February 17th, 2020

Dark and Stormy Night

Red Is For Ick, or: How icky is that title?

I've been kidding myself with the name of one of my novel manuscripts. It's not that I was in love with the title: I was more in love with the possibilities the title represented.

Many readers are familiar with book series that have a progression in their titles. One For the Money, for instance, is followed by--well, what are the Stephanie Plum stories up to now? 27? And each numbered in order.

Sue Grafton has a letter in each title of her series, meaning that Z has to be her last one unless she starts throwing in subtitles, or something. AAA Is For Roadside Assistance might come after Z, but she started way back with A Is For Alibi.

When I started my young adult mystery novel, I wanted it to be a series, so I looked for something like that. Famous author names, cities, types of flowers, whatever. That would also make it clear to editors and agents that I was interested in a series, and series are big these days.

So, for instance, A Is for Asimov, or Boston Mystery, or Carnation Crime, or something like that. After thinking not long enough on it, I chose colors. For one thing, I could do those without going alphabetically. I'm not that good.

So I chose Red Is for Ick. I didn't realize at the time that all of Grafton's books have "is for" in the title, or maybe I'd have thought longer. But hey--red's the color of blood, and this novel would have a murder or two; and what would my fifteen year old hero, Cassidy Quinn, say about the blood? Yep: "Ick!" (You get to meet Cassidy, and briefly her father, in my YA adventure The No-Campfire Girls.)

It was brilliant.

Except for one problem.

The title makes sense when it's explained, but I just took three hundred words to explain it. You don't get that kind of space when you're querying an agent or editor. You need to cut to the chase.

I've been using this manuscript on the agent hunt, and got compliments and a few requests for the complete manuscript, one of them very enthusiastic ... but in the end, three dozen rejections. No, no one ever said they rejected it because of the title, and maybe the title's just fine and doesn't need explaining. But in the crowded world of publishing, you need every advantage you can get--starting with your title.

So what do you, the reader and/or writer, think? Granted, many titles are changed after the book is picked up, but (assuming you don't self-publish) you have to get the proverbial fish on the hook, first. Yay or nay on the title?

Here's a brief description of the book, if it helps:

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

[Error: Irreparable invalid markup ('<span [...] data-blogger-escaped-12.0pt>') in entry. Owner must fix manually. Raw contents below.]

I&#39;ve been kidding myself with the name of one of my novel manuscripts. It&#39;s not that I was in love with the title: I was more in love with the possibilities the title represented.

Many readers are familiar with book series that have a progression in their titles. <i>One For the Money</i>, for instance, is followed by--well, what are the Stephanie Plum stories up to now? 27? And each numbered in order.

Sue Grafton has a letter in each title of her series, meaning that Z has to be her last one unless she starts throwing in subtitles, or something. <i>AAA Is For Roadside Assistance</i> might come after Z, but she started way back with <i>A Is For Alibi</i>.

When I started my young adult mystery novel, I wanted it to be a series, so I looked for something like that. Famous author names, cities, types of flowers, whatever. That would also make it clear to editors and agents that I was interested in a series, and series are big these days.

So, for instance, <i>A Is for Asimov</i>, or <i>Boston Mystery</i>, or <i>Carnation Crime</i>, or something like that. After thinking not long enough on it, I chose colors. For one thing, I could do those without going alphabetically. I&#39;m not that good.

So I chose <i>Red Is for Ick</i>. I didn&#39;t realize at the time that all of Grafton&#39;s books have &quot;is for&quot; in the title, or maybe I&#39;d have thought longer. But hey--red&#39;s the color of blood, and this novel would have a murder or two; and what would my fifteen year old hero, Cassidy Quinn, say about the blood? Yep: &quot;Ick!&quot; (You get to meet Cassidy, and briefly her father, in my YA adventure <i>The No-Campfire Girls.)</i>

It was brilliant.

Except for one problem.

The title makes sense when it&#39;s explained, but I just took <i>three hundred word</i>s to explain it. You don&#39;t get that kind of space when you&#39;re querying an agent or editor. You need to cut to the chase.

I&#39;ve been using this manuscript on the agent hunt, and got compliments and a few requests for the complete manuscript, one of them very enthusiastic ... but in the end, three dozen rejections. No, no one ever said they rejected it because of the title, and maybe the title&#39;s just fine and doesn&#39;t need explaining. But in the crowded world of publishing, you need every advantage you can get--starting with your title.

So what do you, the reader and/or writer, think? Granted, many titles are changed after the book is picked up, but (assuming you don&#39;t self-publish) you have to get the proverbial fish on the hook, first. Yay or nay on the title?

Here&#39;s a brief description of the book, if it helps:

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

<span data-blogger-escaped-12.0pt="" data-blogger-escaped-font-size:="" data-blogger-escaped-imes="" data-blogger-escaped-new="" data-blogger-escaped-quot="" data-blogger-escaped-roman="" data-blogger-escaped-serif=""> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Being a murder suspect will really cut into Cassidy Quinn&rsquo;s summer vacation. When the teenager takes over her dad&rsquo;s simple, safe surveillance job she becomes the only witness to the murder of her best friend&rsquo;s father&mdash;except it turns out the victim is the father&rsquo;s double, and only she saw the real killer. Now Cassidy must find out why her friend&rsquo;s family disappeared, why strangers are stalking her, and how anyone making minimum wage can save up money for a car. Luckily her dad has the transportation, her sister the computer (and cookies), her grandfather the attitude, and Cassidy herself the wit and determination. The bad guys&mdash;and small-town Indiana&mdash;had better watch out.</span>
<a data-blogger-escaped-style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;" href="https://1.bp.blogspot.com/-rYv9PNY1rgY/XkjZoGcWNDI/AAAAAAAAf5s/7h6vGaKZmSgkjWmQRioMZ9qKRmwkIQr1gCLcBGAsYHQ/s1600/Mark%2Bbooks.jpg" style="margin-left:1em;margin-right:1em;"><img border="0" data-blogger-escaped-data-original-height="1080" data-blogger-escaped-data-original-width="1080" height="320" src="https://1.bp.blogspot.com/-rYv9PNY1rgY/XkjZoGcWNDI/AAAAAAAAf5s/7h6vGaKZmSgkjWmQRioMZ9qKRmwkIQr1gCLcBGAsYHQ/s320/Mark%2Bbooks.jpg" width="320" /></a>
Now, if you&#39;ve read this far, yesterday Emily and I brainstormed title ideas, and we&#39;ve already come up with a potential new one:

<i><span style="font-family:times new roman,serif;"><span style="font-size:12.0pt;">Summer Jobs Are Killers</span></span></i>

Opinions? I also considered <i>My Dad&#39;s Going to Kill Me</i>, something Cassidy thinks in the opening scene, but that&#39;s misleading.





<a href="http://markrhunter.com/">http://markrhunter.com/</a>
<a href="https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B0058CL6OO">https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B0058CL6OO</a>
<a href="https://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/%22Mark%20R%20Hunter%22">https://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/&quot;Mark R Hunter&quot;</a>