EVENTS UV2022 Masterclasses, Part 1

Official prepping for Undiscovered Voices 2022 began with SCBWI’s very first UV masterclass series. In case you missed it, Andrew James has written a report on all three sessions, which focused on different components of your UV submission.


The three sessions were: 

TITLES THAT SELL – Freelance editor Jenny Glencross discussed how to craft a title to capture the attention of readers with Dani Wilson from Simon & Schuster’s Children’s sales team.

WRITING A SYNOPSIS – Author/editor Benjamin Scott shared the secrets of how to summarise a novel into the 75-word synopsis required for each UV submission.

HOOKING YOUR READER FROM THE START – Editor/author Catherine Coe and author/screenwriter Simon James Green discussed how to polish those opening lines so readers are compelled to read on.



Titles are important. They’re usually the first thing an agent, editor, publisher or reader will see. Titles have to work hard to grab attention, hint towards your book’s genre and audience, and entice those reading to keep turning the pages. The right title can make a big difference to sales.

Would you pick up a book called Trimalchio in West Egg? No? But you might pick up The Great Gatsby.

How about a book called First Impressions? You might be surprised to learn that one later became Pride & Prejudice.

Titles do make a difference, so what makes a great one? It needs to be:

  • Something memorable
  • Something that hints at what you’re getting
  • Something that isn’t the same as everything else – you don’t want your title getting mixed up with others

Examples of titles that worked: 

  • The Day the Screens Went Blank – this tells you so much, including the timeframe the story is set in.
  • They Both Die at the End – instantly, you know it’s YA and it gives you the ending, but you buy it hoping it’s not true.
  • A Pinch of Magic – You know what you’re getting – gorgeous MG fantasy. Also the author was able to replicate this throughout the series e.g. A Sprinkle of Sorcery. When it was originally submitted, it was called The Widdershin Sisters, because widdershins means anticlockwise, which was considered to be unlucky. Fortunately, the word widdershins is not so common these days. Would you have picked up a copy of The Widdershin Sisters?

So, how do you pick the right title? Here are a few tips from the pros:

  • Brainstorm key words or phrases that describe the plot, character and theme of your book.
  • Think about setting.
  • Is there a moment or line in the story that encapsulates the essence of your book?
  • Create a list of book titles you love for inspiration.
  • Visit a bookshop.
  • Ask a friend for feedback.

If you’re really stuck, you can study the different types of title conventions and structures:

  • The one word title – Brightstorm, Cogheart, Nevermoor
  • The name + noun title, eg Amelia Fang and the Barbaric Ball, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (though be warned – it can often suggest part of a series, so be sure it’s right for your book)
  • The play on words title, eg Who Let The Gods Out, Murder Most Unladylike
  • The juxtaposition title, eg Dragon Mountain, Dangerous Remedy, Demolition Dad
  • The noun title, eg The Boy at the Back of the Class, The Clockwork Sparrow
  • The list title, eg Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging; Me, My Dad and the End of the Rainbow; Chocolate Mile, X-Ray Specs and Me (usually funny books)

Hot Tip: Google your titles – sometimes there might be strange connections to words in your title that you don’t want attached to your story. If in doubt, have a Google.

But, however attached you get, be prepared for change and suggestions from the professionals you may be working with.

The following blurb is from a book originally called Iron Arthur, but can you guess what it ended up being called?

Twins, Arthur and Maudie receive word in Longtown that their famous explorer father has died in a failed attempt to reach the Southern most point in the world. Not only that, but he’s been accused of stealing fuel before his death. The twins don’t believe the news and they answer an ad to join a new attempt to reach the South Polaris. It’s their only hope of learning the truth and salvaging their family’s reputation.

If you guessed Brightstorm, you’d be right!


The next example came in titled Nuts.

Poor Noah. His father disappeared years ago, his mother’s Beyonce tribute act is an unacceptable embarrassment, and his beloved Gran is no longer herself. His only friend is Harry and school is pure hell. Why can’t Noah be normal like everyone else in school? 

Did you guess it? It’s Simon James Green’s Noah Can’t Even.


So that's UV Masterclass no.1 in a nutshell. Watch out for Parts 2 and 3 in Words & Pictures over the coming weeks.


More info on UV2022 can be found here.


Originally from the Lake District, Andrew James teaches English, Film and Media. He completed his MA in Children’s Literature at Goldsmiths in 2018 and for the past five years he has organised and hosted monthly agent pitch evenings for his local writing group. He has a passionate dislike for anything referred to as an ‘easy peeler.’ Satsumas are the only way to go.


Fran Price is Events Editor for Words & Pictures online magazine. Contact her at

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