Guest-Blog Fail (a Nathan Bransford Rejection)

Valentine candy hearts with negative phrases

Molly had her commencement ceremony last night, peeps, so I’ve been a tad preoccupied. To that end, I’m revisiting a blog post which will be new to most of you, though it ran last July. It makes me laugh for two reasons: First, I had no clue about how guest blogging worked; I thought I was to submit a post the site’s original author would claim as their own.   

Second, I’m a little dizzy about the cheekiness I displayed at the time. Hee. Don’t ask me where it comes from; I just obey. 😉 


A lot of you in the writing community will know that agent-extraordinaire Nathan Bransford is on holiday this week. Before he left, in a move that soundly placed him in the category “nice + savvy”, he had a brief competition to choose guest hosts for his blog. The results? More than 250 entries in less than 30 hours, and 5 super winnahs

Alas, I was not one of them, which was probably just as well. I don’t know what my poor, modest site would have done with the kind of traffic he’d generate. 

But rather than waste my work, here is my proposed entry, verbatim. 


Dear Mr. Bransford: Thank you for this opportunity and I hope your vacation is an enjoyable/purposeful one. My proposed post is as follows: 

A Post for the Titularly-Challenged:  

Today’s subject is not about the intricacies of the British caste system. (Although if you’re sending me a manuscript set in Regency England, you damn well better be able to separate your earls from your barons — without a crowbar, if you know what I mean.) 

No, this post is about creating titles that will practically bounce your book right off the shelf and into the readers’ arms. 

I can hear some of you protesting now. “Why spend so much time on a few little words, Nathan? I suck at titles, Nathan. It’ll only be changed eleventy-three times by the marketing people anyway, Nathan.” 

Trust me, people: moniker’s matter. Particularly if yours is so outstandingly blah that I’ve finished the first line of your query and my finger’s already hovering over the delete button. Do you honestly believe any reader will be one smidgen of a jot kinder? 

I didn’t think so. 

That established, let’s take a moment to examine what a stellar title can do: 

  • Orient the reader to the “who, what, where, when, why, or how” of the manuscript
  • Create micro-tension by raising a story question
  • Display voice*
  • Endear you to the cover art people by instantaneously evoking an image

A good title will perform one or more of the above. A great title will achieve them all. 

Here are some of my personal favorites: 

  • Californication
  • A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
  • Children of a Lesser God
  • Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
  • Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
  • The Lost Recipe for Happiness
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
  • The Forest of Hands and Teeth
  • Lord of the Flies
  • To Kill a Mockingbird
  • You Suck: a Love Story
  • Crouching Vampire, Hidden Fang

How about you? What are your favorite titles, and why do they work so well? 

*As with all other things literary, a captivating voice in a title can make up for an otherwise pedantic subject. 

So now that I’ve shared, I have three questions for the Tartitude readership: 

  1. Didn’t I do an awesome job of mimicking NB’s voice?
  2. Am I on the money, with respect to what makes a title work?
  3. What titles have caused you to rubber-neck in the bookstore?

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5 thoughts on “Guest-Blog Fail (a Nathan Bransford Rejection)

  1. Oh, Jan! This cracked me up all over the place, the very least of which was you thinking you had to imitate Nathan Bransford. (Also the stray apostrophe in “moniker’s matter” made me giggle, which is just mean so I’m confessing to it.) Overall, you know, GOOD FOR YOU for having the literary balls to apply for such a thing. I’m not sure I would have myself.

    On-topic, though? I love those titles and have most of them on my shelves now. I’m such a snot about titles that if one is really, really bad it may well cause me not to even pick a book up in the first place. So, in my mind, it needs to either be outstanding or at least plain enough that I can’t mock it outright. Some of my personal faves (not counting the ones you’ve already listed above):
    How Stella Got Her Groove Back
    Good in Bed
    Farenheit 451
    Welcome to Temptation
    Maximum Bob
    All titles which cause me to take a second look, maybe laugh a little, and open the cover to start reading. Which is what a title is supposed to do, right? Get the book in hands and GO!

  2. Doh! Beki, LMAO, I didn’t even see that stray apostrophe. And it will have to stay now just so y’all can continue to feel superior to me, even if you aren’t. 😉

    Some fabulous titles there indeed, many of which I’ve read or own. The one I’m now going to google, though, is “Maximum Bob”. It would be an awesome title even without the modern connotations.

  3. I love you Tart, though you are a complete and utter whack job!!! 😉 Ha, ha! Silly girl!

    Book that caught my attention: Pride, Prejudice and Zombies. Not so much the title, but the cover. It shocked me in a good way and I double-backed to see what the heck it was. Sadly, I still have not read it! Maybe if I were a zombie I’d have more time to read, when I’m not eating brain matter of course! 🙂

    For the record: I hear brain matter tastes better than natural peanut butter…just saying.

    xoxo — Hilary

  4. I know. I’m such a dork, aren’t I? LOL.

    We’ll have to settle the natural peanut butter versus hydrogenated argument in person, through insanely rigorous means.

    Howsabout a thumb fight?

    PS: Yes, the cover for “P, P, and Z” was great. Have you seen the “Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters” cover?

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