Friday, January 13, 2006
Title ScorerBack in my book publishing - and then agenting - days, it was fun sitting around thinking up beefier titles for some of the newly accepted manuscripts.
I never contributed a single winner, but I did sell a somewhat snide piece to the top humor magazine of the time mocking those "Noun modified by Noun" titles. As it happened, those were exactly what was favored by my good friend Elleston Trevor, aka espionovelist Adam Hall, creator of the Quiller canon and such romps as "The Mandarin Cypher", "The Tango Briefing", "The Kobra Manifesto" and that ilk.
I never dared tell him but years later he wrote from his Arizona home that he'd finally caught up with it and jolly funny it was, too, and why hadn't I sent it to him at the time?
Here for readers who write to me for this or that literary advice is Lulu.com's tongue-in-cheek Title Scorer, and lots of fun it is, too.
Could have done with it during our Hong Kong literary agenting days when we'd have local scribblers turning up on our Stanley doorstep with fat typescripts with turgid titles like "When Amahs Traveled Steerage" or "Turn Left for Luen Wo" or one rather good one, "Hand Signals Not Required", whatever that means.
I think it was JM Barrie who was handed a manuscript by some excited young thing and asked for a title suggestion.
"Tell me," asked JM, "does it feature much percussion? Timpani, perchance?"
"Oh no, Mr Barrie, it's not that sort of story at all."
"In that case, may I suggest 'No Drums, No Trumpets'?".
Such a great title, I almost sat down and wrote my own story under that banner.
I tested a few of my own titles under construction to check their chances of success:
- "Tawdry" Ølsen and the Rustled Resumé - 10.2%
- Posters, Pols and Posturing - Confessions of a Peddy Phile - 35.9%
- I was Peddy's Valet - 20.1%
- "Buzz" Paulson, E-sleuth of the Upper Sixth - 63.7%, by God.
- Peddy's Pamphlets of Peril - 14.6% (I knew they'd be a let-down disappointment)
- The Bainbridge Discrepancy - A "Buzz" Paulson thriller - 63.7% (Again! That Paulson woman certainly has the Midas touch).
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