Can I submit with a working title?

by Ann Cassowary
(Adelaide, Australia)

Question Pretty much what it sounds like... I'm in the middle of drafting a submission to an agent and realised that I'm not sure if the title I've chosen is the best for the work.


I've spent a long time trying to choose a good title, and even though my current one resounds with the subject matter and overall themes, it might contain vocabulary too complex for the target age group (I'm writing for children).

Do you think it's okay to put "working title" in brackets or something, and acknowledge that I'd like to find a more age-appropriate title? Or does this just come off as unprofessional?

Thanks in advance.

Answer: Any title you submit is essentially a working title, since the publisher's marketing department usually has the last word on titles and will very often come up with a new title for your book on its own.

That said, you can often do a better job since (one hopes) you know your book better. You may know your ideal reader better too. So you should try to come up with a good title on your own to use in a submission.

Think of the title as a marketing tool, much like the query letter. A good title should show the agent or editor that you understand how to appeal to your ideal reader and give them some hint of what kind of a read they are in for, perhaps by capturing the tone of the book, or a major theme.

For instance, you might think about how bestselling titles like, A Series of Unfortunate Events, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Harriet the Spy or Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets hint at what's in store for their readers.

A polysyllabic word in a title is not necessarily a problem for middle-grade readers if it stimulates their imagination or sense of humour. But one is probably enough.

If you're in doubt, you might take your top two or three candidates and ask some children which one sounds like a book they would want to read.

Comments for Can I submit with a working title?

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Nov 30, 2014
Thank you
by: Jacob

Great question and answer. Thank you both.

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