Catch an Editor’s Attention

Can dog food help you sell your work?

A friend told me that Walmart’s dog food was once called plain old Walmart Dog Food. Equal in content to most, it was passed over by consumers. Then Walmart’s marketing folks got smart. They retitled it, Ol’ Roy, after Sam Walton’s favorite dog. Ol’ Roy is now America’s most popular dog food.

The content didn’t change. What drew new customer interest? The title. Here’s how you can use this principle to sell your work to the editor, then interest the reader in spending time with your piece.

Offer to meet a need

I’ll bet the title of this article caught your attention. Why? Getting an editor’s attention is important to you. Other effective titles I’ve read recently include Healthier, Fitter, Faster, and Butt Out (stopping smoking).

Provoke emotion

Ol’ Roy recalls our best-loved moments with our own pets, lends a feeling of humility, evokes loyalty. Titles such as Jane Orcutt’s Lullaby or Deborah Raney’s A Vow to Cherish induce emotion.

Play a cliché

This is one place where cliché is okay. Why? It’s shorthand between you and your reader for common experiences. Kristin Billerbeck’s Calm, Cool, and Adjusted is about a chiropractor. I used the title To Die For in my novel about Anne Boleyn, a play on words and a resonant cliché.

Make Me Smile

One study states that adults laugh, on average, only six times per day. Promise me a light moment, and I’m likely to read. Patsy Clairmont’s books, God Uses Cracked Pots, and Normal is Just a Setting on Your Dryer are two good examples.

Hint at the Topic

I read an article with the title, Virtuous Reality. In two words, I knew what it was about: standing firm against digital porn.

Just like Walmart learned with Ol’ Roy’s kibble, your title is the first chance you have to draw in a potential editor and then engage your reader – no bones about it.