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PB Titles: Should They Give The Story Away

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Last month when I subbed, I changed the title at the last second. I liked the original title and it had been the title since the story was first written.

Let's say the title was "The Moon That Made The Stars Laugh." When I went to hit that darn "send" button, I panicked, and changed the title to "The Moon." I did this thinking that the title gave the story away.

"AND THEN!" right after I sent it, I read the title of a PB SHOULD tell exactly what the story is about. I'd never read that before. I didn't panic, but I   :bangcomputer   while I  :ranting: .


What's the deal? You SHOULD give the story away in the title of a PB only (not in MG/YA)?


Thanks.

#1 - June 27, 2014, 03:34 PM
Imagination is more important than knowledge. Einstein.

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Good question! I will look forward to reading everyone's responses. I think I have read some PBs from each point of view - some yes; some no.
#2 - June 27, 2014, 04:05 PM
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It's an interesting question... you could even extend it to "can the cover picture give away the story?"

My personal preference is a title should corresponds to 2 of the Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How. A simple "one-word'er" won't usually do it. For example "Peter Rabbit" sounds less interesting to me than, say, "The Tale of Peter Rabbit""

Although I am judging a book by it's cover title, a titles that does this makes me a bit more interested than a, say, simple "proper name" title (unless it's an interesting name with things you wouldn't particularly expect: "Lord of the Flies" or "Grapes of Wrath" or "The Cat in the Hat")
#3 - June 29, 2014, 05:08 PM

I agree. The Tale of Peter Rabbit sounds more interesting than Peter Rabbit. Yet, "The Tale of..." doesn't really give anything away.

In the example title I used, it does give away the story, regardless if the moon was always making the stars laugh or only came to make them laugh at the end (because they never laughed before, or whatever).

And yes, I see where a cover could also give the story away.

Since some titles do and some don't, I guess it depends on one or a combination of: 1) without it, it's just too darn boring; 2) what a pub thinks; 3) subjective opinion.
#4 - June 29, 2014, 05:52 PM
Imagination is more important than knowledge. Einstein.

I think it is fine to tell exactly what your story is about with the title because the way you tell it is in the PB itself. 
#5 - June 29, 2014, 06:49 PM

Good point!
#6 - June 29, 2014, 06:52 PM
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I have a pb that's being shopped that hints at and almost gives away the end but it's a play on words. I think you shouldn't worry so much about your title. Most titles change in the editing process. What's important is the story!
#7 - June 29, 2014, 07:26 PM
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Thanks for this topic, Arona! I labor over titles, myself, and appreciate the insights here.


And I never knew most titles got changed in the editing process, Pam! Makes me wonder about all those "could have been" book titles and how they would have impacted sales....



#8 - June 29, 2014, 07:31 PM

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I think the titles of many successful PBs do give away the main idea of the story--just not the ending.


Where The Wild Things Are
Goodnight Moon
Creepy Carrots
Mr. Tiger Goes Wild...


It's like a promise you make to the reader. But once your reader begins reading, they forget about the title and hopefully get sucked into the story. But as Pam said, the title is an easy thing for an editor to change IF she loves the story.
#9 - June 30, 2014, 04:54 AM
« Last Edit: June 30, 2014, 06:21 AM by Andi W. »
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In the example Arona gives it sounds more like giving away the ending, which I think probably isn't the best idea. So for WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE the title would have been NAUGHTY BOY BECOMES KING OF THE MONSTERS or something like that! And then I think you can remove the fun of a PB. Imagine if I WANT MY HAT BACK was called I WILL EAT THE ANIMAL WHO TOOK MY HAT. Loses it's impact completely!
#10 - June 30, 2014, 05:47 AM

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I think your first title sounds lovely, but it may give too much away.
 
I just looked through some of the books in my PB collection and it appears the majority of the titles are a bit vague leaving more to discover when the content of the story is read.  Some reveal the hook straight away. Most titles say more about the subject than the story, like Toy Boat, Olivia, Stars. However, I found a couple of them that give-away/are the hooks, Mary Ann Hoberman/Kevin Hawkes And To Think That We Thought That We'd Never Be Friends, and Karma Wilson's/Jane Chapman's Bear books, Bear Wants More, Bear Snores On, etc.  So I think it depends. If the first Bear book were just titled "Bear," it would sound more like a non-fiction title.
 
I changed the title of one of my PB's from what the content was about to the hook. After reading it at a workshop, an editor revealed that I should change it back. I did and it sold and the title was left as-is.
 
 Going with your first inclination could be the catalyst to spark interest and the change can be made afterward if necessary.
#11 - June 30, 2014, 06:24 AM
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Good point, Franzilla! Then again, if you did have a book with the title, I WILL EAT THE ANIMAL WHO TOOK MY HAT, the ending would probably be different than I WANT MY HAT BACK. The quest (to eat the animal who took the hat) would be the title, but the resolution (finding a different solution, rather than eating the animal who took the hat) would show character growth.
#12 - June 30, 2014, 06:42 AM
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A lot of great thoughts expressed here. Thanks to all!

Still not sure if I made a mistake changing the (real) title, but everyone's comments have given me a lot to think about moving forward.   

Stephanie posted while I typed: your example supports how a title could drive a story (story is built around a title).
#13 - June 30, 2014, 06:52 AM
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Good point, Franzilla! Then again, if you did have a book with the title, I WILL EAT THE ANIMAL WHO TOOK MY HAT, the ending would probably be different than I WANT MY HAT BACK. The quest (to eat the animal who took the hat) would be the title, but the resolution (finding a different solution, rather than eating the animal who took the hat) would show character growth.


I think someone should alert Jon Klassen to this idea. I WILL EAT THE ANIMAL WHO TOOK MY HAT is clearly a third title ready for the making! And the surprise ending could be that the bear gets snuggled, smooched and huggled (cuddled+hugged) to death by the rabbit.  :hahaha
#14 - June 30, 2014, 07:52 AM

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The title. "It's like a promise you make to the reader." I LOVE the way you said that, Andi!


 :carrot




#15 - June 30, 2014, 11:00 AM

I think there's a difference between giving away the story and giving away the ending of the story. You don't want to give away something that's supposed to be a surprise (or something that reflects the resolution).

For example, there's THE COW THAT LAID AN EGG. That tells you a big part of the story, but you still want to read it to find out what happens at the end. Another one would be, THE DAY THE CRAYONS QUIT.

Depends on the tone, too.

In any case, your manuscript will speak for itself and the title can always be changed later. You should probably go with your gut.
#16 - June 30, 2014, 12:06 PM
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