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Monday, January 14, 2008

I need a new title

Last week my editor let me know I need to think of a new title for BOY IN BLUE, which will be published by MTV Books in March 2009. It’s about a 17-year-old who avoids prosecution for a high school stunt by spending spring break on night patrol with the 19-year-old rookie cop who arrested her.

I’ve actually had good luck with inventing titles lately. I named my critique partner’s two latest books, and both titles have been accepted by her publisher. But I haven’t named my own published books. My editor at Simon Pulse came up with the title of my latest book, THE BOYS NEXT DOOR, while we were still discussing the proposal, before I ever wrote a word of Chapter 1. I named my first book QUEEN GEEK because the heroine was the first female drum major of her high school marching band. (This was before I’d ever heard of Frank Portman’s KING DORK, I promise.) But another book named QUEEN GEEK was purchased by a publisher a few weeks before mine. So a chick in the marketing department at Simon Pulse came up with the title MAJOR CRUSH. I absolutely love this title, and at my editor’s request, I renamed a character in the book after the marketing chick as a thank-you. (Hint: This character’s boyfriend in the book is named Gator after a kid my son was in kindergarten with. The marketing chick should consider herself lucky that I was not feeling more mischievous. I went to high school with a boy named Booger.)

And I can’t say I’m surprised my editor wants me to change the title of BOY IN BLUE. It’s extremely common for editors to ask authors to come up with new titles for their books--or to simply rename the books without consulting the author at all. My friend Kelley St. John was consulted, but her editor turned down 84 of her titles (read them here!) before renaming her first book GOOD GIRLS DON’T.

In this spirit, I’ve forwarded my editor a list of 40 or so titles invented by me, my critique partners, and my writing buddies. I didn’t include two by my six-year-old: RED WHITE AND BLUE LIGHTS (which makes sense--he knows what a police car looks like) and ROCKET BLAST (which makes no sense whatsoever unless you are six-year-old boy who lives for seeing things crash and explode. No rocket blasts in the book? Doesn’t matter. ROCKET BLAST will sell sell sell!).

But I fully expect my editor to say no to every one of my new titles. None of them are really jumping out at me. And I do have a bit of anxiety while waiting. The title may help determine the cover, and the cover is the most important component of a book that sells well, other than the book itself. Which will look most appealing to a reader: the cop angle? I'm guessing my editor thinks not. The night angle? The crime angle? The romance angle? (I love the cover of NICK & NORAH’s INFINITE PLAYLIST--the black and white blurry photograph of them kissing on the hardback edition, not the purple paperback.) The fact that the heroine is missing out on her dream of spring break at the beach? The titles I sent consider these possibilities and more.

But with wonderful MTV titles coming out soon like I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE and WHAT HAPPENS HERE, I have confidence that mine will be just as provocative and creative, whether I thought of it or not.

What are some titles you love--for your books or someone else’s? And where do your titles come from?


Barbara Caridad Ferrer said...

I'm in title stasis right now, too, Jenn, if it makes you feel any better. But I openly acknowledge that I SUCK at titles.

When you initially told me of the story concept, what I immediately zeroed in on was this concept of them meeting from opposite sides of the law.

My two favorite titles lately have been Garden Spells and Boy Toy. Both are simple, yet completely evocative of their subject matter. (And of course, I love Adiós, considering what it could have been... *g*)

Little Willow said...

If you need any title suggestions, email me. I am known for naming things for people. I'm serious. Pets, computers, books, blogs - everything!

jennifer echols said...

Thank you, LW!

Barb, I loved A THIN LINE! But wow, with such rich subject matter you're going to end up with a beautiful title for that one.

taltebrando said...

Is What Happens Here a good title? I have no idea. Before that it was called a million other things, like Eye in the Sky and Exploding Hearts and I can't even remember anymore!

Here's a fun fact: In a recent post, Cara mentioned the New Year's eve anthology she contributed a story to...I came up with the title of it--"In One Year and Out the Other"--when I was working for MTV Books as a cover copy writer.

I'll let you know if anything springs to mind for the book formerly known as Boy in Blue...


jennifer echols said...

Is What Happens Here a good title?

YES!!!!! I absolutely love those Las Vegas commercials. Everybody knows that slogan. So the title is evocative of both Las Vegas and secrets...

Jenny said...

I never had title block until my two upcoming books, which I came up with titles for (and still love), but editor vetoed. She came up with the two titles they're being pubbed as. Do I love them? Um. First one isn't bad, second one...I plead the fifth.

Kelly Parra said...

I'm not the greatest at titles. I came up with Graffiti Girl, wow hard one! haha! Then with Invisible Touch, my editor's assistant was going to a Genesis concert and sprang this one on us after about 20 suggestions from me and my agent. And I really liked it because it was different!

alex mcaulay said...

Titles can be hard! Usually I just try to solicit every opinion I can (even from our cats, who have voted for MEOW, PURR, and HISS so far--but I had to turn them down!)

Kelley St. John said...

LOL! Thanks for reminding me about that first book and all 84 titles. For the record, I love BOY IN BLUE!

jennifer echols said...

Thanks Kelley!!!

On Smart Bitches Who Love Trashy Books this morning, a review of a good book with a bad cover and title (THE TYCOON MEETS HIS MATCH): "Do not judge by cover or title. I hath learned my lesson."

Also, relating to my earlier post on character names: "I have to say, the names were a bit of a distraction. At one point, 'Trae’s gaze went to Rhys,' and I mentally filled in Rhys saying to her, 'BITCH YOU STOLE MY VOWEL.'"

Stephanie Kuehnert said...

Ah, titles. Fear not Jenn, I had to do the list of a billion titles for I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE, too. When I sold it, it was called All Roads Lead to Rock 'n Roll, which really does capture the spirit of the book, but I guess now I can see how its not all that catchy. I used it for a chapter name instead. IWBYJR comes from a Sleater-Kinney song. My editor told me to look at song names, band names, etc. They wanted something like Searching for Johnny Rotten, but I didn't like that because the Sex Pistols aren't a particularly important band to my character, she's more into American punk, so Joey Ramone is much better and since the song is all about a girl wanting to be a punk hero, it's perfect. Technically, my iPod thought of it though. I put it on shuffle and told it to help me find a good song and that one came on. Hopefully your title will come to you like that.
As for fave titles, I know I cite this book all the time but I love the title Hairstyles of the Damned. I just love the phrase and wish I had thought of it, especially since I was a teenage queen of crazy haircuts.

stephhale said...

Hey Jen,



jennifer echols said...

Steph! You're good.

Juli Heaton said...

Hi, Jen! The book sounds awesome. I hope you come up with a great title.
Stephanie has a real knack for them. I think I'll just let her name all my books.

GeniusJen said...

You could always just go with ONE TOUGH ROOKIE. You know, instead of one tough cookie?

Then again, I just got off work at 6:30am and haven't been to bed yet. =)

jennifer echols said...

Jen, that's good! But because you said this, whenever I saw the book I would always think of cookies. Which reminds me, I have some iced oatmeal in the kitchen (fresh from the bag!).