Friday, April 8, 2011

Are You Entitled To That Title?

by Darke Conteur

A while back, someone on AQC posted a question about the title of their novel and if there were any specific rules. It was a big surprise to them when a fellow member (Litgal, I’m looking at you) basically said that it didn’t matter what the title was, there was a good chance it wouldn’t be the one the publishers went with, if and when the novel was published.

Get that? The title of your novel (as it is now), might not be what’s on the cover. For those of you who didn’t know this, I’ll give you a moment to pick your jaw up off the floor.

This didn’t surprise me. I’ve heard stories about this for some time. My own dealings with a copyeditor for my editorials were an interesting lesson. I never titled them, was told not to by the newspaper editor, as the copyeditor only had so many characters to work with to fit the whole thing in the column. That was fine by me, but the titles he gave them—and what I had in mind, were always two different things. I wasn’t even allowed to suggest anything. Imagine that, not being able to suggest a title for your own work!

How does this bode for your novel? Would a title change enhance or ruin your story? I don’t think so. Remember, this is part of the marketing side of publishing. Why would the editor purposely re-name your book to something that wasn’t appropriate? Besides, I’m pretty sure you’ll have a say in the final naming of the project.

Some titles are changed because they’re too long, or might sound like another book, which is why I suggest you do a search on your chosen title. You’d be surprised at what you’d find, but don’t fret over naming your story. Sometimes they don’t come to us at the beginning and that’s fine. What’s important is the idea. Work on the story, and let the title take care of itself.

13 comments:

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Ah, but isn't a good title part of getting the interest of agents/editors in the first place? I guess you need a good one, but then not be too wedded to it, as it could change. :)

Great post!

Darke Conteur said...

Hi Susan! Thanks for posting!

That's what I thought too! So I was really shocked to hear this can happen. It's also the reason why some people will say not to make a web page or anything like that with the name of your novel. Because it could change.

Sophie Perinot said...

"Are you looking at me." (I do a bad de Niro). Before writer-folk panic you should expect to be asked for input on your title during the pre-publication process. I certainly got to brainstorm with my editor. But it is important not to have a "this title or nothing" attitude. Once you sell your book you are part of a TEAM, not a solo act (and you especially don't want to be a prima donna)

Lynda R Young said...

I've also heard of agents rejecting stories because they didn't like the title. As with editing, I guess we just shouldn't get too attached to anything ;)

petemorin said...

When Miranda Dickinson's novel, Coffee At Kowalski's, was picked up by Avon, they renamed it Fairytale of New York and put at the top "are happily-ever-afters made in Manhattan?"

I much preferred Coffee At Kowalski's, but what do I know?

I can only imagine how Eric Segal felt when his publisher said they were changing the title of his book to "LOVE STORY."

Darke Conteur said...

@Lynda - Thanks for posting! Wow, that's harsh!

@Pete - Do you know what the working title was?

petemorin said...

the working title of Love Story? I just tried to find it online and had no luck whatsoever, so it's gotta be really obscure info!

Sophie Perinot said...

Lynda -- I got lucky then :) I have no talent for titles but my agent loves me anyway.

Leslie Rose said...

Interesting! I agree with Susan K.Q. We should look at title's as part of the hook, and then come what may.

Darke Conteur said...

@ Leslie - Oh yes, I agree too, and I always thought a title was set. That's why this piece of information surprised me. I don't know how often this happens, but just the fact that is has, makes me wonder just how often.

Josh Hoyt said...

I agree it is important to understand that the title will come in time. We may not know the title until the end of the piece. Great post I look forward to following.

Darke Conteur said...

Hi Josh, thanks for posting!

I've had stories where I knew the title right away, and other that go by a vague 'Story about [blank]. It's nice to know that if I don't come up with a good name, someone else can. :D

Sophie Perinot said...

Leslie Rose -- My title was in the closing paragraph of my query. I figured by then an agent was either hooked or not. If he/she was hooked than a title wasn't going to keep him/her for asking for a full or partial.