Last week, I closed by saying we would talk about titles and how they come to be. So I’m simply going to describe my own experience. I’m not speaking for anyone else. I’m sure every author has a different experience.
“What’s in a name,” we ask. Well, if you’re writing books or songs, the answer is, “A lot.”
I always stick some kind of name on whatever I’m writing. But that doesn’t mean that’s what I will finally call it. But you have to have a way to identify the file, if nothing else.
I sold my first book in a 3-book contract. I had titled it “For the Love of a Cowboy.” I had this notion that the title should perhaps reflect something about the book. Since the book was Dahlia’s story (the heroine), I wanted it to say what she did because she fell in love with a cowboy.
Well, it took only about 30 seconds for the editor to inform me that for marketing reasons, they had changed the title to THE LOVE OF A COWBOY. I did not know at the time that the marketing department has almost as much sway as the editors. ….. Granted, they hadn’t changed it much. So, I said, “Fine.” Because I didn’t really care what they called it. ….. Nobody in publishing tells you much. You sort of have to ferret out information on your own or learn it by accident. So it took me 3 books to learn that most of what happens with books is decided by committee, of which the marketing department is a large part.
I titled my next book “Out of Ashes.” The story had a fatal fire in it, which played into my thoughts at the time. But I also thought about Doug and Alex, the hero and heroine building a relationship out of the ashes of their troubled lives. Melodramatic, huh? ….. I did not know at the time that a book about Saddam Hussein had the same title. 😦 ….. Although, thinking back, I don’t know if that would have mattered.
At that point, I had a new editor who didn’t like the story or the characters and who was a bit more heavy-handed than the editor who bought me originally. She and my agent got together and renamed the book, THE LOVE OF A STRANGER. Again, I didn’t care. But I learned something.
I didn’t even put a title on the 3rd book. I just called it Book #3 and waited for them to name it. And they did. They called it THE LOVE OF A LAWMAN.
In the end, all 3 of the books were appropriately named, I thought, though they were not titles I chose. All 3 of the stories are set in the same small town in Idaho, and the play on the phrase, “The Love of,” seemed like a good marketing idea.
My next experience was with SWEET WATER. My title for that book was “The Mayor of Agua Dulce.” The book is set in the West Texas desert and a well for drinking water was an important item. Marisa (the heroine) is the de facto mayor and agua dulce is Spanish for “sweet water.” The marketing department thought the title was too long and too many people wouldn’t know what it meant, so they changed it….I liked *my* title, but again, I just moved on.
I had absolutely no idea what to call what finally became SALVATION, TEXAS, but I knew they would come up with something. Imagine my surprise when they decided to call the book the name of the town in the book.
When SWEET RETURN rolled around, my editor was about to leave on her 2nd maternity leave and just wanted to get a title on the book. She asked me for some ideas (shock) and I sent a long list. They decided on one that wasn’t even on my list. I think they took it from a sentence toward the end of the book. I protested slightly because of already having a book out called SWEET WATER and I even whined to my agent. But the editor said, “Look, do you really want to wait a week or two for a title and have my assistant go through another meeting on this?” …. I didn’t, so I acquiesced.
With LONE STAR WOMAN, I was hoping for the title to say “Texas” loud and clear. I asked for that and they worked with it. It was the 1st of what was supposed to be a 3-book series, all set in the same small town in the Texas Panhandle. MAN OF THE WEST followed, which seemed logical, although that’s also the title of an old Gary Cooper western movie. But hey, I could be in worse company than Gary Cooper. 🙂
Those 2 books were written as Sadie Callahan, which is another long, boring publishing story. I’ve got the rights back now to “Lone Star Woman.” Suffice to say, this book will be re-issued by me as an ANNA JEFFREY book.
The same applies to “Man of the West,” although I don’t know when, if ever, I will get the copyright back. If and when that happens, I will probably re-write the ending, as a lot of readers have hated the ending. I wasn’t fond of it myself, but I ran out of time and space.
Obviously, the 3rd book, Cable’s story, never got written and I have no idea what the title would be. I might write it yet and self-publish it. Then I’ll have to start the title search all over again.
So that’s how it works with titles. I don’t know if everyone in the publishing house committee gets to vote on it or what. But since an author no longer owns the book once it’s sold to a publisher, it’s purely a courtesy if an editor uses a title an author wants or likes. My sister had a great title idea for a Dixie Cash book, we thought, but it was completely ignored for several books and never did see the light of day.
Is it any wonder that indie authors are enjoying this new-found independence?
Although book content is copyrighted, the titles are not. Nor are the titles to songs. That’s why you see titles repeated. If one sold particularly well, then the publishers have no qualms about using it over and over again, whether it relates to the story or not. It’s all about sales and money, you see.
Now, for the first time, I’m dithering over the title to my new series and it’s going to be solely my decision. I’ve had a dozen ideas float through my head, all of which I’ve rejected up to now. Maybe I need that committee.
So far, I’m settled on THE LOCKHARTS OF TEXAS – DRAKE for Book #1. Sort of like Linda Lael Miller has named her McKettrick and Creed series. But by the time I’m ready to publish it, I might come up with something I like better.
It’s one of my typical Anna Jeffrey mainstream angsty romances. Sort of. But I’m trying to make it a little meatier. You recall the TV show, Dallas? It has that flavor. Big, old, rich, Texas dysfunctional family and their trials and tribulations.
If you have any title ideas, folks, by all means, throw them out there. I consider *everything.* ….. In fact, I believe one of you gave me the name of this blog. 🙂 And I thank you.