Pub Rants

Title Tales

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STATUS: So far I’ve spent all day reading—a full manuscript I requested and then a client work. Only one more day until we officially close so I’ll probably be reading late into the evening.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? HERE COMES SANTA CLAUS by Elvis Presley

Diana Peterfreund is talking about titles on her blog and being the lazy person I am this week, I thought I’d piggyback on her topic.

I want to reiterate here that authors should not get too attached to their titles. Sometimes they’re perfect and the author, the editor, and the whole sales department (and the buyer from Barnes & Noble) are giddy with excitement over it.

Then sometimes they’re not. Or they might be perfectly okay titles but not quite the angle the publisher is looking for.

Any agent that’s been around awhile can regale you with tons of title tales and it seems a fitting end to the year. So if you don’t mind, I’m going to share a few.

Paula Reed’s first romance entitled INTO HIS ARMS was originally titled KEEPING FAITH (as in the main heroine’s name was Faith and the hero should keep her). Kensington, her publisher, thought it sounded too inspirational so changed it.

I don’t think anyone can mistake INTO HIS ARMS for a religious tome.

In contrast, the obvious title for Jenny O’Connell’s upcoming second YA is THE BOOK OF LUKE. Speaking of religious references, we thought there was no way MTV Books would let us keep it (although it totally fit because the protagonist takes it upon herself to reform the baddest, most popular boy in school—named Luke of course—and keeps a book about the effort.) We spent days coming up with some alternatives (if I remember correctly, Nice Is A Four-Letter Word was the runner up). It ended up being unnecessary as MTV kept the originally proposed title.

But here’s a great instance to show that a writer shouldn’t get too wed to a title.

For book 2 in Shanna’s ENCHANTED series, she had the perfect title. For years, she had wanted to write a book entitled Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered. Finally, her chance had come in the form of the second book in her series. The manuscript was edited, delivered, and heading to press.

Then her agent opened up the then new spring catalog for Berkley (back in 2005) and lo and behold, you guessed it. Berkley had just released a book with that same title. As a book at Ballantine, we didn’t want to compete with a same-title release from another house.

Suddenly, we had no title. Enchanted Book 2 wasn’t really going to cut it. We spent weeks trying to come up with a new title only to be saved by the Ballantine marketing director. It was he who came up with ONCE UPON STILETTOS—in a moment that could only be described as sheer brilliance because what a great title.

For book 3, DAMSEL UNDER STRESS, the brainstorm brilliance was all Shanna and in this instance, Ballantine loved it immediately.

Title crisis averted—this time!

11 Responses

  1. katiesandwich said:

    I am the worst thinker-upper of titles in this world! I love the fact that coming up with something clever to name my book is one less thing I have to worry about.

  2. cm allison said:

    mine has had four working titles, prehpas this last will stick. But if an agent (and then of course a publisher!) takes it on and suggests soemthing else, well, I’ll just be glad to be published it could be named “Cousin It”.
    (Word verification: ruqegi, related to a nuggy, but as done by your horse)

  3. Shanna Swendson said:

    What Kristin neglects to mention is that the stroke of creativity in coming up with Damsel Under Stress didn’t happen until after the book was already written and turned in under the catchy title “Book Three.” I was drawing a blank and just decided not to hamper the creativity of the brilliant marketing folks by trying to stick any title of mine on it.

    And then I had an epiphany in the shower and came up with the title that stuck.

  4. RyanBruner said:

    Interesting. “Into His Arms” sounds far more religious in nature than “Keeping Faith”. At least, to me.

    I really like all my titles, so I hope, when the day comes, there won’t be a need to change them.

  5. Diana Peterfreund said:

    “Into his arms,” paired with the sexy cover of a dreamy guy on bedsheets, doesn’t say religious to me. 😉

    Titles fascinate me…why they are chosen, when they are chosen, who they are chosen by…

  6. Anonymous said:

    I can’t tell you how many titles I had changed – my very first book was called Casey Come Home, and the publisher changed it to ‘A Grand Passion’. Once, I swear, I sent off a book with no title to my editor and begged her to think of one. I had no idea. (I usually work with just a working title for my WIP’s)!
    I guess about half my books have had title changes. I don’t regret any of them – but somehow I still think Casey Come Home was more like the book than ‘A Grand Passion’, LOL.

  7. Anonymous said:

    Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered

    Isn’t that the name of an episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer?

  8. Anonymous said:

    I read Diana Peterfreund’s posting on titles and I’m glad you addressed it here as well. It’s such a stressful process of thinking of a title! I’ve heard that some people come up with titles first and then write the book but for my W.I.P, I wrote it and then came up with the title. 🙂

  9. joanr16 said:

    anon (10:46 am), indeed, it’s the episode where Xander has Amy Madison put out a love spell on his behalf, and it all goes horribly wrong. Silly Xander.

    Also the title of an old song (1950s?).

    I’ve always loved the title Once Upon Stilettos, and Damsel Under Stress is a worthy successor!

  10. An Aspiring Writer said:

    Authors not getting attached to their titles was a topic at the RTCon this year. My two favorite stories …

    MaryJanice Davidson’s new book, “Sleeping with the Fishes,” had a working title of “Bitch Under Water.” She even had some bookmarks made up with that title. For some reason the publisher didn’t like that one.

    Second one was from Laurell K Hamilton. One of her books had a working title of “Swalling Darkness,” She said her publisher wouldn’t even consider it … apparently using the word “swallowing” in any book title gives the wrong message (apparently said publisher didn’t read “Narcissus in Chains” or “Incubus Dreams” *LOL*)!