In case you missed it Friday, Sourcebooks asked for YOUR opinion on the title of my August debut. There's still time to vote, and if you leave a comment, you could win a signed advance copy of the book.
Watching votes and comments roll in has been fascinating, and has me thinking a lot about sea slugs.
OK, I'm not thinking about sea slugs. Well, I am thinking about them, but I'm also thinking about book titles.
When I first started trying to write fiction, a wise person told me this: "Don't get too attached to the title you give it – most publishers change them anyway."
But I also recognized that an abysmal title leaves a bad first impression with decision makers – the editors, agents, or potential readers deciding whether to read your story or use it as a coaster.
That was never more obvious to me than when I judged a writing contest last fall. Of the six partial manuscripts in my batch, two had such lousy titles that I considered temporarily blinding myself with pepper spray so I'd be excused from reading them.
As it turned out, one of them was lousy. But the other was surprisingly good, and I ended up giving it some of the highest marks.
At the same time, I don't pretend to be an all-knowing title goddess who gets to hand down judgment on what makes a good title. The first book I ever sold was an action/adventure/romance targeted at Harlequin-Silhouette's now defunct Bombshell line (and by "defunct" I mean "canceled a month before my @#$% book hit the shelves," not that I'm bitter).
The book they bought featured a ski patroller heroine who gets sent to a resort in Chile to deal with the area's abundance of accidents that may not be so accidental after all. The title I gave the book was SHADOWS IN THE SNOW.
I thought it wasn't half bad, but in my first conversation with the editor who bought it, she waved it off dismissively. "We'll change the title, of course."
Which they did, to AVALANCHE. In hindsight, I totally get why that was the stronger title. Had the book been released, it might have even sold a couple copies.
The title issue came up again when Sourcebooks was first considering the book that's now scheduled as my August 2011 debut. At the time, we were calling the book WALKING THE PLANK. I still adore that title, and the book made it all the way to the editorial board under that name. Then, the editor came back with grim news.
Several people had voiced concern that WALKING THE PLANK was too closely tied to the grimmer aspects of real, modern piracy. It was a legitimate worry right then, since the piracy situation Somalia had taken some rather terrifying turns (though one could argue that pirates in the news could be a good thing for a novel that parodies traditional pirate romances).
Still, it was a no go. We were sent back to the drawing board and asked to re-tool the book's marketing hook to focus more on the corporate revenge aspect of the story. After all, the story's plot really boils down to a bunch of folks doing something wacky in the wake of job loss. Plenty of people can relate.
We kicked around dozens of titles, reworked a few aspects of the story, and rewrote proposed marketing copy. The book's new title? MAI TAI MUTINY.
I just cringed when I typed that, because really, it's terrible. The editorial board agreed it was terrible, and I suspect several of them fled the room gagging. Sourcebooks didn't buy it, and that was that.
Or was it?
In the end, they did buy the book. It happened almost a year later when my amazing agent sent them a new romantic comedy I'd written and they ended up offering a three-book deal that included the new book, one I hadn't yet written, and the book we were jokingly calling "unpirate."
A rather lengthy titling exercise produced over 30 potential titles for "unpirate," and one was selected last February. If you're a regular blog reader, you already know what that was, since it's what we've called the book for a year now.
But things change – market conditions, news headlines, what the competitors are doing, the position of uranus (snicker). And because Sourcebooks is committed to making sure we have the very best title for this book, we're reassessing. Personally, I think it's pretty cool they're letting you, the potential readers, make the call.
How much thought do you put into titles when you're making book buying decisions? How about when you're writing? Please share!
And don't forget to vote. There are still a couple days left, and you could win a signed, advance copy!