By Davalynn Spencer
You knew it was coming. It’s a predictable event, but you didn’t expect the emotional surge to swamp you. Before you realize what’s happening, you’re splashing in watery indignation upon hearing that the publisher changed the title of your manuscript.
How dare they slap a new moniker across the front of your book. How cruel to discard the tender title under which you labored for months (years) fashioning and fine-tuning the story of your heart.
They wouldn’t rename your baby, would they?
Yes, they would.
Not always, but quite often, and in my case I’m glad they did.
After spending several years in journalism, I became quite good at headlines – fitting letters in the allotted space and making them make sense.
However, titles are not headlines, and as a novelist I had to learn that publishing houses usually know exactly what’s in a name.
To date, five of my six sales have suffered title changes. I’ve done most of the suffering, but it diminishes over time, and I’ve now come to expect the new and improved title.
My problem early on was that I had no clue about promotion. What I had was a wonderful story with a wonderful title that highlighted my wonderful point (in my eyes). But the working title for my first novel, The Miracle Tree, said absolutely nothing about the genre, the characters, or the story. Chalk one up for the publisher when they came out with The Rancher’s Second Chance.
The same thing happened with the next category romance I called Cañon City Gold. Clever, I thought, because there never was any gold in Cañon City, and won’t the reader get a kick out of my point that the true gold is found in the heart?
Wrong again. While promoting that renamed book as The Cowboy Takes a Wife, I saw targeted readers of that publisher’s line wanting the book because the title told them exactly what they were getting.
Readers often judge a book by its title – at least long enough to flip it over and read the back copy. If I’m writing Western romance and the title doesn’t announce that, readers looking for a cowboy love story will mosey on by and pick another book.
My final comfort came with recognizing that even God changed names to make them say more than the original tag. Abram became Abraham. Sarai became Sarah. Jacob was eventually known as Israel, and Saul of Tarsus graduated to the Apostle Paul.
Admittedly, in the publishing world some title changes have been a wash. But I’m learning which battles are worth fighting. And so far, I haven’t come up with a title that was worth the rant or rave.
Davalynn Spencer is the wife and mother of professional rodeo bullfighters. She writes Western romance and lives on Colorado’s Front Range with her handsome cowboy and a Queensland heeler named Blue. Her next title, Branding the Wrangler’s Heart, releases in May. Find her at www.davalynnspencer.com and www.facebook.com/AuthorDavalynnSpencer.
Davalynn, thanks for sharing these constructive thoughts and pointing us in the right and proper direction of which fights to step back from.
I’ve always wondered why God changed certain names and now based upon what you’ve pointed out, it finally makes sense to me!
I have the same issue. In my head it makes so much sense, but never translates to the actual story. Well said, Davalynn.
Thanks, Elaine and Linda. Learning is an ongoing process (thank the Lord!). And I guess flexibility is part of it, too.
Good lesson, Davalynn. Opened my eyes about how they publishers
look at titles.
Davalynn, this helps me not to be too concerned or attached to the name I’ve given to my novel draft. Thank you.
Blessings ~ Wendy ❀
Thank you, Kathleen.
I am absolutely no good with titles. It took a lot of brainstorming with my critique partners, my agent and then my editor to come up with the title for the first book in my debut series. After that the titles fell into place naturally for the series.
I’ve learned to listen to those who know more than I do about what works and what won’t. I haven’t been disappointed in a title yet, and yes, they have used a few of my first suggestions.
Good post to remind us that titles are not set in stone. 🙂