Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like

Counting magpies … and queries

My agent search continues, and I’m rapidly approaching my target query number of 100. Pretty clear that I’ll have to exceed it. I’m just not sure how many more agents I can find who are interested in literary fiction.

Somewhere in there, maybe around the 70th query, I decided to make a title change to the book. Let’s see what you think. Originally I called it We Were Together, which, for a dysfunctional family story carries a lot of irony. During the period depicted in the book, this family was anything but together, though they were all crammed into this peculiar house perched on a viaduct. Together in just the one sense.

Then I read something about appealing book titles and started brainstorming. It didn’t seem like We Were Together would cut it anymore.

In my brainstorming, I stumbled on a nursery rhyme that spit a phrase out at me that was custom-made for the book. It’s a little ditty about counting magpies, or in this case crows, since crows figure in the story in a symbolic way. Maybe you’ve heard of the nursery rhyme; it’s called “One For Sorrow.”

Which itself is a pretty good title, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s already been used for a book. A little depressing, though. (And take it from me, since my last name means “sorrow,” you might recall.) Anyway. The line that popped out at me was “three for a girl,” and that works so well for the book I had to sit there for a minute and let it perc.

See, there are a lot of threes in the book, including three rather predatory men as well as three girls. My narrator could be the girl of the title, but so could her younger sister or her mother. And looming behind the line is that sorrow idea, which is ever-present in the story, even though there are plenty of humorous moments too. And there are crows, which seem to accompany this family as a kind of taunting element.

I also read that having the word “girl” in a title is often good for a book.

I’ve done 27 queries so far with the new title, with no noticeable difference in response yet. Then again, I’m just now starting to get rejections from my July queries, so it could take a little time. By the way, there’s almost no ideal season to send out queries, I’ve learned over the years. Summer is dead, October is the Frankfurt Book Fair, then come the holidays, and in the spring is BEA. I landed my Parts Unknown agent in early spring, a few weeks before BEA, so I think the timing was a fluke. You just never know.

Onward, right? Cross your fingers for Three for a Girl.

[Image via Pixabay.]

9 comments on “Counting magpies … and queries

  1. islandeditions
    November 1, 2017

    I like your reasoning on choosing that new title. And it is a better title, too.

    • Kevin Brennan
      November 1, 2017

      Thank you! I’m hoping it makes a difference in these queries.

  2. Priscilla
    November 1, 2017

    I like the new title. Seems like it was meant to be. Good luck with your continued agent search!

    • Kevin Brennan
      November 1, 2017

      Thanks, Priscilla. I think this title would be great for the movie version too! 😉

  3. Carrie Rubin
    November 1, 2017

    I think it’s a great title!

  4. Audrey Driscoll
    November 1, 2017

    I admire your persistence, Kevin. Good luck!

    • Kevin Brennan
      November 1, 2017

      I guess I’m at that point where I go, “What have I got to lose?” 😉

  5. John W. Howell
    November 1, 2017

    Press on Pilgrim.

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This entry was posted on November 1, 2017 by in Publishing, Writing and tagged , .
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