Titles, and why Killer Yapp is Prince of Poodles

Dear Miss Snark:

Your blog is a delight; it almost makes coming to work every day worthwhile, just to check it out. (I only have Internet at work -- thank heavens, or I'd never get anything done at home!)

Now that the synopsis analysis is over, might you perhaps consider discussing book titles? What works, what doesn't -- that sort of thing. For instance, MASTER OF CROWS made me want to pick up the book. Titles such as THE CHOICE, while serviceable, don't have any pizazz. And some will actively repel readers.

And of course, there's another thing to consider: the possibility that the author will wind up with a hit series. This is another reason to think carefully about titles (even though most of us will never wind up with hit series, but hey, you never know, right?). Sue Grafton must be a bit nervous about now...and Janet Evanovich runs contests on her website to get titles for the next Stephanie Plum novel.

Thank you for all your kindness to writers, and Happy 2006!

Also a scritch behind the ears to Killer Yap. (Is Yap a Standard, Miniature, or Toy Poodle?)

Sincerely yours,
A Dedicated Snarkaholic

First, and most important, Killer Yapp is a New York poodle. Size is irrelevant. Attitude is all. The idea of describing anything about him as standard, miniature or toy makes him growl. When I asked him how to answer this question he replied "I'm a super poodle; I leap puddles in a single bound; keep the mailman away from the foyer; AND make sure Miss Snark gets off her slacker ass and runs around the reservoir daily" Other than the slacker ass part, it's pretty accurate.

Now about titles. Don't worry. Don't even think about it. Titles get changed all the time for reasons you can't even begin to list. Even if you end up with a series like Janet Evanovich or Sue Grafton, it may not end up titled like theirs are. Example: Elaine Viets. Her series is "the dead end job" series, but the titles are puns. Example: Roberta Isleib. Her golf series also has a play on words for the title, but the titles change before publication on occasion.

And sometimes titles change even later. I'm reading THE RECORD MEN by Rich Cohen, a brilliant book about Leonard Chess and Chess Records. The copyright info and LoC registry show it was originally called "Machers and Rockers".

So, just write a brilliant novel. Titles come later. After you find the prince of a poodle.


Bernita said...

Miss Snark, you did say back in the Crap-o-meter that a title that didn't seem to bear any relationship to the synopsis made you uneasy.
So, presumeably, the working title should shape or evoke something at first glance, but we should understand a title is at the whim of the editor/marketing department is not carved in stone.
Aggie Christy's books were often re-issued with completely different titles.Damned annoying to someone trying to complete a collection and finding one already had that particular novel.

Kitty said...

Does the author have a say about the final title?

I agree with DS that some titles can kill a book.

Motherhood for the Weak said...

You know what would be a big help? A search function on this blog.

I want to ask a question about chapters but I'm not sure if it's a repeat or not.

Anyhoo, FYI someone on Foward Motion mentioned they got a partial request after reworking their synopsis based on your feedback. I believe the post was in the main discussion board.

Unknown said...

Miss Snark...

The time is nigh, I am just about finished with my 5th edit of my manuscript...

I plan on querying, but that's not first order of business, as I already have two interested agents who want the ms, no query or synopsis asked.

My question is one that the Internet answers... but in ways that contradict!

So right to you about ms format:

double space or one and a half space?

ideal font and size?

If my book is separated into sections (which it is) is it okay to have a page with just the section title on it (Part II, Winter, 2005) or what have you?

As I said, it's awesome i can skip the query and synopsis hell with these two contacts, but I want to make sure what I send them is gold, so they can worry about what I've written it, and not care about how it's formatted.

Many thanks, send a happy new year's Gin Nog over to Senor Yapp for me.


Anonymous said...

Yeah, the HC was Machers & Rockers and the PB is The Record Men.

Ballpoint Wren said...

Comic book artist Kevin Nowlan always said his work was greatly influenced by Killer Yapp's "Attitude is All" personality.

Miss Snark said...

Wren, I about dropped my monogrammed pince-nez looking at the poodle pic. KY is STILl hiding under the rug after catching a glimpse. That isn't a poodle, that's a tricked out Cerberus. Remember, KY wears a festive pink tam AND goes to the manicurist regularly. Also, he doesn't have that show ring hair cut; it's too cold. He wears his letterman sweater.

Anonymous said...

Re: Sue Grafton.

She claims that the whole A is for Alibi, C is for Stupid was invented by her publisher. She has since moaned something to the effect that she wished someone had reminded her that there were 25 more letters in the alphabet following 'A'.

d said...

Wow! that Nowlan pic is beaucoup skeery.

I've been picturing Killer Yap as the James Cagney of poodles (small, dynamic, tough, and snazzy). I think I'll stick with that. ;-)

Kitty said...

Check out the very first photos of Killer Yapp! Here he's reading a query letter, and here he's reading a book, and here he's relaxing at Miss Snark’s desk.

Sandra Ruttan said...

I need help on this desperately. The publisher that's discussing a contract offer with me doesn't like my title.

And it isn't easy to come up with another one!

Justin, it depends on the publisher. Some are very specific on their websites. Most prefer standard fonts like Times New Roman, Courier or Arial. Double space. 1 inch margins on top, bottom and both sides.

If you're really in doubt, ask these two who want your manuscript. It might take a minute out of their life, but they will appreciate that you care to make sure what you send is exactly what they want. It shows you've got a good attitude. And you might be surprised - one overseas agent who wanted to see my manuscript told me to kill the margins and make it singlespaced, 10 point font so that it would reduce my shipping costs.

I opted to keep the font at 12 point though, which is the standard.

David Isaak said...

To give some idea how far published titles diverge from the author's working title, here is a sampling:

First Impressions>>>Pride and Prejudice

Private Fleming, His Various Battles>>>The Red Badge of Courage

The House of Tulliver/Sister Maggie/St. Ogg’s on the Floss>>>The Mill on the Floss

Trimalchio in West Egg/Hurrah for the Red White and Blue/The High-bouncing Lover>>>The Great Gatsby

As Others Are/They Who Get Shot/The World’s Room/An Italian Chronicle/The Sentimental Education of Frederick Henry>>>A Farewell to Arms

If Wishes Were Horses>>>From Here to Eternity

Hi, Teach!/ Please Do Not Erase/The Paper World of Sylvia Barrett>>> Up the Down Staircase

The Mute>>>The Heart is a Lonely Hunter

Pansy/Tote the Weary Load/Ba! Ba! Black Sheep>>> Gone With the Wind

The Kingdom by the Sea>>>Lolita

Let us all be thankful for the retitling process. Tote the Weary Load? Sheesh.

Christa M. Miller said...

I will kill anyone who changes my title. It took me literally as long as writing the book (almost 10 years) to find that title and I am NOT giving it up without a bloody fight! (OK... maybe a meek "Are you sure?"...)

Ballpoint Wren said...

Boy, Miss Snark, he sure has got you fooled. I found this in the Weekly World News, my favorite reading material:

SuperYapp, the world famous crime-fighter and adventurer who masks his true identity beneath the mild-mannered, pink tam-wearing guise of his alter ego, poodle Killer Yapp, is the hero and veteran of thousands of adventures.

He is the close friend and frequent crime-fighting ally of Batdog and Wonder Whippet, as well as the compassionate owner of Miss Snark, the literary agent.

Bella Stander said...

I loved the title MACHERS & ROCKERS--even more after I went to the rockin' launch party for the book at BEA last year. However, I can see that it would be a puzzler ("May-chers"? "Matchers?") to anyone with no Yiddish vocabulary. Which is to say most of the world.

Anonymous said...

I've been reading your blog for a few days now. I just wanted to comment on the great information you've been giving. It's been a real eye-opener for me as an aspiring writer.

I look forward to reading more of your blog, as the information is simply invaluable to me. Thank you kindly.

quanty p biederman said...

I have solved the title dilemna for myself. I use the same working title for all my manuscripts until I write the book that fits it. When that one publishes (whether they use my working title or not) I'll move on to the next working title until I write a book that fits it as well.

No, really. (welcome back Miss Snark)

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Bernita said...

Mine can spell, I know.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

If my dog could spell he could sit behind me and
howl out the letters.

Are dogs really our betters?
(Deeply philosophical question, that.)

If I were to type "howel,"
would he "growel"?
Or would he just snap his tail
And grumble,
"I'm throwing in the towel."

I'm not really dyslexic;
So when I mistype it isn't infirmity.

It's solely that I'm not canine,
and can neither spell nor rhyme.

Bernita said...

those are excellent examples of thank-God-the-publisher-changed-it, but do we have any in the negative category?

BorderMoon said...

Shucks, here I was hoping a brilliant title would mean I could forget about doing the rest of the book! (No, huh...?)

Of course, KY is a NYC poodle, and therefore, by definition, Perfect!

Sal said...

demented m said ...

You know what would be a big help? A search function on this blog.

On my version of Miss Snark's blog, she's using the standard Blogger bar at the head of her main page. The Blogger bar includes a search feature in the upper lefthand corner.