A Lesson on Titles (or how to NOT pitch the worst title EVER)

You know how they say location is everything for a business? Location, location, location? Well, a good title is EVERYTHING for a good book. Never let anyone tell you different.

Back in 2012, when I first wrote ALLEGEDLY, I had no idea what I wanted my title to be. I also didn’t care too much about it. I assumed people folk to the book because it’s a good story. (Feel free to laugh at me. No, please, go ahead and cackle. I deserve it!)

Before I go too deep into the weeds here, allow me to reveal the original title of my precious work of art, my debut to the world. Ready? Here goes…*clears throat*

Baby Killer

*radio silence*

Right? See how phenomenally TERRIBLE that title was. But you couldn’t tell me nothing way back when. I thought it was brilliant, marketable, and eye-catching. (Eye-catching, HA! More like an eye-SORE.)  

I thought I had it all figured out, so I crafted the perfect query letter with my hideous title and pitched it to agents. I might as well have soaked my manuscript in gasoline and set it on fire. Agencies rejected it the moment it touched their inboxes. After the first twenty-five speed racer rejections, I took a moment to reevaluate my approach. My query letter rocked, the story solid, not one misspelled word in the first ten pages…what’s the problem?

I forwarded it to a fellow author friend for her feedback and she immediately wrote back “WHAT IS THAT TITLE??? You didn’t pitch with that, did you??”

I learned the error of my ways, but was still without a title. I decided to start re-reading the book, thinking I would see a phrase that would spark my imagination. Who would have thought a WORD within the first ten pages would solve all my problems?   

There are two lessons to learn here:

  1. Always re-read your book like a reader, and not like an author. Your title is in there.
  2. NEVER start pitching a project until you’ve run it by a sound minded friend or author.

But hey, some bad titles DO get published. Check out some of these winners:


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Author: Tiffany D. Jackson

Tiffany D. Jackson is a TV professional by day, novelist by night, awkward black girl 24/7. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Film from Howard University and her Master of Arts in Media Studies from The New School University. A Brooklyn native, she is a lover of naps, cookie dough, and beaches, currently residing in the borough she loves with her adorable chihuahua Oscar, most likely multitasking. Her debut novel, ALLEGEDLY is due January 24th, 2017 through Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint of Harper Collins.

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