The Query Contest Advice Part I, aka The Importance of Titles

Last week I finished the query contest. *phew* Thanks to everyone for the wonderful praise and all that patience while I worked through technology issues and responded.

I requested 37 manuscripts!

I also gave out a lot of individualized advice in my replies. Some of my responses were as basic as "this just isn't for me" or "I don't represent this genre." There were times when I was confused by worldbuilding or when I didn't know what the book was about, but there were also instances where I saw some very easily fixable problems affecting a lot of people.

Here's a big one that surprised me.


Answering this many queries in a row really emphasized this for me.

I read queries, where I saw a title and thought "That sounds so exciting!" which is the response you want. Obviously an exciting title and a not great query won't equal a request, but there were also queries I got, and the title was either a word I didn't understand, couldn't pronounce, or worse! sounded QUIET.

Your title should reflect the tone of your book. If you're writing a thriller, you don't want something long and poetic. And if you're writing something quiet and literary, you want a title that emphasizes your literary prowess.

While it's true that titles can change at a later stage in the publication process (and often do), it's really important for you to use what you have. And you have essentially a page to convince someone who doesn't know your story it's worth taking a look. So the title matters.

Even more so, when I send a requested manuscript to my kindle, the document and the title is how it's listed. So on the train, when I open up the kindle and try to decide what to read, all I've got to go on is titles. While I do really try to go in order there have been times when a title sticks out in my mind and draws my eye constantly. You want your manuscript to be the one calling to me, not something that looks confusing or even just bland.

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No One said...

Yup. This is something I need to think about. Thanks so much for the contest!

Abigail Johnson said...

Thanks again, Suzie. This was an invaluable experience for me. I'll definitely be giving my title choice serious consideration too :)

Rachel said...

I have read so many times how the title doesn't matter because it'll be changed anyway. But I really don't like my title. I have combed books in the same genre on Amazon, made a list of titles, etc. and still can't settle on one that fits. Any tips?

Yvonne Osborne said...

I missed this one. Hope you do it again.

Unknown said...

Congratulations on your move and the new challenges.
This was an amazing opportunity.
Not sure how I missed it. I only concentrated on my wip for a week.

Jack LaBloom said...

I struggled with my title, especially when my neighbor, Leon suggested I use MURDER AND MAYHAM as the title of my romantic legal thriller.

Leon didn't finish school, but not wanting to hurt his feelings, I went with it.

Thanks, an informative post.

Abby Annis said...

Thanks so much for doing this contest, Suzie! Your feedback has been so helpful. Plus, you said you'd thought you'd read it before and only one other agent has read any version of it. So I think I may have figured out your secret identity. Don't worry. I know how to keep a secret. ;)

@Rachel Pudelek There's a great post here from Rachelle Gardner on coming up with a title for your story.

DD3123 said...

never got a reply and spam folder is clear :(

Sabine Berlin said...

Thanks for the reminder. Titles are always so hard for me. Thanks for the contest as well.

Sophie H. Morgan said...

Completely agree...and now thinking that maybe it's a good thing that my title begins with an 'A' - better chance of it drawing your eye ;0)

Mart Ramirez said...

This was such an awesome opportunity. Thank you again, Suzie!

Ann Summerville said...

I've heard that two word titles are the ones that are eye catching.

Margo Kelly said...

37 manuscripts!! HOLY HANNAH! Happy reading time! :)