by Augusta Scattergood
This go-around’s topic is Advice to New Authors About How to Market a Book.
I’ll be reading these posts very carefully. That new author looking for advice would be me.
When my book comes out in one year, I’ll have memorized fellow middle-grade novelist Kerry Madden’s helpful post on the topic. (Thanks, Kerry, and I already have my bag of props ready!) And I’ll scour the internet, pick my writer friends’ brains, listen to my publisher’s publicity people—anything that helps my book get into the hand of young readers.
In the meantime, I’m working hard to make it the best written book I could possibly imagine. Many edits. Much research. But there’s one more thing I think I can do, very early on, to make my book stand out among the hundreds of debut novels hitting the shelves next year.
Although I suspect I’ll have minimal control over my book’s cover, I do have some say about the title. Right now. Since my editor didn’t love my working title—and true confessions, neither did I— we’re working on something new.
Sadly, I Stink at Titles.
I know a lot of tricks for choosing them, but I need much inspiration and lots of help from my friends.
In fact, I’ve compiled a list of Ways to Choose Titles. The problem is, especially with kids or Young Adult books, these suggestions can become dated very fast.
But here are a few timeless, or perhaps timely, ideas for mulling over your book’s moniker. My abbreviated list:
1. Ask a question
2. Create a mood
3. Combine opposites
4. Pay attention to the sounds
5. Tease your audience
6. Put Google to work for you (Google movie quotes, top ten book lists, Best sellers, etc. Then play around with combinations.)
As I mull over my upcoming middle-grade novel's title, I’m thinking:
Does a preposition in the title help? Moon Over Manifest just won the Newbery Award. Can’t argue with that.
How about using a character’s name? A dog’s name? As tricky as this title is, nobody ever forgets Because of Winn-Dixie.
I spent most of my library career at schools filled with excited readers. They traded favorite titles like the coolest silly bandz. Sometimes the exact words of a title eluded them, but if a student loved a book, she talked about it to her friends, spreading the word. And if the title was a zinger, they never forgot it, or the book. Nobody ever stumbled over Nothing’s Fair in Fifth Grade or Judy Blume’s Blubber. Kids loved asking for The Candymakers and Diary of a Wimpy Kid. And why not? Great, appealing, kid-like titles.
Then again, one of my favorite recent books was When You Reach Me. And I cannot for the life of me be sure that’s the exact title. It just does not stick in my brain the way How to Steal a Dog does. And I’ve read When You Reach Me at least three times.
Consider poor Stieg Larsson. Ha. Not poor in the least. But also not so great at title-picking. As reported in a just-translated memoir by Kurdo Baksi, Stieg Larsson, My Friend, his working titles were the feeble The Witch Who Dreamt of a Can of Petrol and Matches and The Exploding Castle in the Air...
Ugh. Give me Girl With The Dragon Tattoo over those dogs of titles anytime.
And speaking of Dog Titles- Here’s a website that offers a different take on choosing titles.
I suspect book jacket art has more sway with purchasers, as do personal recommendations, love of the author, general chatter about a book-- not to mention glowing reviews. At least that’s my feeling about how kids (their parents and their librarians) choose books.
And, still, I’m wondering, how much does a title influence a book’s sales? Do you gravitate toward a book because of the cover and particularly the title? What are your worst titles ever? Your best?
Because I sure would like to nail this title thing. And I sure do stink at finding a great one.
Augusta Scattergood’s first middle grade novel,
historical fiction set in 1964 Mississippi,
will be published by Scholastic in Spring, 2012.
It is, as yet, untitled.