Sunday, November 9, 2008

Ch-ch-changes...to titles

I had an email earlier this week from Casablanca Editor Deb Werksman saying the title of my September 2009 release (formerly SECOND CHANCES) needed to be changed. She wanted me to brainstorm a new title.
Now, after several years of publishing books, I'm used to the fact that titles frequently get changed. Most of my titles have been. Unseen Dangers became To Love, Honor and Defend. Always There was changed to Danger at Her Door. Hearts on Fire became Enemy at Her Door and then in a last minute move was changed to Duty To Protect. And so on and so on...
I understand fully why titles are changed. It's all about marketing and capturing the attention of readers. Titles convey more than just the subject of the plot. A good title also reflects the mood, the genre, the takeaway message. A great title can become a catch phrase that pumps more marketing power behind the book. How many variations of Who Moved My Cheese? did we see after that book hit the bestsellers list? The movie The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly has seen numerous reincarnations and variations of that title. Catch-22 entered the English lexicon because of the book of the same name. The first "For Dummies" book spawned a legion of spin-off titles on every imaginable topic. The Joy of Cooking led to The Joy of Sex and later the Joy of just about anything else you can imagine. You get the idea. Why, even the name of the romance line at Sourcebooks took its name from the title of a classic romance movie. Casablanca says romance to millions of potential readers.
But understanding the need to change a title, the desire to give a book a title that will help position it in the marketplace and intrigue and captivate potential book buyers doesn't mean the process doesn't somehow feel ... strange. After all, I picked the title Second Chances many years ago. I've lived with that title, worked with that title, submitted with that title, entered contests with that title. It's almost as if someone came to you and told you that because there were too many Taylors in your child's class, you had to rename your child. You don't rename your children after years with their given name! Taylor is your child's name. It's permanent. (Well, until they become a rap star and change their name to Ice Cube or L'il Willie or something.)
So changing Second Chance to anything else felt awkward to start with. But because I'm bad at titles anyway (and rather picky), I had a hard time coming up with anything. When my very first title was changed, (To Love Honor and Defend), I had a hard time getting used to the new title. Since then I've learned not to get attached to any of my titles. But Second Chances was a title from way back when. The book was one of my first, and I'd had time to grow fond of it.
I haven't heard back from Deb yet what the new title will be, but I'm sure, like with my other changed titles, acceptance and fondness will come with time and familiarity. Stay tuned for a future announcement of my new and improved title!

8 comments:

  1. Beth, I so know what you mean. You call a book by the same title for what could be months or even years on end, and suddenly you are stumbling over a new title.
    My tongue still trips over The Lady Flees Her Lord. Not only is it almost a sentence, but it used to be called Heart's Ease, which is a little pansy and appeared as a theme in the book. I thought is was so brilliant!
    But now I love my new title. Can't wait to hear what yours turns out to be.

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  2. Great topic, Beth! I got lucky with Line of Scrimmage and Same Time Sunday, which are the names I gave both books. (So far I haven't heard that Same TIme Sunday will change, but you never know.)

    My agent recently suggested I change the name of one of my books. I had the PERFECT name that wasn't perfect for the genre I wanted to target. Sigh... So away went the perfect name for a much more suitable name for the marketplace. After a few weeks, the book has become the new name in my mind. I have made the leap!

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  3. Ouch, I am completely with you in sympathy for title, catch-phrase, cover art changes . . . you name it. That's something about professional writing that I never anticipated and I'll bet a lot of aspiring writers don't. I am adjusting, as are we all, I suppose, but it is a shock to the system and makes one realize how much thought, input and creativity goes into the total packaging of a book.

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  4. You should hold a title contest for a free signed copy to the person who's title is chosen. It'd be fun and you can get a laugh over the titles... I know Janet Evanovich does this for her Stephanie Plum novels.

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  5. Beth- title changes seems to be a theme. You'll understand my comment when my blog posts later today! LOL.

    Let us know what it ends up being! I hear you on getting attached - I have all my files filed by ms name. To change one...agh!

    But it's for a good cause.

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  6. I can SO relate!!!!
    I've had title changes, too. The Cat Star Chronicles: Slave was originally The Cat Chronicles: The Rescue, and Rogue was originally Brothers. Unfortunately, changing the title can also change the content of the book. When Brothers was renamed Rogue, I had to go back and make the character more roguish. Like I've said before, everything about this business seems backwards!

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  7. SEALed With A Kiss was originally Designated Hero. My title was rejected because it felt like the title of an action romance--which it isn't. I absolutely expected SEALed With A Promise to be changed--but it wasn't. :-)

    Although I love a good title, I don't think I'm very adept at coming up with them, so I welcome any help the crew at Sourcebooks can give.

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  8. Good luck on your titles, Beth! Without creating a title for my work, I can't even get started. I have to have it to give me the feel of the story to begin with. I've tried to write without a title...Werewolf story. LOL. Doesn't work. :)

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