If I had to take out a personal ad to describe my current writing dilemma, it would go something like this: Multi-genre author with deep-seated issues around choosing book titles seeks readers with sharp, intuitive minds to help choose an appropriate marketing title for a book going out on submission.
You can probably see where this post is going. You, dear readers, are the sharp, intuitive minds in question. A few weeks ago, I didn’t realize I’d need your help, as I was merrily skipping down the primrose path with my beloved working title for a soon-to-be-submitted story nestled safely in my blue and yellow basket. (Yes, metaphorical Nancy is a weird amalgam of different fairytale characters. And she skips. Just go with me on this one.)
Then approximately a week and a half ago, I was on a video chat with Jennie Nash, one of my writing mentors, and a few other people when the conversation turned to submitting manuscripts to agents and editors. Jennie mentioned the importance of having an email subject line that captures the recipient’s attention. Since most query emails will have the prescribed subject line “Query: Book Title,” that means a marketing book title – without the benefit of a full book cover to convey genre and tone – might carry more weight than the final title on a published book. The title needs to convey genre, tone, and something about the story the reader (in this case, an agent) should expect. Yes, they can learn all those things from the body of the email, which is the actual query letter. But that’s not good enough.
A book title that doesn’t interest the agent or makes her think you sent a query for a book in a genre she doesn’t represent might not even get opened. Or it might get pushed into the dreaded assistant’s pile of doom. Or the title might create an expectation that gets dashed when the agent reads your query, synopsis, or pages.
This conversation inspired no small amount of dread in me. Finally, for the first time, just this once, I had a working title I’d totally loved since its inception, that worked with the story (once you’d read it), and that I could envision on a finished book cover. And now it had to go. The reason? See if you can spot it.
I shared my book title, Take the Money and Run, with the group and asked what it conveyed to them. The answers I got were: caper/heist, light and fun, maybe involving chase scenes and hijinks.
Um, no, no, and no.
That title works if you know the story (really, it does!). It gives a nod to something in the protag’s past and references her external goal for much of the story present. But the genre is women’s fiction. While there is some humor and snark, there’s a lot of heavy and dark stuff in the story. And at its core, it’s about two women with a fractured friendship, different plans for how to repair it, and a disagreement about whether it should be repaired at all.
Since that video chat, I’ve spent some time brainstorming titles based on keyword associations, quotes, and phrases. I’ve come up with a list of potential titles, and posted to an online forum of other authors where I got some feedback. However, I’m not sold on any of these and I’m out of brainpower. So, if you’re game, take a look at my list and tell me if any of these appeal to you and convey that this story is women’s fiction, snarky but dark, with a fractured friendship at its core.
Girlfriends and Heists and Everything Nice
When We Were Friends
Once Upon a Friendship
Once We Were Friends
Life After Friendship
When I Knew You
Where We Left Off
Then You Walked In
Thoughts? Suggestions? Any of those you love? Any you hate? Feel free to brainstorm and riff and provide any of your own suggestions in the comments.
*Seriously, I need help with titles. I even ‘borrowed’ this post title from one of Kay’s posts in 2013 :-).