I subscribe to Publishers Marketplace cause I like to see what deals are going down in publishing land. Every so often an announced book sounds awesome. This one recently caught my eye:
CHILDREN’S: YOUNG ADULT
Michael Printz Honor winner Marilyn Nelson’s CONJOINED TWINS, the story of Millie/Christine McCoy, a 19th century African-American conjoined twin stolen at birth and sold into slavery to a showman, who became fluent in five languages and as an accomplished pianist became known as “The Two-Headed Nightingale,” performing with the Barnum circus, and a narrative about Seneca Village, a significant community of African American property owners in 19th century Manhattan, whose homes and identity were erased with the creation of Central Park, to Lauri Hornik at Dial, by Regina Brooks of Serendipity Literary Agency.
Doesn’t that sound like a fabulous book? I can’t wait to read it. Seriously I want to read it RIGHT NOW. That’s one of the most intriguing books descriptions I’ve seen in ages. And like I said I read Publishers Marketplace pretty much every day.
I do, however, have issues with the title: Conjoined Twins? That’s yawn-inspiring. It sounds like the title of a medical text book, not an historical novel. Here’s hoping it’s just a place holder and they’ll come up with something amazing.
As a general rule I like my novels to have intriguing titles. Samuel R. Delany’s Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand is one of my favourites. As soon as I heard the title of Carrie Ryan’s debut novel, Forest of Hands and Teeth, I knew I had to read it. (And it’s every bit as good as it’s title. But you’ll have to wait. Not out till next year.)
But that’s novels. Non-fiction should have descriptive titles like, well, Conjoined Twins. When you’re searching the shelves of Modern American History for books about the Depression, titles like A Time of Burning or A Witch, Her Dog and the Bats of Hell are the opposite of helpful.1 They could be about ANYTHING. Why not call your book, I don’t know, The Great Depression or America in the 1930s or The Life of FDR or something else that will let people know what your
stupid erudite book is about?
Heh hem. I have become overheated. To sum up: Fancy names for novels are fine, just try to avoid the boringly descriptive unless it’s someone’s name or is funny.2 Actually novels can get away with lots of different titling strategies. Non-fiction must be more careful. Boringly descriptive is PERFECT for your non-fiction tomes. Non-fiction writers, you must avoid AT ALL COSTS the urge to get fancy!
That is all.