It's a thrill to have Janet as a guest blogger on Fiction Matters. She is a wonderful woman of God, and a prolific writer, in addition to being the founder of a literary agency. She's sharing with us her expertise in the area of titling your work. A colleague of hers has dubbed her "The Queen of Titles". And while Janet says, "That's hyperbole", she shows her expertise in this two part article called Razzle Dazzle Titles.
Janet Kobobel Grant established Books & Such Literary Agency in 1996 after working in the book publishing industry for more than twenty years. She had her own imprint at Zondervan Publishing and served as managing editor of books at Focus on the Family.
Janet understands the inside scoop on publishing as well, having helped to launch Here’s Life Publisher, managed her own imprint with Zondervan, and served as managing editor of books for Focus on the Family. Working in these capacities provided her with a strong publishing network, experience in negotiating contracts, and comprehension of each production stage a book must move through, from acquisition to printed matter.
Her desire to help authors create the most marketable, carefully crafted manuscripts and to see those authors succeed in their careers was probably born in the library she frequented as a child.
Here is a Sampling of Books by Janet:
With Fern Nichols of Every Child Needs a Praying Mom (Bonnie says: This book is on my "must buy" list!) A silver medallion winner
Several Women of Faith Bible studies.
The Breast Cancer Care Book (with Sally M. Knox, M.D. and a Retailers Choice finalist);
99 Annoying Attributes of God: Why God is God and You're Not
(Bonnie says: Don't you just want to order this one right now?!)
(There are more! But, for the sake of all you faithful blog readers, I'll save some for Wednesday's blog post from Janet)
By Janet Kobobel Grant
I recently was involved in a conversation about titling with several authors. Two authors had very different views on titles. One said, “’How to Title’ was left out of my gift-mix when the Lord called me to be a writer.” Another said, “I think I got my first book contract because of the title I gave it: Famous Jerks of the Bible. It still draws a lot of attention.”
Most of us probably fall somewhere between those two authors. But one thing we have in common with both of them is that we have to realize the title of a project can make or break it. I present more than one thousand projects to editors each year. It’s part of what I do every day. And I learn a lot from the responses editors give. Recently, I set out to pitch a project to twelve editors. Nine asked to see the proposal. One of the reasons: It has a great title. The Marriage Phoenix: When You Love Your Spouse but Not Your Marriage. The author wanted to title it: The Marriage Funeral: When Dead Is Better Than Divorce. His title was, uh…dead on delivery, negative and a real-downer. I turned the concept into a positive with the Phoenix title.
Another author wanted to write a book on worry but didn’t know what to call it. Actually, the author’s title was Managed Anger Jesus-Style. I suggested the title be Partly Cloudy with Scattered Worries: Weathering Your Fears, Fretting, and Fuming. After deciding on that title, the whole structure for the book fell into place with chapters entitled, “Anticipating a Storm: Fear of the Future”; “Ice Storm: How to Keep Wondering From Slipping into Worrying”; “Dense Fog: How to Wait Out Times When God’s Answers Are Slow in Coming.” And the publisher came up with a cover that matched the weather theme—all this was set into place through the title.
Titles have to carry a heavy load of freight. Here’s a list of questions to ask yourself that help to test if a title is bearing all the weight it needs to:
--Does the title convey the tone of the book? If you heard about a novel entitled Conflict, what genre would you suspect the book was? Suspense? Mystery? Women’s fiction? In actuality, the story was about a playwright who is afraid of conflict—so much so she can’t write conflict into her plays. The book’s genre? Romantic comedy. The novel eventually was published as My Life as a Doormat (in Three Acts). The new title is playful and hints at the play writing that serves as a centerpiece to the story.
--Does the title tell enough about the book to intrigue the potential reader? One author describes this as having both steak and sauce in a title. Example: Ann Coulter’s How to Talk to a Liberal (that’s just the steak) now here’s the sauce (If You Must). But don’t be so esoteric or literary that people can’t figure out what your book is about (especially for nonfiction). Here are two obscure titles: The God of Stones and Spiders and Twilight Labyrinth. But here’s an intriguing title you might have heard of: The Secret Life of Bees.
For nonfiction titles, don’t be afraid to have an intriguing title matched with a straightforward subtitle: The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference.
Janet will be back on Wednesday with four more "tests" for your titles, and more hints for making your title stand out from the crowd (in good ways!)
Let's hear from you, faithful blog readers. How has Janet's perspective on titling your work got you thinking?
I know I'm impressed with her gift for titles, and inspired to dig deep for that perfect title that will 'razzle dazzle' an editor and/or agent!
I bid you good writing.