Thursday, August 29, 2013

Titles are hard--a post by Gemma

It’s a well-known fact (within TBA and on Twitter) that I’m not very good at coming up with book titles! But why do I have to be, you ask? Surely my clients come to me with manuscripts with perfect titles....

Well, in the ideal world the answer to that would be, “Yes, of course they do!” But sometimes we might need an overarching series title, or perhaps book 3 needs a title and the author is stuck after coming up with fabulous titles for books 1 and 2. Or perhaps the author has come up with a title and not realised it’s already being used for another book.

When a client is stuck, my job is to help brainstorm, and often within Team Cooper we all get involved in this. Sometimes you need others to help you, as you can be too close to your manuscript, or too in love with your original title to see the best way forward.

So, how to start brainstorming? Lots of people have systems for this, and mine isn’t that different. The first thing I suggest is coming up with a list of words that feature in or sum up the book. These are best if they are just stream-of-consciousness thoughts and don’t rule anything out. It might be helpful to do this while reading the book with a highlighter, or pick out key words from the pitch. No words are bad at this stage!

Put this list aside for a couple of days, and then when you go back and look at it, look for any words that would work as a single-word title. Some of my favourite books have single word titles:

•    ONCE by Morris Gleitzman (and the sequels THEN, AFTER, NOW)
•    HOLES by Louis Sachar
•    BUTTER by Erin Jade Lange
•    WONDER by R.J. Palacio
•    ELSEWHERE by Gabrielle Levin

...and many more. A good single-word title seems so easy and a perfect fit, but I’m sure the authors sweated over these at the time!

But maybe you don’t feel a single-word title is right for your book. There’s been a recent trend to move away from these – so look back at your list of words and see if any two words would make a good title with an ‘and’ in between them. For example:

•    LIAR AND SPY by Rebecca Stead
•    PRIDE AND PREJUDICE by Jane Austen
•    MONSTER AND CHIPS by David O’Connell

Next, look at your list and see if you can make any snappy phrases with any of the words. Perhaps try a three-part title. One of my favourites is THE EARTH, MY BUTT AND OTHER BIG ROUND THINGS by Carolyn Mackler.

You can also take a line or phrase from the book and make that your title. As I reader, I love to find these in the narrative.

•    HOW I LIVE NOW by Meg Rosoff

Or like the saying goes, get a title that says exactly what it does on the tin! Think about your book and your elevator pitch, “it’s a book about....

•    A BOY AND A BEAR IN A BOAT by Dave Shelton

Another idea is to play with a familiar title and give it your own spin. The famous title HOW TO WIN FRIENDS AND INFLUENCE PEOPLE, has been parodied many times. The one that springs to mind is HOW TO LOSE FRIENDS AND ALIENATE PEOPLE by Toby Young. A new book that I love the sound of from Soho TEEN, is DANCER, DAUGHTER, TRAITOR, SPY by Elizabeth Kiem, a take on TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY. And of course, my very own Mo O’Hara with MY BIG FAT ZOMBIE GOLDFISH, because we all remember a certain Greek wedding movie!

Other title formats often used and some examples:

•    The X of Main Character -- THE EVOLUTION OF CALPURNIA TATE by Jacqueline Kelly, THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET by Brian Selznick

•    Main Character’s Guide to Something -- LIA’S GUIDE TO WINNING THE LOTTERY by Keren David

•    How to Something and Something  (see above)

•    Main Character and the Something -- my very own, EMILY SPARKES AND THE FRIENDSHIP FIASCO by Ruth Fitzgerald and, of course, HARRY POTTER AND THE... etc.

•    Something Versus Something Else -- THE UNIVERSE VERSES ALEX WOODS by Gavin Extence.

And of course there are many other great titles that don’t fit into these and work wonderfully for their books.

This blog post was written by looking up at the bookshelves in my office, and I’d advise going into your local bookstore as a great way to get inspiration for titles. Look at books similar to yours. Would your title fit on the shelves? Is it different enough, but not too out there?

Titles get changed all the time. It might be that another author has a book with a similar title coming out exactly the same time as yours, or that your title doesn’t fit with your publisher’s marketing ideas, or that it made sense in your head, but doesn’t say a lot about the book when standing alone.

A cracking title that fits a book perfectly may have been sweated over and taken months to get right, or it may have been the first thing the author thought of! My advice is not to overthink your title, and be open to changing it. Better when submitting to agents that you've written a great book, rather than to just have a great title.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Successful Schmoozing with Agents at Conferences--a post by Jenny

Say you are an author looking for a literary agent and you go to a conference.  And there are literary agents at this conference, perhaps even literary agents that you are interested in representing your work. How can you best maximize this opportunity? I'll talk you through a few steps.

  1.  Prepare, prepare, prepare. Before you go to the conference, really research all the agents who will also be there. Check out their websites, their page on Publisher's Marketplace, their recent deals. Get to know their client lists. Is there a client they represent who writes books that are similar to yours? Or a client that they have who you particularly admire? Make a mental note of it. Check out their twitter feeds. Do they like candy (hmmm, wonder who that could be)? Dogs?   Jogging? Keep it in mind. It's not stalking, it's PREPARING.  
  2. If you have a pitch session with the agent, begin it by showing you have a familiarity with their list. Say something like, "I'm so glad I'm sitting down with you.  I know you represent so-and-so and I really love their work." It may feel like sucking up, but the agent will really appreciate that you did your homework. 
  3. If you meet the agent at the bar, or at a meal, or outside having a cigarette (I don't smoke anymore, but when I did, it was a great way to chat informally with writers), don't automatically start pitching. Have a fun, social chat. Agents are people too, and we like just hanging out at conferences, meeting people informally, basically just chilling out and having a little break from the work stuff. Most of the time, the agent will eventually ask YOU what you write so you don't have to pitch them first.   
  4. While you shouldn't pitch the agent in an informal setting, you should definitely demonstrate that you know what they rep. That's probably the best way to get them to ask you what you're working on. It's the same as when you pitch--just say, "oh, it's so nice to meet you, I love your list, particularly the work of X writer." Something casual like that.
  5. If the agent's panel or workshop at the conference was useful to you, don't hesitate to tell them.   Again, if it's genuine, it's not sucking up. We work really hard on our presentations, etc., and we love hearing that it was helpful for you.
  6. Volunteer to help at the conference. Pick up an agent at the airport, for instance.  It's another great way to meet them informally and I know a surprising amount of agents/editors who met clients that way.  
  7. Relax and be yourself. I know the stakes are high, I know this is a really big deal, and believe me, I get that this whole thing is stressful. But truthfully, as I said above, we are just folks, and conferences often make us nervous too. Most people in the publishing industry are introverts just like most writers are introverts and conferences can be hard just in the sense that there are so many PEOPLE around. We welcome the chance to meet a friendly person and just have a casual chat. 
  8. And finally, I do hear a lot about agents being snobby or whatever when they meet authors at conferences. I have only this to say--often shyness can come across as snobbery.   One of the kindest, most special agents I ever knew was painfully shy and I think a lot of people thought she was unfriendly. Not!  She just took a while to warm up to people. So it could be a case of that--again, most people in publishing really are natural introverts. Or maybe the agent is just a jerk.   In that case, it's probably not a good fit and chalk it up to a learning experience. But again, conferences are stressful for everyone, so take every experience with a grain of salt.  

Okay, that's it for today.  Good luck and hopefully I'll see you at an awesome writer's conference soon!


P.S. And check out our links to the conferences we'll be attending on the lower right hand corner of this blog!  

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

TBA is looking for a new intern!

We are once again looking for a remote (unpaid) intern, someone who has eclectic reading tastes and is well-versed in the following genres: romance, mystery, suspense, historical fiction and thrillers. We are looking for someone who likes to read YA, New Adult as well as adult- a true generalist! Applicants must be familiar with current digitally released titles.

You do not need to have any kind of publishing experience or even publishing aspirations. We are just looking for people who love books and love to read.  You do not need to live in New York, this is a remote internship.  Please note that it is unpaid.

If you'd like to apply, please send an e-mail to and put "remote intern" in the subject line. Tell us why you want the internship, attach a resume if you have one although it's not essential, and list the last ten books you read and your ten favorite books.

If you have applied in the past you are more than welcome to apply again.

We ask for at least a 10 hour a week time commitment.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Deal Announcement: Two Book Deal for Lynn Weingarten

I'm so thrilled to announce a new two-book deal for Lynn Weingarten for a YA thriller called SUICIDE NOTES FROM BEAUTIFUL GIRLS.   The book sold at auction to Simon and Schuster in the US and in the UK, also at auction, to Egmont/Electric Monkey (via our wonderful co-agent Nicola Barr at Greene & Heaton).    Lynn may hold the record on my client list for fastest offer of representation--if you can believe it, two hours from when she first emailed me about her project (which was based on a proposal, so it was a fast read). 

Please join me in congratulating Lynn on twitter, she is an awesome person and a great writer and I'm thrilled to have her on the TBA list:  @lynnweingarten

And here's the announcement from Publisher's Marketplace: 

Lynn Weingarten's SUICIDE NOTES FROM BEAUTIFUL GIRLS, pitched as Gone Girl meets Thirteen Reasons Why, a girl has barely had time to mourn the suicide of her best friend, before the friend's ex-boyfriend convinces her she was murdered, and the girl is swept into a tangle of lies, deceit, and conspiracy, to Liesa Abrams at Simon Pulse, in a good deal, at auction, in a two-book deal, for publication in Spring 2015, by Jenny Bent at The Bent Agency, and to Stella Paskins at Electric Monkey in the UK, by Nicola Barr at Greene & Heaton, at auction.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Susan Closed to Queries August 19th to September 23rd

I'm closing to queries from Monday, August 19th through Monday, September 23rd.  This will give me a chance to get completely caught up on my reading.

Queries that I receive during this time will get an automatic reply, with a reminder of this information.  I won't read any queries that come in during this period, and you are welcome to re-send your query when I re-open.  Can't wait to see what comes in on the 24th!

-- Susan

Friday, August 9, 2013

Deal Announcement: Subsidiary Rights Sales

Congratulations to the following Bent Agency clients on their subsidiary rights sales:

Sandra Hill's THE PIRATE BRIDE sold in Holland to Audax

Victoria Van Tiem's LOVE LIKE THE MOVIES sold in Italy to Fanucci

Lori Roy's UNTIL SHE COMES HOME sold in France to Le Masque/Hachette

AG Howard's UNHINGED sold in Spain to Oz Editorial

Jan Moran's A PROMISE OF ROSES sold in Turkey to Beyaz Balina

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Query Letter AMA with Jenny is now closed for questions. Thanks to all who participated!

Hello everyone.  Just finished a great weekend at the SCBWI conference in Los Angeles.   I ran out of time at my query letter workshop so promised to do a query letter AMA (which stands for Ask Me Anything, if you're not familiar with the term) on the blog.   I'll answer the first 25 questions (from the first 25 people who ask, to be fair to everyone)  on query letters in the comments section--maybe more if I have time (and if I even get that many).  Please ask ONLY ONE QUESTION at a time.  I won't respond to comments with more than one question.    Fire away!


P.S. Even if you didn't attend SCBWI, feel free to ask a question!