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Choosing a Great Title Before Publication


Following a desultory lurch into relevancy on the part of the panel, one poor neophyte stood and asked the assembled if he should worry about his novel title before becoming published. Did it really matter? He'd received way too many opinions and desired a final tiebreaker. And the consensus answer?


Don't worry about your title Huh?

Not long ago, I attended a panel at a mega-large writer conference. It consisted of authors who had recently been published (small presses, mainstream imprints, e-presses). There were about 150 people in the room. Following a desultory lurch into relevancy on the part of the panel, one poor neophyte stood and asked the assembled if he should worry about his novel title before becoming published. Did it really matter? He'd received way too many opinions and desired a final tiebreaker. And the consensus answer? No. You don't have to be concerned, and besides, the publisher will most likely change it anyway...

I sat there dumbfounded. So basically, these people told this guy that pitching his novel or nonfiction with a crappy, foolish, or hackneyed title was perfectly fine. Not to worry! Call it whatever you want. How about THE WHINE OF ROMAN DOGS ON CELTIC WINDS? Yeah, that's a good one!... Must I spend any more space telling you why this was not only not perfectly fine advice, but perfectly stupid and self-defeating?

A bad title is like a warning siren going out ahead of your pitch, whether it be an oral pitch or query letter. It makes a horrible whining sound of warning, and it seems to be saying to those who read or listen:

This is a terrible writer, stop listening, stop reading, run screaming!

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