Wednesday, September 02, 2020

Title change before querying

I have held off sending queries during COVID-19 lockdown, hoping that the fall might bring the industry back to a more normal flow of manuscripts and that agents might be feeling more acquisitive than they are just now. In the meantime, a book with the same title as mine has been published and is now on the bestseller list. Both works are fiction but in very different genres. My title is a term of art in a particular industry, and the best-selling title is a plain English use of the same words.

I know there is no copyright issue, but I don't want to appear ignorant of the market. Must I find another title before I query?

Titles change often 'twixt query/agent/submission/sale/publication.

I just went through this with one of my clients, and I liked the original title a lot!

But the marketing folks and the publicity folks generally know their stuff, and a savvy editor knows when to listen to them, so change we did.

And sometimes two books get published with the same title as well.

My favorite example of this is Just As I Am, which was both the memoir of Rev. Billy Graham and, a delicious steamy romantic novel by E. Lynn Harris.

Take the title off your list of things to fret over.


nightsmusic said...

One of my author friends had a title change six times before publication. That's why I no longer title mine until the last minute. While they're a WIP, they're named after the main character. When I query, I try to come up with a catchy title, but I think the information in your query will catch the agent's eye. Not the title.

BJ Muntain said...

This is also a good reason not to get too committed to your title. I have a title scheme for books in my series, and I hope the scheme won't have to be changed, but I'm not committed to any title in and of itself.

I tell my friend this all the time, that her title will probably be changed by the publisher, anyway. Otherwise, she frets over 'being terrible with titles'.

MA Hudson said...

I had a manuscript assessment done recently (through a SCBWI event) and the editor gave my title the thumb's down. She said it gave a different impression to what I had intended. Although I'm not overly attached to the title,(already armed with the knowledge that editors would probably change it) the fact that she commented on it made me think I should be spending more time in coming up with a perfect alternative before querying again. It's nice to be reassured by Janet that there's no need to get my knickers in a knot and just go with my second favourite title option.

John Davis Frain said...

You can't judge a book by its title ... but I do anyway.

(Okay, by its cover, whatever, but the blog post wasn't called "Cover change before querying.")

Craig F said...

I generally choose a title to help me hold to a tone. That tone comes around when I have come to the first round of twists and convolutions of the plot.

As of yet I don't know what publicists think of them, but it it only Wednesday. I would like to have a series of "Ashes Of" because that sets the uber plot I am working off of.

At the moment that is a short story for some pub cred, hopefully that will get me closer to someone in the business wishing to talk to me.

KDJames said...

"Take the title off your list of things to fret over."
Wouldn't it be nice to send Janet a list of things we fret over, not necessarily even publishing things, and have her tell us authoritatively not to?

Names, UGH. I'm awful with names, whether remembering them in real life or coming up with them in fiction. Character names, place names, book titles, doesn't matter. If there's a name involved, I'll choose the worst one every time. I'm looking forward to the day when some wiser person reads my work and changes them all.

Kae Ridwyn said...

I really like that idea, nightsmusic - "While they're a WIP, they're named after the main character". I may just steal that :)
And KDJames I agree wholeheartedly. I love the idea of being authoritatively told by the QOTKU to stop fretting over things... although I would probably have an incredibly long list :(

AJ Blythe said...

I love coming up with my story titles. Such fun! But I know they may be changed and if that happens I'm good with it. But it will never stop me coming up with the best titles I can. In fact, I often come up with the title and then the plot to go with it (okies, you can all stop looking at me sideways now).

Timothy Lowe said...

The title of the work I went on sub with was the same as an indie book. Same genre. Said my very knowledgable agent at the time: "There is another book with the same title, but it's not a bestseller, so we don't have to worry about it."