I’ve been browsing through the list of manuscripts submitted to the Suvudu Writing Contest (we’re over 150 manuscripts received and there’s still plenty of time until the deadline on March 18, so get to writing! Complete rules here). Some of the titles are wonderful. I won’t be talking about any of the contest manuscripts in this post, but the list got me to thinking how important a good title can be when you’re hoping to be published.
As an example, right now on my trusty Sony eReader there are 47 submissions waiting to be read. (This is apart from the contest entries, mind you.) My particular system of triage involves reading submissions from major agents as quickly as possible, then others in order of their receipt. But once in a while a manuscript will bump the line simply because it has an intriguing title. This has happened twice in the last few weeks. The Use and Complexities of Sex Magic somehow found itself way up on my reading list, as did another one I just got in: The Institute for the Lost Art of Handwriting.
Both these titles raised questions in my mind (and raised my eyebrows as well, in the case of Use and Complexities of Sex Magic). Just how does one use sex magic? How did handwriting become a lost art? And if a title makes me curious, it’s likely to act the same all the way down the line, from sales rep to publicity department to book reviewer to bookseller to store browser.
In recognition of the power of an intriguing book title, there’s even an given to the year’s best—the Diagram Prize, given annually as long as there are enough odd titles to consider. Some of my favorites from previous years include How to Avoid Huge Ships, Bombproof Your Horse, and The Joy of Chickens.
SF/fantasy titles that have inspired my admiration include Gentlemen of the Road and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Michael Chabon; Neuromancer and Mona Lisa Overdrive, William Gibson; The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick; The Lathe of Heaven, Ursula K. Le Guin, The Sheep Look Up, John Brunner; The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood; The Hollow Man, Dan Simmons, Gun, With Occasional Music, Jonathan Lethem…. I could go on.
How about you? What intriguing titles have made you pick up a book?