Do You Compare Yourself to This Girl?

A couple of days ago, I read an NPR article about the word girl in book titles. The article discussed how publishers promote books by comparing them to other books. While they were talking about the title, comparing books is a tactic authors should consider using when shopping their books around to agents and publishers.

Jane Friedman, Co-Founder and Editor at The Hot Sheet, Columnist at Publishers Weekly and Instructor, Media Studies at University of Virginia, agrees when it comes to comparing your books to other authors in a query letter, “This can be helpful as long as you do it tastefully, and without self-aggrandizement. It’s usually best to compare the work in terms of style, voice, or theme, rather than in terms of sales, success, or quality.”

Back to the topic of titles, however, Goodreads’ list of books with the word girl in the title contains several hundred entries. Here are the top twenty entries:

  1. The Diary of a Young Girl
  2. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  3. The Girl Who Played with Fire
  4. Girl with a Pearl Earring
  5. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest
  6. Girl, Interrupted
  7. The Other Boelyn Girl
  8. Stargirl
  9. Kiss the Girls
  10. The Girl Who Chased the Moon
  11. Gone Girl
  12. Morality for Beautiful Girls
  13. Wintergirls
  14. The Goose Girl
  15. The Welsh Girl
  16. There’s a Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom
  17. The Little Match Girl
  18. Story of a Girl
  19. The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon
  20. Living Dead Girl

As you can see, the list covers a wide range of genres including, but certainly not limited to, cozy mystery, horror, historical fiction, and young adult. The use of ‘girl’ in the title is hardly a new trend (Pioneer Girl, anyone?), so why does it work?

“I have talked to other crime writers that have been urged by various professional people in their life to put the world girl in their title,” Crime novelist Megan Abbott said in the NPR interview. She went on to say the use of ‘girl’ in the title isn’t about the content, but instead is a kind of shorthand letting others know what to expect.

Maybe it’s because, as Cyndi Lauper said, Girls Just Want to Have Fun?

Over the weekend I revamped one of the stories in my largely unpublished short story collection, Haunted Women of the Appalachians, which is still in an editing loop the size of the High Roller Ferris Wheel in Las Vegas, for the WV Writers annual writing contest. The NPR title has me rethinking the story’s title. Maybe I should add “girl” to it and see what happens.

What do you think? I’d love to hear your theories in the comments section, below.


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