• Bridge Ladies

    Bridge Ladies When I set out to learn about my mother's bridge club, the Jewish octogenarians behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, their gen, and the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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I Ain’t No Monkey But I Know What I Like

Please be gentle!


When I go around hawking my book, I give a series of workshops and one is on titles. I don’t know if it will be possible to recreate some of that experience here or if anyone will be game, but if you would like to test out your title, leave it as a comment. What we do in the workshop is use everyone as market research. Writers float their titles and we get a show of hands who likes it, who doesn’t, why? And then a deeper conversation ensues about the importance of titles and why we like some, not others, how useful they are for marketing,  what they need to accomplish given the genre, how well they capture the essence of the book, how they can attract and galvanize, or get lost in the crowd.

What makes you pick up a book in the store? You have a title, jacket art, an author’s name, some descriptive copy. What grabs you? Some combination no doubt. But when you are pitching to agents (and agents in turn to publishers), it is even more critical to get the title right. I pitched a book today and the title and sub-title said it all. And when I pitched it, the editors said things like: that’s a brilliant title, that title gave me chills, I feel like I’m going to cry, etc. This is called a bulls-eye. It doesn’t guarantee a sale, but you’ve got the door open and editors will look at it more quickly.

I’ve heard too many writers say that the title is a place holder because they know it will change. Or they say they’re not good at thinking up titles. Or the title is good enough. I beg you to find a great title. A truly great title. You cannot underestimate how much it helps your cause.

So, if  you are working on your title and want some feedback (and please post anonymously if you like), show us what you got. And we’ll tell you if we like it and why, or send you back to the drawing board. Or just tell us  what some of your favorite titles are and why. I will send a FREE AUTOGRAPHED copy of The Forest for the Trees (Revised and Updated for the 21st Century) to the best loved title submitted. No joke.

590 Responses

  1. I am weighing two for my Science Fiction WIP:



    Forever Girl

    • I guess I should chip in with some titles I’ve liked, too. “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” – I didn’t particularly enjoy the book, but the title has a nice rhythm to it, and feels poetic without being too horribly pretentious. Maybe it’s getting through my ‘literary-title-cliche’ radar because of it’s age.

      I also like “The Kitchen God’s Wife” because it’s intriguing – it raises questions, and “The Speed of Dark” because it’s a thought-provoking twist on a familiar concept.

    • Infinitely prefer Forever Girl to Apotheosis.

      Apotheosis doesn’t tell me much, seems almost impersonal. Apotheosis of what?

      Forever Girl however is much more intriguing.

    • I like Forever Girl too. It sounds vaguely familiar which could be good or not good, I suppose.
      Apotheosis makes me think I need a dictionary, though I like the sound of it (if my brain is pronouncing it right)

    • Forever Girl has me expecting a young adult romance. I wonder if it’s the strongest choice for your genre.

      • Hmm. I don’t read YA or romance much so that’s good to think about! Thanks to all who have responded so far.

        I know Apotheosis is kinda pretentious, but it works for the plot. Forever Girl sounds better but is slightly misleading in the context of the story. Maybe I should go back to the drawing board altogether (or finish the manuscript then see what jumps out!).

      • Forever girl struck me as a different genre also. Apotheosis is more sci fi.

    • I like Forever Girl.

      • Forever Girl reminds me of The Goodbye Girl, which I loved. Maybe a tiny bit too sweet for science fiction? I don’t know what I’m talking about when it comes to science fiction, though, so maybe it’s perfect.

        I had to look up “apotheosis.” Not a bad thing. If (when) the book takes off , everybody’s vocabulary will grow.

    • Apotheosis makes me curious. A good thing.

      Forever Girl makes me think of a middle school book for girls?

    • Yes for FOREVER GIRL.

    • I hate Forever Girl, but I am rather old, when I was young, I loved Georgy Girl. I second your choices: The Unbearable Lightness of Being and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, and I would add, Love in the Time of Cholera.

    • Forever Girl!!! Definitely. The other one seems too impersonal & I think Forever Girl would draw more readers.

  2. The title of my novel is “The Second Intelligent Species”, and I’m still not ready to let you know what that is.

  3. My paranormal romance title is The Stranger in the Mirror.

  4. My YA novel on submission is called The Wrong Daughter.

    Tiny part of why I chose it: The narrator’s perfect sister was skating on Lake Champlain, fell through the ice, and drowned. “Mama and I were home, making apple pies. I was sitting at the kitchen table, peeling a basket of Granny Smiths and she was cutting Grisco into a bowl of flour when my father came in the door with the collapsed body and empty eyes he’d have for the rest of his life. After he told us what had happened, he just kept staring at my plain, moon-shaped face with the port wine birthmark that travels down my cheek like an ambling purple river, and I knew what he was thinking–the wrong daughter was dead.”

  5. My title is Gardening in Belvoir. It is a paranormal suspense novel.

  6. Is there prize for the worst?

    Daughter of

    And yes, that’s the whole title of my first completed novel. It seemed like a good idea at the time . . .

    My current WIP is called The Pigeon Drop. It may not be much better, but it makes more sense.

    • Definitely like “The Pigeon Drop” more than “Daughter of…[whatever]” 🙂 Although it kind of makes me think of this girl I knew who always wanted to gently kick pigeons in the butt, from the behind, to send them soaring a little. Yeah, never got that either….

    • Is ‘The Pigeon Drop’ referencing that drop that pigeons make when launching into flight?

      Given that I’m not sure, I’m thinking of like a drop made by a pigeon. Sounds vaguely military to me?

    • I actually like this. Makes me curious enough to want to see more… which is the whole point of a title.

    • The Pigeon Drop has a playful quality. Doesn’t give me a clue what it is so I’d look forward to the blurbs and cover art.

    • “Pigeon drop” is the name of a common scam, where people pretend to have found money and they show it to you and ask for your help and you end up giving them money to secure your “share,” etc. Good title, if it’s about a scam.

    • Pigeon Drop makes me think of Pigeon Droppings. Can you say a line or two of what the book is about?

      • Sure. Um . . .

        In order to save the life of their boss and mentor—a legendary reformed huckster who needs a bone marrow transplant—a team of ex-cons must dig past his aliases, identities, secrets, and crimes to track down the family he betrayed and abandoned–and convince them that he deserves a second chance.

        No sweat . . . except leads are disappearing right and left and the odds against finding a viable donor are rising. And they realize there’s someone out there who doesn’t believe in second chances.

        Yeah, I know. But this isn’t the ‘best query’ thread . . .

      • I’m liking it better now. If I read this description on the book, I’d pick it up.

    • I like Daughter of. Pigeon Drop is great, though it reminds me a-of a Patrick Neate novel I can’t quite place… probably just because it uses the word Pigeon.

  7. Honest And For True. Women’s fiction.

    The novel I’m working on? Hah. It has seven working titles on the first page and I’m sure I won’t be going with any of them. :-b

  8. My titles:

    1. Opal (novel, literary fiction. Previously titled Finding Opal.)

    2. Living Arrangements (story collection)

    I originally liked Finding Opal, but some people thought it sounded more like chick lit. And then I thought it sounded too precious or something. And while plain old “Opal” works best for now, I wonder if it’s too plain. Sometimes, though, I wouldn’t mind some simplicity in a title compared to some of the stuff I see.

  9. Crude Sunlight

  10. Sci-Fi novel-in-progress: FREEMAKER

  11. I’m contentedly married to the title of the ms I am (again, and finally?) tweaking: Split Infinities. But the next one in line I am calling, “Diary of an Unfed Mother.” Discuss among yourselves…

  12. Okay… Deep breath… And… PRIDE, PREJUDICE, AND CURLING ROCKS. It’s a YA that is loosely based on PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, but focused on a curling team rather than sisters. I worry about it because that name scheme may be overdone and because I came across someone who didn’t understand that “curling rocks” is a noun, but have been unable to think of anything else that conveys what it’s about as well.

    • First of all? A novel about curling? YES. (I am probably in the minority here, though….) Yeah, I could see many people not knowing what a curling rock is (isn’t it called a stone? I’m not an expert, clearly) and it definitely could be confusing. Could it simply be “Curling” in whatever form you choose?

      My only hesitation is due to the whole Pride & Prejudice & Zombies thing…

    • I didn’t get Curling Rocks as a noun either. I like your premise but the P&P part I’m not sure about.

      • Ok. Good to know. It really threw me the first time that happened. I mean, all my friends know what curling rocks are! But my friends are either curlers or friends with at least one curler, so… 🙂

    • I’m also not wild about the P & P part but I LOVE that you did a YA novel about curling because that just seems so fresh and fun to me. I love the Austen nod but I just think title wise, it would be a shame to not have a title that’s as fresh as the concept. Plus I just know there is some fun curling jargon you could work in.

      • I agree with Spring. I’ll bet there is some sort of curling maneuver that would better describe the book. I really dig the premise.

      • I’ve been working on a list… It’s hard though because I don’t want the title to be something that a non-curler wouldn’t understand. I’ve put a lot of effort into making sure you don’t need to know the sport to follow the book and don’t want it to seem like you’d need prior knowledge to pick it up.

    • as a canadian, i’m digging the curling references (heh).

    • I don’t like the P&P, frankly (sorry). Curling Rocks on its own is good though, it’s not quite familiar.

  13. Zebra Crossing or Five Fathoms Deep, a book of poems and short essays written on objects and presented as photographs. Each one is based on a word that has more than one meaning as described by Merriam-Webster.

    God, does this whole thing sound fucking ridiculous. But it’s just for me, so whatever.

  14. Titles I like, just off the top of my head so I might have more later:

    The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake
    The History of Love
    A Good Man is Hard to Find
    A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
    To Kill a Mockingbird
    Of Human Bondage
    The Lives of Girls and Women
    Anywhere But Here
    Wise Blood
    Imaginary Girls
    No Country for Old Men
    Behind the Attic Wall
    Truth and Beauty

  15. Chaos, in Theory

  16. I like playing with Is Lightness Bearable? too.

  17. I’m currently working on The Hound of Amaris Bell, The Famous Original Overnight Celebrity Diet, and vnshng.

    I don’t believe in great titles for novels: To Kill a Mockingbird, The Grapes of Wrath, Moby Dick, The Great Gatsby, Da Vinci Code, Harry Potter and the Chalice of Mediocrity, Twilight, 2666, Infinite Jest. Suck. If Whatshername called Gone With the Wind ‘Tomorrow Is Another Day,’ we’d all think GWTW is crap and TIAD is gold.

    ‘I feel like I’m going to cry?’ Seriously? What was the subtitle, ‘That Time I Locked My 3-Year-Old In the Car and She Died to Death?’

    • i like vnshng. it has a nice ring to it.

      although, i’d probably be more likely to pick up ‘that time i locked my 3-year-old in the car and she died to death’

    • Yes, yes, intriguing. I read about that. It was in all the papers…right?

    • I really need to stop thinking in pictures, but I do love the look of vnshng, with those ghostly vowels. Nice.

      The Hound of Amaris Bell rocks. What genre do you write, August?

      • Anything I suspect might pay. Nonfiction, fantasy, thriller, MG. Screenplays (with unfortunate results). I am a soulless hack.

        I think The During Time is fine if the cover is strong. (I really am not a big believer in titles, and only barely restrained myself from mocking the lists of people’s favorites, because of that baby seal.) But I bet it could be stronger. What’s traumatic about the During Time? If I think about traumatic events, I think The Black Plague, the Great Fire, the Holocaust: the During Time doesn’t sound all that bad.

      • You’re a soulless hack? Nah … The whole baby seal thing gave you away.

        The During Time is how the young protagonist sees things … Before, During, After. Strange things happen in the During time, and everything changes afterward.

        Back to the drawing board.

        I confess to knowing fuck-all about publishing, but if you believe in the power of a cover, August, why not a title?

      • I believe that titles and covers both have the power to fuck you, but neither has the power to save you. Actually, I guess I believe that about every other aspect of publishing, too.

        With ‘The During Time,’ all I’m saying is if the cover screams ‘sci-fi of whatever subgenre,’ I think it’s fine. Perfectly good. I wouldn’t spend another minute on the search for perfection. But if the cover is a girl walking in a field of daisies, you’re screwed. More screwed.

        What Betsy said about a ‘truly great’ title is crap. That’s probably why there are 500 comments on this thread. Good enough is good enough. Frankly, good enough is -more- than good enough. Honestly, 2666? The History of Love? What kind of editor is telling Betsy that she’s shivering and moaning over a -title-? If your title makes them cry, they’ve got bigger problems than deciding how much to offer. Telling me to find a truly great title is like telling me to make sure my wife comes first. I’d never get it up again. I don’t even believe Betsy -wrote- that–I think Erin is toying with her again. It’s like saying, ‘I beg you to write great prose.’ Oh, thanks. I’ll do -that-, then, instead of resorting to the same spasmodic tics and flimsy gimmicks I’ve been trotting out for years.

        The drive for greatness is the third-worst mistake a writer can make.

      • dear god, i hope this last august rant was the 500th comment. it would make the (or at least my) world so very perfect. i’d stick all 500 in a hardback book for $24.95 and for sure put a girl running through daisies on the cover.

        august, you had me at a ‘truly great’ title is crap.

      • This post is the collective 500+ cry of, “Please dear god, tell me this title doesn’t suck.”

        And now I’ll be wondering about the first and second-worst things. Tease.

    • I thought you were being your witty self served up with a big side of sardonic. You know I would buy a book authored by you called The.

      • Is it greedy to ask for input on one more? It’s called The During Time – science fiction. I finished a first edit few months ago and set it aside, but it’s on my mind again. The name refers to a traumatic event in the story.

      • Okay, I’m not sure how that last comment ended up here. Sorry!

    • vnshng — though I’m talking to a friend and want to recommend a book quickly and I say Yeah it’s called … vnshng. Extend this and might be challenging for people to FIND.

      but you probably don’t care about that?

  18. bright with lights, moving fast is now the working title of a series of short stories about degenerate expats living in present day Hong Kong. genre is literary fiction.

    thanks for all your feedback on the title a couple of weeks back. it really helped me.

    • Something makes me feel this title is not quite there yet, like it’s the draft you need before you get to the real title. Anyone else? It’s like I can see what you’re going for, but it needs to be less clunky or communicate the idea more smoothly and easily.

    • No, not quite.


      I can’t picture it moving fast–whatever it is–because you’ve got time to tell us lights are with it.

  19. Disarrangement of Stars, fiction

  20. I also like:

    Bright Lights, Big City
    The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
    The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

  21. The First 365 Days Were the Hardest…How one blog changed everything about me including my weight, my career and my address.

    this is a nonfiction book about how i decided to blog every day for 365 days straight to get closer to the life I wanted. The title only really works if I get a book deal from it. Of course, if I don’t, I wouldn’t need a title anyway.

    • I like it, but I don’t think you should end with “my address.” You want the last thing in a list series, especially in this case, to be the strongest/most interesting. And I would assume the part about changing your life and your career is not dependent on a book deal, right? (Otherwise, what is the book actually about, you know?)

      • you’re right you’re right you’re right

        i’ve been struggling with that string since i came up with the title months ago.

        my weight, my work, and my way home?

        (and the career thing–for the title at least–does kinda depend on the book deal. not that i’m going to quit my job should an agent reply to an email, but it would change my current work trajectory for sure.)

      • You’re so witty, Amy. I think your subtitle should reflect it. Maybe you can think of one funny incident and refer to that instead.

      • “my weight, my work, and my way home? ”

        Loads better!

      • the part that intrigues me is “how one (a?) blog changed my life”

      • my weight, my work and my world?

    • I really like the title, but I wonder if you could tighten up the subtitle.

    • How one blog changed everything from my weight to my road home

      • this is all good stuff. i’m going to play around with my title page right now it instead of doing work emails.

        thank you thank you.

        b–this was (is?) a lot of fun and extremely helpful. and generous; it feels a bit like i just ran out the back door with a handful of goodies that i didn’t pay for.

    • weight, work, world

    • I want to read it!

      I’d just go with “How one blog changed everything about me.” Maybe indicate the weight, career, other change(s) with cover art? Hmm … or maybe keep weight in (big selling point, I’d think).

  22. Holy crap there are a lot of posts in a short amount of time!

    My YA contemporary fantasy, about a boy who can disappear and his quest to escape the Faginesque con man who would exploit his ability, is called Vanishing Act.

    One awesome YA title, in my opinion, is How to Ditch Your Fairy, by Justine Larbalestier. Another is Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist.


  24. I’m having a crisis over my title, Eddie’s War. It’s middle-grade (possibly YA) historical fiction, coming-of-age, about a farm boy whose older brother is a bomber pilot in WWII. My editor likes it because he thinks it will appeal to boys.

  25. The Education of a Missouri White Girl

    • Like “Daughter” and “Diary of” in titles, “The Education of” feels a little overplayed. I don’t know if that’s necessarily bad, though. Something about the arrangement of the words “Missouri White Girl” kind of stuck out as being awkward. Like I feel there must be a more specific/precise way to title this?

      But I’m being picky and overall I think it’s fine.

    • Reminds me of Education of Little Tree. The “white” bothers me but at the same time intrigues me. I’d pick it up in the store.

    • Missouri Made

    • Thanks. Agreed on all counts. It’s a memoir about how racism is taught – and either embraced or unlearned – and the family tensions that fester because of it.

      Original title was: A Heartland Education — but no one liked that.

  26. How Red Is My Neck? (free at http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/17942 )

    Who Moved My Rice? (a work in progress)

  27. I got nothin’. Quite a turnout tonight.

  28. Deluxia
    One boy learns how to learn.

    Stark, Raven
    A mystery in two acts.

    Apollo At Sunset
    A novel

    Those are mine,
    But my favorite titles ever:
    Tender is the Night.
    All the Pretty Horses.
    The Sound and the Fury.
    Who Will Run the Frog Hospital?

  29. Jane of Hearts, One-Eyed Jacks, and the Suicide King — probably my next novel

  30. Hmm, more than the average commenter today. Totally coincidental.

    My WiP title: Glory or Death

    I haven’t had anyone give me specific feedback on the title, just the work itself. I just figured if I get an agent and they don’t like the title, it’ll be time to go back to the drawing board. If they do like it, then cheers.

  31. Rambler

  32. Based on a question my mom asked me every time my father went into my room at night, “I heard him in your room last night, tell me what he did.” My autobiography covering a journey to healing, which spans child abuse, the occult, ultimately being healed through forgiveness with the help of God, I plan to call my book:

    Tell me what He did.

    It covers my mom’s question and what God did.

  33. That the Night Come

    From the Yeats poem.

  34. My contemporary young adult novel is called “It’s Not Me, It’s You.”

  35. Carne Letras: The Heart Is a Piñata Filled with Sin

  36. All the Things You Are / commercial literary fiction,
    also the title of a 1930s jazz standard.

  37. My current WiP is a YA science fiction. It’s tentatively titled:


  38. My title is:

    “City of Pearls”

    It’s a story about American’s taking their American Egg Donors to India to hire a surrogate there- and the children’s lives years later.

  39. My title is:

    “City of Pearls”

    It’s a story about Americans taking their (American) Egg Donors to India to hire a surrogate there… and more importantly the children’s lives years later.

  40. I have:
    – FAKE
    – As Long As I’m Lying
    – An Elegant Noise
    – An Unholy Sound

  41. All time best title- The Colony of Unrequited Dreams.

  42. The Hard Way is the Only Way

  43. The Practice of Wearing Skin (young adult)

  44. My favorite title and one of my favorite books –

    Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

  45. Slingshot at Fort D, a memoir

  46. A collection of poems about 19th-century Shakers in Kentucky: The Paradiso Shuffle. Whaddaya think?

    • Like the modern take. However, The Italian connotation of the word paradiso doesn’t equate to Shakers in my mind. Is there a reason you didn’t want to use paradise?

  47. My two works in progress are How to Build Yourself the Perfect Mother and The Adventures of Jennie Dean and Awkward Girl: A Superhero Love Story. They’re both women’s fiction, I guess, though I sort of rage against the idea that we’re still slapping gender categories on literature in the 21st century.

    Titles I’ve loved lately are Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self, Aliens in the Prime of Their Lives, A Home at the End of the World, Motherless Brooklyn. I can’t explain why, really, but they all seem full of magic and promise to me.

  48. My WIP is currently called Death Hires An Assistant.
    It’s contemporary humor fiction along the lines of Christopher Moore and ‘Good Omens’
    I’ve had really positive (‘does what it says on the box’) feedback and some negative (too obvious) feedback.
    Would appreciate thoughts.

  49. “Bagel, Bagel, Crunch That Kegel”.

    Memoir. I am a prostate cancer survivor and used humor to help me get through the battle.

  50. For upmarket fiction:

    Life Between Dreams

    My Paradise

    (My Paradise is ironic.)

  51. I’m one of those titles-aren’t-my-thing people. The three possibilities for my historical fiction Wip: Talvikki, Mushroom Hunting and Golden Cuckoo.

    • of the 3 I prefer Mushroom Hunting

    • I’ll vote for Mushroom Hunting too. Talvikki zaps my brain, and Golden Cuckoo makes me imagine it was published in 1958, for some reason.

    • Thanks. It’s my favorite too but it’s gotten negative feedback. The book is set in WWII Finland, is historically correct, etc. But the real story is the death of an individual within the framework of the greater good. Maybe I have to go back to the drawing board?

      In Finnish folklore the golden cuckoo sang for the grief of a mother whose daughter commits suicide after her family tries to force her to marry a powerful suitor. But the reader wouldn’t know that up front and it might sound foofoo.

    • mushroom hunting is my pick.

    • Mushroom Hunting (because those words win individually–better together)

  52. Look What You Made Me Do, working title for my novel-in-progress. It’s not a mystery though the husband dies in mysterious circumstances and his body’s in a freezer. One of the most helpful pieces of advice I’ve gotten in the five/six years I’ve been writing the book is, “Ditch the [original working] title.” (Betsy at Tin House summer of 2006), one so cringe-worthy I can’t bring myself to type the word here.

  53. Gates of the Moon – historic thriller

  54. Working title: We Can Reach Our Destination

    It’s a YA book, at least, that’s the age of the characters. It’s set 86 years in the future.

  55. The Next 24

    Memoir about addiction

  56. Yow. The two titles I’m considering (can I submit 2?) are: 1) Dying Dad and My Old Truck
    2) The Stranger Who Loved My Mother

  57. Non-fiction ed book/memoir that includes a lot of travel. . What about Teaching in Unfamiliar Places??

  58. My title is The Mating Habits of Fireflies

  59. Killing Rites. A brutal crime novel.

  60. This is really fun! Favorite of all my titles is Going to War with the Avon Lady. Editors liked the title but not the book, so it languishes in the attic.

    • When I was a kid I went to war with the Avon lady–her name was Mena and she drove a huge old Pontiac maybe? down the middle of the street. She was relentless. (Actually it was more like hiding than going to war.)

  61. Titles for two short stories I currently have in progress:

    1. The Camera Has its Reasons
    2. 101 Ways Of Hating Claire

  62. The Town By Storm

    (as in, take the town by storm)

    It’s a historical novel (1940s) set in a rural small town. The protagonist is forced to travel to Atlantic City–for what I hope are rather suspenseful reasons.

  63. Wow, Betsy, you got some action on this post.

    A brilliant title, I agree, is critical. And, thus, the most difficult, stress inducing part of the entire novel for me.

    Of all the titles above (by the commenters) I LOVE and vote for “Living Arrangements”.

  64. My novel? The House Of The Stare. The title is based on a passage from Yeats.

  65. How about “A View From The Floor”

  66. “Princess No-Name and Sir Chadwick the Not-So-Bright” a YA fairy tale.

  67. Chanel Bonfire: The True Story of a Girl’s Escape.

  68. Wow! 330 responses so far. The fire marshal’s going to come around, issue some citations.

  69. Memoir:
    “What to do When a Fishbone Gets Caught in Your Throat”

  70. “The Quilting Bee”

    Four old ladies kill a child molester.

  71. My YA Contemporary is called: WHAT WAS MINE.

  72. My current WiP is called Polaroid. It’s lit fic, though I don’t love the term as a genre.

    I feel it lacks something, but it might be just cos it’s short. My last two titles I’ve loved unquestioningly: A Finite Sky, and Who Ever Heard Of Applecake? so I feel I should have one I love more easily now.

    • Is the name Polaroid trademarked?

    • anything with polaroid in the title is terrific. as for copyrights, polaroids are no longer made so maybe that solves the problem?

      are you familiar with the practise of manipulating polaroids? it’s a chemical process that involves scratching. changes images into dreamscapes.

  73. Beaten Beautiful.

    Like the jazz song. It’s a memoir. Haven’t come up with a subtitle yet. That’s even harder.

  74. My Soul You Keep

    It’s YA fantasy…I like it but I’ve been playing with other options: A Soul Like Mine, for instance.

  75. My fantasy novel is: THE HEART OF BELDESSARIO.

  76. LOVELY DAYS OF JEFF, a story cycle centered on the character of a young bartender named Jeff Chorus, in the late 1970s to early 1980s, right before AIDS struck and changed the sexual landscape.

  77. My historical novel’s (very tentative) title is The Madness of Lydia.

  78. nearly 400 posts and not one mean-spirited comment! that’s awesome.

  79. The title of my YA thriller out on submission is TIN LILY. The blurb: After Lily Berkenshire’s alcoholic father kills her mother and gets away, Lily’s mind begins plunging into silent nothingness where there is no memory, no fear – only stillness. Oblivion gives Lily temporary breaks from reality and a calm she can’t find otherwise. Trouble is, she’s losing time. At first, minutes. Then hours. When her body is safe at home, oblivion is a relief, but when she’s on a city bus or fears her father is around the next corner, it becomes a threat to her life. Ultimately, Lily must find a way to survive – her father, her pain, and especially her own mind.

    • I like TIN LILY. I could not tell you why.

      • I like it, too. Reminds me of Tin Lizzy. I’m so old; I think I once owned one. Today’s my birthday, so I’m even older. I’m going to start wearing undershirts and stockings rolled below my knees. Plus, I’ll leave my clicker on just to annoy other drivers.

      • Thank you! It’s actually a Jeff Black song, but fits the nature of the book so well (and the emptiness of the mc).

        Bonnie – hahaha Tin Lizzy is a whole different story. HAPPY BIRTHDAY. All you need is a little purple in your wardrobe and you’re set.

  80. Devil’s Moon (Bat-shit crazy ex-wife stalks/torments – and more – new wife)

  81. My favorite novel title is Some Day There’s Pie.
    Not my favorite novel, just my favorite title.

  82. A waterfront fantasy set against a backdrop of blues music

    “Woke Up This Morning”

  83. My WIP is a narrative (memoir?) about the pleasures of a teaching life with lots of stories and travel…
    Brooklyn to Burma:Teaching in Unfamiliar Places OR
    Why Teach? Become a Teacher and See the World

  84. The Names of Enchantment
    The Monsters of Stephen Enchanter

    (or neither. I had huge trouble titling this novel, and still am not married to either)

  85. I’m terrible at titles, and yet I agree with you–titles are so important. Would I have picked up THE ELEGANCE OF THE HEDGEHOG if it didn’t have such a cool title? I doubt it. The title of my WIP is MEMORY OF TREES, not great, but…

  86. A little overwhelmed.

    Zebra title stood out as did What You Made Me do (was that it?) Will try to look back through but maybe we need a top 5 finalist list?

  87. Looks like the party is still on. I’m not too late.


    Memoir about a bicoastal kidnapping custody battle

  88. Salsa Survival Guide: How To Navigate Salsa World, Endure Heartbreak, and Become A Badass Dancer

    The former title was “Salsa Geek.”

    Sorry, I’m coming in so late.

  89. C’mon guys! Let’s get this to 500! (said the loser on Friday night)

    Group book title: MARKET RESEARCH
    by The Writers Who Love You

  90. Born to be Committed: The Diary of a Gay Priest

  91. Isn’t that kind of bullshit, though? Everyone knows the title of the manuscript an agent sells is pretty much guaranteed to get changed down the road at the house.

  92. The Kat’s out of the Bag

    Death’s Door Opens to Life

  93. Loving Mrs. Hathaway. Takes place during the depression. After my narrator’s mother dies, her father rents the spare room to a recently-widowed teacher. Both the narrator and her father fall in love with Mrs. Hathaway.

  94. Young Oldmont

    The Adventure’s of Young Olmont

  95. I have an advanced Middle Grade fantasy and have settled on:
    Moon Tree Brothers

    Since it is the first of five. Following would be
    Moon Tree Madness
    Moon Tree Darkness
    Moon Tree Dragon
    Moon Tree Invasion
    Moon Tree Fire

  96. Alright, I’ve got a couple of possible titles for my YA grief book about a girl whose three best friends & bandmates die.


  97. Thanks for your feedback–much appreciated.

    These are my favorite titles:

    Tin Lily

    Education of a Missouri White Girl

    June of Hearts

    Practice of Wearing Skin

    Shaken Not Stirred (has this been used before? Not a deal breaker as there is not copyright on titles, but you should check just in case)

    The Pigeon Drop

    Gardening in Belvoir

    Living Arrangements

    Death’s Protege (alternative title)

    Granny Vigilantes (alternative title)

    Polaroid (you need another word here)

    My Soul You Keep

    I would recommend the person with BRIGHT LIGHTS in title change it because of Jay McInernery novel.

    Some of the titles are too literal (like the gay priest–this could be really interesting, but I think you need a better title).

  98. Who I Am Keeps Happening

    (Young Adult title about a teen that finds love with both a boy…and a girl

  99. After reading through all these one more time, the one I remember most is: ZEBRA CROSSING

  100. crackwhorepornstarlove

  101. I have a YA WiP that is the first in a series written in Pulp fiction style:

    “The Arc Riders”
    ‘The Trouble with Mexicans’

    The story centers on a team of teens who ride dimension hopping horses in the pursuit of justice.

    • Oh, the horses are main characters alongside the kids.

    • ‘The Trouble with Mexicans’ isn’t sitting quite right with me – I feel like it would invite controversy where you don’t intend or need it.

      • Actually – it is inviting controversy.

        In this novel my main character is being tormented by a Mexican gang in the Bronx, and he gets sent to save a Mexican girl from the Drug Cartels as she desperately struggles to get back to the USA and her illegal immigrant parents.

        Also, (and if I am wrong I would love more information on the topic) I was going for a stereotypical pulp fiction title. I imagine the old dime novel cover with flying in titles and lots of exclamation marks.

        Of course, all of that being said, as a first time author (my first novel is on submission) who is just making her second stab at this I must ask – is controversy bad? Does it put people off before they even look at the blurb?

      • It doesn’t actually bother *me* but I can see people knee-jerk judging it as racist without bothering to see what the book is about. Especially because it is YA. But others please tell me if I’m out of whack – I live in Southern California so maybe I’m just attuned to people jumping on perceived anti-immigrant rhetoric. “The Trouble With” part is fine, and I agree, nicely pulpy.

  102. I’m working on an upper MG novel titled

    Seventh Grade Solitaire

  103. The Secret Baby

    adult fiction, set in Queens during the mid 20’s and early 1940’s.

    • Hmm. I’m torn on this one. Sometimes titles that are very direct work well, but in this case it feels a little ‘on the nose’. Maybe it’s partly the lack of rhythm with word ‘Baby’ because ‘The Secret Child’ doesn’t sound as clunky to me.

      • Hmm, I like that. Definitely something to consider–it’s about an immigrant German woman whose husband runs off with the baby nurse–and the baby, their second child–and returns to Germany. Her search is for the baby, as he remains in her mind all those years, but of course, he is actually a child most of that time. Thanks, Lauren–

      • If it’s a boy maybe even ‘The Secret Son’ or ‘Secret Son’? Baby could still work in another phrasing. I like the idea that he’s sort of frozen at that stage in the mother’s memory. It’s just the ‘The ____ Baby’ construction that isn’t quite hitting the aural sweet spot for me. Interested to hear what others have to say!

      • Secret Son. Even better. Thanks again, I’m going to let these brew a while.

  104. […] couple days ago, Betsy Lerner invited her blog readers to share the titles of their works-in-progress .  The one she liked best would win its writer an autographed, revised copy of her book, Forest […]

  105. I’m late, but if anyone’s willing to give feedback, I’d be grateful. The working title of my memoir is

    Naked Before God

    I read somewhere that two of some of the most desirable words to put in a title are “naked” and “god.” This was in the Seventies, so I think “dragon” was also on the list, now replaced by “vampire.” But do “naked” and “God” ever go out of style?

    • If you believe in Goddess, you can call the book ‘Mother Naked.’

      Assuming, for the moment, that titles matter, I think Naked Before God is perhaps too static. This is a Miami hotel/strip club/Hare Krishna memoir? Can you sex things up a bit?

      Personally, I like ‘Love Bomb.’

      • “Love Bomb” is super-sexy, August. Reminds me of the first “adult” book I ever read, at the tender age of eleven: The Love Machine, by Jacqueline Susann. Definitely goes on the list of possibles.

    • God, how to follow the Love Bomb …

      I actually love this title, Tulasi-Priya, but you wouldn’t have it to yourself. I got three pages of links when I googled it. I’m not sure if this matters to you but I thought it was worth a mention.

      • Which one ehad three pages of links, glassye, NBG or Love Bomb? I know there’s a Christian book called NBG, but I don’t think it’s very well-known.

    • seems to me the choice is more complex than what is desirable regarding title only. in other words, i would hope that your title possibility is inextricably tied to the content you are writing about. because “naked” and “god” are such powerful, evocative words in and of themselves, well, hey, i wonder what this book is about

    • Naked before God: the pigeon drop

  106. “Syntropy; The Education of Booker T. Bakkus”

    Coming of age, eco-sci-fi adventure

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