Titling, and DGLM’s first contest!

by Lauren

The Ghostbusters theme has been ringing through my head this morning, because of a charmingly named article I’ve been corresponding about written by one of the agency’s clients. I’ve had “Paperback Writer” stuck in my head for days because of my own foolish blog post title from Friday. And I was once tormented for months by two projects I had on submission at the same time that had song lyrics as working titles.

Titles can certainly stick with us, especially when they’re allusions to something else. In college I took a class on literature of the “transition” with a professor who was fond of irrelevant tangents, so I often entertained myself by picking out book titles from the poetry course pack. WB Yeats’s “The Second Coming” alone is owed a debt of gratitude from the classics Things Fall Apart and Slouching Towards Bethlehem, and if you search the poem’s key phrases you can find a surprising number of others. WWI era poetry has also provided authors quite a bit of inspiration.

And beyond songs and poetry, puns and movie titles provide a treasure trove of opportunities for books, especially series fiction. Our own Victoria Laurie’s two mystery series are a perfect example.

Unfortunately, titling books is often much, much harder than just coming up with something to reference. As agents, we often have a hand in helping to come up with great titles for our books—and brainstorming lists of options for each others’ clients can be both a fun and trying experience. Recently, after hundreds of choices were suggested and nixed for a particular book, I decided to consult the internet for help and stumbled upon a great and also hysterical tool for authors: author MD Benoit’s Random Title Generator (note: there are words that might offend some, so use with caution). We actually found a handful of really good titles—though none quite right for the book—and some that were so delightfully unfortunate we had to share those with each other, too. Click on over to the title generator and get yourself a new title for your masterpiece or a working title so atrocious it’ll help lighten the mood whenever you get frustrated with writers’ block.

But we think that you, our faithful blog readers, can do better than a random word combiner. So come up with the best bad fake book title you can and leave it in the comments—bonus points for giving us a logline or subtitle to give us context. We’ll take entries until the end of the day on Friday, select our favorites as finalists, and let you fine folks pick the winner here on the blog. Winner gets a shiny new DGLM water bottle!

42 Responses to Titling, and DGLM’s first contest!

  1. The Voice says:

    Here's my title-'Toe Jams and Other Preservatives. Ten Steps to Curing Your Athlete's Foot Problem.

  2. Jess @ Unsearchable Riches says:

    I love coming up with titles from poetry and old works. So much inspiration!

    Of course, now that there's a water bottle on the line, I can't think of a thing. Well, there's always this old standby:

    The Broccoli Stalks At Midnight: The memoir of one vegetarian's nighttime exploits to free her neighbor's beef cows.

    Or, there's always:

    Where's Waldo's Body? A Mafia picture book

  3. Larissa says:

    Pissing in the Wind – An Aspiring Writer's Tale of Craft, Rejection, and Chasing the Muse

  4. ClothDragon says:

    Title Goes Here

    When hopes and dreams aren't enough.

    (Wow, that's so open, I almost want to try to write it.)

  5. D. Antone says:

    What a great idea!

    What Was the Name of That Book? Everything known and forgotten about Alzheimer's disease.

  6. fatcaster says:

    'In A Nutshell — A Squirrel's Life'

    A tree-dweller hits the ground running, learns that things fall apart, and, full of passionate intensity, finds love–where the quiet-coloured end of evening smiles–among the ruins.

    Apologies to Yeats, Robert Browning, and a few others.

  7. Elizabeth Lynd says:

    Following the trend started by Amy Tan (?):

    The Janitor's Common-Law Wife

    (I have pages if you want the partial.)

  8. Kristin Laughtin says:

    This was an exercise in terrible writing that a friend and I did a few years ago (hey, writing bad intentionally makes you that much more cautious of making those mistakes in your serious/good writing):


    A sweeping fantasy saga of men, dragons, and struggles with ambiguous morality. And temple maidens. Really hot temple maidens.

  9. storm-grant says:


    One author's quixotic quest to find a truly great title for her book about alternative power sources.

  10. Jen Weingardt says:

    Here Today, Gone Tonight: Chronology of Alien Abductions

  11. Scott Martelle says:

    "Tweet Jesus: Bible Passages for the Twitter Age"

  12. Yat-Yee says:

    *Too busy chuckling to be creative*

    MY fav: Pissing in the Wind

  13. Gilbert J. Avila says:

    "Paper Back Writer"–"It's based on a novel by a man named Lear." He's basing his novel on another writer's novel? That's as absurd as Dmitri Gat's "Nevsky's Demon," which was a line-for-line paraphrase of John D. McDonald's "The Dreadful Lemon Sky." (Gat said that "he didn't you couldn't do that." LOL

  14. Masonian says:

    Oh, fun! Let's see, the worst titles to me are those that contain words that just don't summon good imagery (like "blubber"), or titles that attempt too much melodrama for a mediocre subject.
    Here are my attempts to win the coveted water-bottle…

    Slugs in the Mist: My Year With the Gastropods

    The Silty Mudflats of My Soul: One Woman's Journey Out of Depression and into Estuary Botany.

    The Blubbery Terror: A Sequel to Moby Dick

    Yellow Gold That Also, Like, Glitters: Keeping the Wealth You've Married Into, A Legal Guide.

  15. Gilbert J. Avila says:

    Male to Female–The Adventure of My Phantom Limb

    Options on Reality—Why I Let Mine Expire

    Ventriloquism for Dummies

    The Moon and Ha'pence, For Whom the Drum Beats, and Other Titles that Just Missed

  16. Anonymous says:

    'Call Me Izmel': My Secret Life as a Mohel inside the CIA.

  17. Jude Hardin says:

    Esoteric Celibacy

    A book about not getting it.

  18. MaryWitzl says:

    I came here with ideas, saw Scott Martelle's 'Tweet Jesus' and almost gave up. I can't top that. Loved Jude's title (just above this one), but why not 'Confused Esoteric Celibacy' with the same byline. Double pun that way.

  19. Bonnie Staring says:

    The Good, the Bad and the Fugly: Blondie's back — and this time he's brought his bored granddaughter along.

  20. Dave and Cheryl says:


  21. Robert Kent, of Robertkent.net fame says:

    ATLAS HUGGED: A Guide to Encouraging Charity in Your Community

  22. Robert Kent, of Robertkent.net fame says:

    Also, regardless of genre, I always title my work in progress “DESTINY TAKES A LOVER.” That way, no matter what title I come up with later, it will be better than what I started with.

  23. Gilbert J. Avila says:

    Hard to match Oscar Levant's "Memoirs of an Amnesiac."

  24. Redleg says:

    Bishop in the Church of Awesome: A Memoir

  25. Brenda says:

    Fast and Spurious – The art of communication in the 21st century

  26. Kim Batchelor says:

    Muffy's Muffled Cries: Six hours, One Head, One Jar

    The Warhol Code at Twilight: Dracula's Search for 15 Minutes of Fame in a World of Third-Rate Vampires

    The Souls of Ferrets: What the "Weasel War Dance" Taught Me About Life

    (If I could vote for a previous submitter: definitely like "Tweet Jesus."

  27. Bryan B. says:

    Oh, why not.

    Where the Wild Things Aren't: Global Warming for Children

  28. Portia says:

    These are great! Here's mine:

    Head Over Heals
    A lover's guide to therapeutic sex positions

  29. annerallen says:

    This is the title of an actual manuscript submitted to my publisher when I was reading slush: "A Passing Wind."

  30. jmartinlibrary says:

    A CONFEDERACY OF BUTTONS: An Amish Techno-Thriller.

  31. Sara Tribble says:

    LOL! I seriously love this! I have no choice but to enter mine!

    Title: Free-Bird Drunk

    Logline: No underwear can contain this man when he's drinking.

  32. Linda Godfrey says:

    The Amorphous and Vacuum-Hose-like Aliens of the Moons of the Planet Flatula

    Intrepid space-faring Earthlings get sucked into danger far greater than Will Robinson's robot ever conceived of.

  33. mpeters5 says:

    The Zit Princess, How I Came to Lose an Eyebrow, and Other Tales of Self-Loathing

    A compilation of shorts including My African Name is Bloatitia (tales of woe for that time of the month), Typing Tourettes (when your finger spazzes and you hit "send" before you're done), and many more…

  34. ginamac says:


    A Nudist's Guide To Navigating The Changes In
    Airport Security

  35. dfmil09 says:

    THAT SUCKS! and other top phrases used by vampires today.

  36. Wendy Sparrow says:

    Training Darwin

    A Dystopian Novel about the effects of Viral Gene Therapy

  37. Wendy Sparrow says:

    Okay, so mine wasn't bad per se. It was based on a news article that scared the crap out of me.

  38. Amanda J. says:

    I'm laughing too hard to come up with my own. You guys are hilarious!

  39. Anonymous says:

    -Crack is Whack!-

    The Carpenters Guide to Perfection

  40. Emily C. says:

    Looks Like Gatorade, Tastes Like Banana:
    Memoirs of an Anorexic

  41. Masonian says:

    is it bad that I'm still chuckling over the real title from annerallen's slushpile? "A Passing Wind" bwaaahahaaa.

  42. Cyelii says:

    Thanks for shanrig. Always good to find a real expert.

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