Monday, January 24, 2011

Fun with the Lulu Title Scorer

If you’ve never checked out the Lulu Title Scorer, it’s a lot of fun. You type in the title of your book, and then answer some questions about it (the title), such as whether it’s figurative or literal. You select its grammar structure from a drop down list, as well as the parts of speech of the first and second words.

Lulu commissioned statisticians to study the titles of 50 years’ worth of bestsellers. They identified the attributes, at least as far as titles go, that separate bestsellers from other books. They compared these titles with those of a control group of less successful novels by the same authors.

I typed in the title of the first manuscript I ever wrote: Winds of Saint Domingue … and discovered it has a 59% chance of being a bestselling title. Whoop-dee-do. I typed in the title of my first Young Adult manuscript: Star-Spangled Bikini. It has a 69% chance. (I need to revise that baby, soon as I'm done revising my current WIP.)    ; )  

The original working title for my current WIP was When I Fall, but then Lauren Oliver came out with the fabulous Before I Fall. (Too similar??)

I typed in a couple of new possibilities:

5 Reasons to be Unhappy = 26%.
3500 Reasons to be Happy = 26%.

What about: 3500 Reasons to be Unhappy? or 5 Reasons to be Happy?
Obviously, it's the same, and I'm not going with any variation of those titles.
I typed in my second original working title for the manuscript, which has become my default title: Sunshine Girl = 69%. Much better!

If you haven’t discovered the Lulu title scorer, go have some fun with it.
What are your working titles? Have you scored them? What kind of scores did they get?

Monday, January 03, 2011

Scholastic Names Trends in Children's Books for 2010

Scholastic recently came out with a list of trends in Children's Books for 2010, based on sales of books by all children's publishers, through Scholastic's school book clubs and book fairs. Here are the results, as pertaining to the Middle Grade and Young Adult market:

1. The expanding Young Adult audience
2. The year of dystopian fiction
3. Mythology-based fantasy (Percy Jackson followed by series like The Kane Chronicles, Lost Heroes of Olympus and Goddess Girls)
4. Multimedia series (The 39 Clues, Skeleton Creek, The Search for WondLa)
5. A focus on popular characters - from all media
6. The return to humor
7. The rise of the diary and journal format (The Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Dear Dumb Diary, Dork Diaries, The Popularity Papers, and Big Nate)
8. Special-needs protagonists
9. Paranormal romance beyond vampires (Linger, Beautiful Creatures, Immortal, and Prophesy of the Sisters)

I recently incorporated a couple items on the list--use of a journal, and a paranormal element--to the manuscript I'm revising. The results have surprised and delighted me.

The manuscript isn't written journal format. Rather, I'm incorporating a specialized journal, more like an object, that moves through the story and enables the main character's internal conflict to be visible. It was a Eureka! Moment when I thought of it.

The ghost element is newer, and one that I think will work, but am not entirely sure yet. The ghost also mirrors the protagonist's internal conflict, but more specifically as Crystal's egoic addiction. Whenever she makes an attempt to change or transform, the ego shows up--the ghost--which Crystal is finally powerful enough to overcome in the end.

If you're writing for the Middle Grade or Young Adult market, do you see your manuscript fitting somewhere in these trends? Do you write with an eye for popularity and sales? Are you more interested in literary quality and possibly awards? Or are you interested in a little of both?

I lean toward literary. Over the past couple of years, critique partners have compared my voice and style to Laurie Halse Anderson and Karen Cushman. Should I one day find myself in their company, I would be deeply, deeply honored.

What is your writing style? I'd love to hear from you!
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