Michelle Rowen

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A rose by any other name

Okay, long time no post. Me sorry. But if you don’t already know, I’ve been cheating on my blog a lot with twitter. Visit me there if you want frequent updates on my oh-so-exciting life. For example, last night I tweeted about eating yogurt. It’s a glamorous life.

On Monday I finished the short story I had to write for KISS ME DEADLY, the YA anthology from the publisher of the Mammoth anthologies. I’m happy with how my story, FAMILIAR, turned out. It’s about a witch’s familiar and I’m quite fond of it.

Writing it got me thinking about titling (although this one basically titled itself) and when I saw someone else post about their titles that have changed from working to final, I thought I’d share some of mine over the years.

BITTEN & SMITTEN was originally titled DEARLY DEPARTED
In fact, being the newbie that I was, I fought very hard to keep this title. I lost, of course. ;) And I’m glad that I did. While Bitten & Smitten felt way too cutesy to me (and if there’s one thing I reject about my own work is the idea that it’s “cutesy,” I feel more people were attracted to the title off the bat. It works. And after four years the book is still in print and doing well, so I can’t exactly complain, can I?

Actually, this book started off as a gritty private detective novel called PARADISE, believe it or not. I wrote 50K for Nanowrimo 2004. Then I realized it had to be light and fun to match Bitten & Smitten since it would be the second book in my contract with Warner. So I changed absolutely everything about it. In fact, in the original version, she hooks up with the character who would eventually be the old dude Barlow while Nathaniel was a (conflicted) bad guy. Don’t ask. It was kind of a mess.

TALL, DARK & FANGSOME was originally titled DEVILS & DIAMONDS
I worked hard on the new titles when I was asked for a new one  (since neither devils nor diamonds sound particularly vampiric). I think my list included about 200 potential titles. When my editor picked TD&F I was like, “really?” It seemed kind of silly to me and more of one I tacked on at the end for a joke. But now I know that it’s perfect and I wuv it. I look forward to seeing how it’s translated into German.

THE DEMON IN ME was originally titled LIVING IN EDEN
The original title is now the series title. I like the new title. It was changed to fit the cover direction — slightly darker and hero-oriented. If it had been a cartoonish girly cover (which I did not want) it could have had the original title. As it sits, it had to be a little more blatent about what the book was about, with a bit of a humorous twist. I think it’s very effective — and best of all? I didn’t even have to come up with it. My editor did. I am allowed to keep my second title, SOMETHING WICKED, so that’s cool.

This was also a very long process of title changing. My list is long. We had to figure out a title hook and the play on “reign” seems to work okay, I think, although I’m hoping the titles don’t become confusing for readers to differentiate between.

I changed it because there was another book titled the same thing at the time. And the new title (as well as the name of the “game” they’re playing) works better this way and gives more of a thriller feel.

Had to change it because it wasn’t sexy enough for a Blaze. S’okay. I like the new title just fine.

This is the book I’m working on right now — the second in my Nightshade urban fantasy duology. I was asked to change NIGHTFALL to something else because there are five million other books with that title. No idea if the new title will stick. Probably not. But for now I like it just fine. :)

So I guess my point is, most titles end up changing. If you’re really tied to your original title, you might be setting yourself up for disappointment. However, getting a title hook going for a series takes a lot of the guesswork out of things and helps the marketing department.

6 comments to “A rose by any other name”

  1. Terri Grimes
     · January 28th, 2010 at 1:51 pm · Link

    Interesting. Takes some of the fear off of my back about creating the perfect title though. My title for the book coming out this summer was The Complete Morons Guide to Waking Up Dead. I had no clue about copyrite infringments. I soon found out and my agent was the first one to suggest a new title, and then the publisher with yet a different title.

    Do you ever keep your titles to yourself until the ink is dry on the contact? I had a title stolen from me (not mentioning details) and since then I don’t tell my titles to anyne until it’s a done deal. And even then I’m shaking in my boots about it. Sad but true. When do you let the world know your titles? (or preliminary titles I should say)

  2. Michelle Rowen
     · January 28th, 2010 at 2:48 pm · Link

    Absolutely. I keep titles (that I find particularly brilliant) as well as plot points totally secret for a long time. I trust no one. And I always marvel at how much some unpubbed authors are willing to share on their websites.

    I’ll keep the title secret until the contract is signed. And for some books, like my UF duology, I’m keeping most of the plot a secret until I get cover and back cover copy since I feel I have a unique twist I don’t want anyone to…borrow. ;)

  3. Nelsa
     · January 28th, 2010 at 2:56 pm · Link

    I’m amazed my original title,Illegally Blonde, stuck the whole way through. I know now that’s definitely not the norm. So I’m grateful but I’ve had a b*tch of a time coming up with decent titles in my subsequent books. We’ll see what happens.

  4. Jessica W
     · January 28th, 2010 at 3:22 pm · Link

    I think the title is a HUGE selling factor with books so rock on with the ones you already have out.

    Nightfall is probably a little generic BUT if it goes with the series then I’m all for it. Keep up the great work Michelle. :)


  5. Maureen McGowan
     · January 28th, 2010 at 4:11 pm · Link

    Thanks for sharing these. Very interesting. The first one that gave me pause — that I thought I liked your original title better — was Living in Eden. But then see they’re using that for the series title. Awesome.

  6. Ash
     · January 30th, 2010 at 2:41 am · Link

    Thanks Michelle for sharing these. Very interesting.

    You are awesome author! :)

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