. When I think about it and am not rushed, I can come up with better blog titles which may bring readers in more when they're scanning a blog reading list.