Friday, October 11, 2013

A Killer Title

I have read (and own) quite a few books on the craft of writing, but very few tackle the topic of creating a great title.

SAVE THE CAT by Blake Snyder dedicates a page and a half to the topic, which is more than the other books. ;)

Snyder writes, "to come up with one that nails the concept, without being so on the nose that it's stupid, is an art unto itself" (page 9).

Right ... we know that ... but how do we come up with that great title that nails the concept?

I dunno.

Evidence: My debut novel was originally titled THE EDUCATION OF THIA. After several agents used the phrase "too didactic" in their rejection letters, I reconsidered the title and changed it to BUT HE LOVES ME. With that change alone (I left the content of the query letter the same) I received quite a few requests for the full manuscript. So was it a winning title? Not really. After signing with an awesome agent, we worked and worked and worked to come up with a better title. We decided on SAFE. A winner? Not sure. The editor who made an offer on the manuscript said we had to change the title. Okay. Back to the drawing board.

Snyder also writes, "Title and logline are, in fact, the one-two punch, and a good combo never fails to knock me out. Like the irony in a good logline, a great title must have irony and tell the tale. One of the best titles of recent memory, and one I still marvel at, is Legally Blonde. ... It says what it is! ... If it doesn't pass the Say What It Is Test, you don't have your title. And you don't have the one-two punch" (pages 9-10).

So here is the logline my agent used to sell my manuscript:
Margo Kelly’s debut SAFE is a modern take on “the call is coming from inside the house” old urban legend, in which a young girl falls in love with a guy online who comes for her.

And here's the new title my editor and I came up with:

Does it pass the Say What It Is Test? Or is it so "on the nose that its stupid?"

Actually, don't answer the second question.

Naming a book is like naming a child. Inevitably someone is going to hate the name, and you can't possibly please everyone.


BUT the good news is, I have a KILLER TITLE for my next book. ;)


  1. I guess if it weren't so frustrating it wouldn't feel so rewarding (eventually).

    Moody Writing

  2. What a journey! I love Save the Cat. I actually have two copies just in case one gets lost. My title came before the story. I wonder what will happen when the time comes to shop it around. One more thing to worry about.

  3. This was a really insightful look at this process. Thanks! And I rather like your latest title option.