Of Manuscripts and Titles

I rose at 5AM Saturday morning to work on the edits for Once Upon A Project. I had two sets, one from my editor and one from my personal editor, my friend Kim whose got one of the sharpest sets of eyes out there and noted things like words repeated too often, words left out, awkward sentences, stuff like that. That meant going through a 117,000-word manuscript twice, even though there were pages and pages with no marks from either. This was also my last chance at re-writing (when I heard someone refer to the nearby city of Kenosha, Wisconsin, as "Ke-Nowhere," I knew I had to get that in my book!), and I'm feeling quite happy with the end result. The manuscript hasn't been copyedited yet - unusual in my experience - but my editor promised to discuss anything major the copyeditor wants to mess with. It was finished by 3PM. I put it aside for a few hours, making just one more change before e-mailing it later that evening.

I haven't had much luck with mainstream titles. The original title of this book was going to be The First Fifty Years. The marketing staff rejected that as being too limiting, suggesting that you have to be fifty to read it. So was the alternate, The Fifty-Year Itch. I put out a title call for the gals on one of the Yahoo groups I belong to, and someone suggested Once Upon A Project, which passed both the editor and the marketing test.

The Edge of a Dream was published as If These Walls Could Talk (after my first alternate choice, Anyplace I Hang My Hat, was rejected because somebody else - Susan Isaacs, I think - had a book out with that title)

The book I named Better Days was published as Nothing But Trouble after being rejected by the marketing department.

My first mainstream, The People Next Door, was accepted as it was.

One out of four, or 25%, of my mainstream title suggests were kept. With romance I've had a better odds:

A Love for All Seasons was accepted.

One on One was accepted.

Where There's Smoke was accepted.

Straight to the Heart was accepted.

Closer Than Close was accepted.

From This Day Forward was accepted.

Prelude to a Kiss was accepted.

Desire with an "e" (an odd choice until you consider the heroine's name was "Desiree") was published as Love Affair after my editor signed off on this alternate title instead of the one she liked the most, Prelude to a Kiss. I admit to being paranoid enough to suspect that a book with my title by another author was going to show up, but my editor promised that we would save the Prelude title for my next book. Considering that was a romantic comedy that went well with that breezy title, it all worked out fine in the end.

A Love of Her Own was accepted. (This book remains my cleanest ever - two words were changed. That's all.)

The title of my first book, At Long Last Love, was accepted.

9 out of 10, or 90%. The odds are better for me here.

But it's still a real crapshoot.


Gwyneth Bolton said...

They always tell you not to get attached to titles, but I think most of us can't help it. Especially when you've taken so much time to craft everything about the novel that matters, ie every word in it. It only seems right that the title you stressed over be the one... but nope, not the case... LOL.

So far I've only had to change one title. My second novel If Only You Knew started out as The Bachelor's Bride Price . I just knew it was the perfect title but my editor thought it sounded like a historical romance. So she asked me for a list of titles. And I sent a list of song titles that I thought fit, because I'm always thinking of music. LOL. She didn't like any of them and she was going to go with The Harrington Legacy . But some one in marketing must have decided no on that and they ended up going with one of my song title's Patti LaBelle's If Only You Knew .

I'm trying to have this "don't get attached to the title" attitude. But it is hard. I do like the title Once Upon a Project because it seems to work on several levels for your novel. :-)

Patricia W. said...

I can only imagine...

It's so hard to come up with a title in the first place. I know my wip didn't have one until I was half way through the story. Then something a character said hit me and I felt, "Aha, there's your title." Now to have that changed would feel funny, although if it resulted in a sale, I won't complain.

Shelia said...

Bettye, the title "Paige's Web" original title was My Three Beaus for a few years but I had to change it. After throwing out a few names with folks on my mailing list, we narrowed it down to Paige's Web. It's hard not to get attached to titles. My title is usually a short version of the theme for my book.

bettye griffin said...

I must say that I think If Only You Knew is a much better title than The Bachelor Bride's Price (although if I were an editor I'd be intrigued by your original title to find out what the story was about).

The sale will likely come before they start messing with your title, because the bottom line is, it's the content of your manuscript that will make the publisher want to buy it, not the title.

I think a good decision was made also to change My Three Beaus to Paige's Web. I'm no marketing whiz, but the original title doesn't sound like a novel with a contemporary setting.

BTW, Urban Books have started to appear in my local Wal-Mart, so I'm still looking for your new book. My Wal-Mart book buyer is awful. I asked them to please carry the Kimani titles. They brought in exactly one book - one of the launch titles - and within a week it was sold out. I haven't seen any since, but I'm still on them. My local Borders isn't much better. I have to order most of my books online; the alternative being to drive to Chicago or Milwaukee.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, all!