by Rob Broder, President & Founder of Ripple Grove Press
So, what’s in a title? A title can say a lot. It can provide me with what the story is about, introduce a character, tell how the story will end or tell me to dive in and keep me guessing. Titles like (I’m making these up but are similar to what we’ve received) The Grumpy Town says to me everyone in the town is grumpy except one small child who turns the town around and they are all happy in the end with merriment in the streets. And hopefully it won’t rhyme.
Or Mr. Pajama-Wama The Cat Think’s There’s A Monster Under His Bed. I never thought there was a monster under my bed and I don’t know why I would want to put that idea into a child's mind. The title gives it all away, and I don’t want to read the words Mr. Pajama-Wama on every single page. And hopefully it won’t rhyme.
There are titles that describe too much and spill the entire story, like, Little Red Hen and the Missing Mitten on a Rainy Tuesday. I know everything before I even get to the first sentence. And… hopefully it won’t rhyme.
Or titles like, I’m Always First or New Baby in the House. Both titles are telling me the beginning, middle and end before I even get started. And hopefully it won’t rhyme.
The titles that make us want to move on to the story are the simple titles that pique my interest and keep me intrigued, (yes, these are our books) like The Peddler’s Bed… okay, now what.
or Too Many Tables… okay, where could this go. Or Lizbeth Lou got a Rock in her Shoe… a little long but you got my attention. If your title mentions your pet’s name or your grandchild’s name, it doesn’t usually pan out. When titles have names that don’t match the characters you created, like Aidan the Kangaroo or McKenzie the Raccoon or Addison the Hippo, it’s obvious the child is sitting right next to you as you write your story. I understand that something special or sweet has happened to your loved one, but that doesn’t mean it has universal appeal. Share your ideas with friends or a critique group. Read your story out loud to yourself.
You can judge a book by it’s title… if words like Hope or Grace or Pray or Johnny Scuttle Butt are there. And although bodily function writing might be humorous to some, it’s not something I want to read over and over again to a four-year-old. So please, no poop or pee or burp or fart… not timeless, not cozy.
With all this said, I still get excited to read every submission and every story. I want to find the gem, I want to be wow’d. I want to put your story in my revisit folder and I want to like it more and more each time I read it. So please, do your research. And please, oh please, read children’s picture books. Read award winners, what’s popular, what librarians recommend. Read stories you may not be a fan of, it will guide you to your own voice. Study them, why do they work, what made the publisher choose this story? Match your story with the right publisher. Hopefully all this work will shine through your story and one day you’ll get that phone call from a publisher who would like to talk to you about your submission.
Rob Broder is the president and founder of Ripple Grove Press, an independent children’s picture book publishing company based in Portland, Oregon. To learn more about Ripple Grove Press and their submission guidelines, visit www.ripplegrovepress.com.