Friday, September 22, 2006

My hooky book title and why I don't hate it

When my third book was contracted, my editor said they wanted to release it in October 2007, so would I please revise the story to include a Christmas element. I've been working on that for the past month, and it's finally finished.

Earlier this week I learned that the book will be called A Season of Forgiveness. I'm not crazy in love with that title, but I didn't have any better ideas. Both my editor and the marketing director insist that "season" suggests Christmas, and they believe "forgiveness" is a hooky word for inspirational romance readers. I'm in no position to argue; it's a fact that Steeple Hill books sell extremely well at places like WalMart, where they're often impulse buys and where it takes a hooky title and a snazzy cover to get shoppers to pluck a book off the shelves. The bottom line is that I can't wow anyone with my story until the marketing people have done their job, which is to entice readers to pick up the book and give me a chance. Which means it's immaterial, really, whether I like the book's title or cover.

As it happens, I'm extremely pleased about the cover concept, which will involve a snowy collegiate scene. That's perfect because much of the story takes place in and around a 100-year-old college library. I'm hoping the pond and the willow tree, both of which are special to my heroine, will make the cover, but it'll be months before I lay eyes on the finished artwork.

I'm planning to spend the next three days going over this manuscript and looking for places to tighten it up before sending it off to be line- and copyedited. And I'm meeting friends for a late breakfast tomorrow, so I'll probably just knock off blogging until Monday.

Here's hoping you all have a fun-filled weekend.


Kate S. said...

"much of the story takes place in and around a 100-year-old college library"

That's hook enough for a book-mad reader! So much the better if that aspect is reflected on the cover...

pacatrue said...

I completely understand your thinking on the cover and title. Did it bug you at all to get the request to add a Christmas theme? As an unpublished author, I always assumed those nasty revisions you had to make were things like, "Chapters 10-13 are boring. Cut em." Or the like. Harsh cuts or changes to make your book better. I guess I didn't realize you might write a book that had nothing to do with Christmas, but they want to sell a Christmas book, so you have to go back and rewrite your nothing to do with Christmas book to be a Christmas book.

I don't know if this phenomenon is bad, but it is interesting.

Brenda Coulter said...

That's hook enough for a book-mad reader!

Hope you're right, Kate.

Did it bug you at all to get the request to add a Christmas theme?

Absolutely, Paca. While many authors have no trouble writing "to order," it's a huge challenge for me. (I'm still a new writer, so I'm not sure, but I think it might be a skill I can learn.) But selling a book is a business transaction. When an editor makes this kind of request, the author can choose to "maintain her artistic integrity" (possibly forfeiting this and/or future sales) or she can bend a little.

My editor wanted a Christmas story because Christmas stories sell. It was kind of hard to argue with that.

Laura Vivanco said...

I'm with Kate on this. A library would be a hook for me.

Hope the tightening goes well, Brenda. And now I'm imagining your poor little book in a corset, clinging to a bookshelf while you tug at the laces to force it to have a 16-inch waist.

Katie Hart said...

Christmas stories sell? Good news for mine - if I could stretch 44,500 words to Steeple Hill length.

But I wouldn't pick up the book based on their chosen title. Good thing I usually base reading decisions on the author's name. ;)

TrudyJ said...

I agree about the library thing being a hook, even for someone who's not normally a romance reader ... I'd probably pick it up. The title wouldn't do it for me, but the library aspect would sell me.

Interesting point about writing to order. It's the sort of thing you'd never be asked to do in "literary" fiction but in lots of genre fiction I think it's quite common -- marketing is so important. I would do it if I were asked, and not worry much about "artistic integrity" ... precious little good your integrity will do you if nobody ever publishes the book. Happy revising!

Brenda Coulter said...

Laura, the heroine is a college archivist. Whee! Doesn't that just send you into transports of delight?

But I wouldn't pick up the book based on their chosen title. Good thing I usually base reading decisions on the author's name.

I'm that way, too, Katie. But as I said, the titles and covers on these books are designed to snag the attention of casual bookbuyers at places like WalMart and Target. More books are sold at those stores than at the traditional bookstores.

precious little good your integrity will do you if nobody ever publishes the book.

Trudy, I put "artistic integrity" in scare quotes because so many writers get all stupid on that subject. ;-) The reason these romance novels sell many, many more copies than virtually all "literary" novels (even the ones that win prestigious awards) is simply that they are designed to appeal to a broad audience. And "put a little Christmas in it" is just one example of how involved editors can become in the actual story-creation process.

Thanks, everyone, for your interest and support.

Nell Dixon said...

I adore Christmas srories and I have to say, I like the title. Can't wait to see the cover

Amy A. said...

The biggest thing that struck me on this post was the October 2007 publish date. One whole year away?? For a girl who likes instant gratification, I didn't much like those words.

Most likely, you will have book number four finished before book three is out in stores.

TrudyJ said...

I always tell people that writer years are like dog years. By the time a book finally hits stores, it feels like something you wrote a long time ago, because the process takes forever. Which is good, because you're usually onto something else by then and able to be a little more detached from your "baby" which people are now going to read and criticize.

Mirtika said...

While it's a sort of "fuzzy" title, I like forgiveness themes, so I guess it is "hook-y" for me. Vengeance, secrets, redemption, and forgiveness. I'm big on those. Put words like those in the title and I will look at the blurb. :)


Anonymous said...

By a huge coincidence, the following link arrived in my Inbox this morning. It's so appropriate I can't resist posting it. I know you'll take it in the spirit it's intended Brenda! :-)

The Danielle Stelle Name Generator

Hope you had a productive weekend!

Neal Dench

Tracy Montoya said...

(Ugh, Blogger ate my comment. Trying again--apologies if it comes through twice.)

I like your title, too, Brenda. You immediately get a hit that it's a warm, emotional holiday story, and that's a good thing when your book is sitting next to hundreds of other books.

I always figure that if a Harlequin title isn't horrifically embarrassing, like Cowboy Cootchie Coo, I can live with it. I just got Finding His Family, which I'm rather meh about, but again, it isn't mortifying, so I'm fine.

Good luck with the Christmas revisions!

Toni Lea Andrews said...

I was at the Mira dinner at Nationals and one of the top people at Mira mentioned a book they had just bought from me and said that she especially loved the title. I almost choked on my wine. Almost the first thing my editor did upon aquiring the book was to inform me the title just would not do and ask for suggestions to change it.

Go figure.

I'm actually pretty happy with the title they decided on, but the incident was pretty funny.

Brenda Coulter said...

Jeepers, I take a couple of days off, and you people decide you're in the mood to chat....

Nell--I hope you find the book worth waiting for.

Amy--a year is par for the course. Seriously. It takes a while for the editing and the cover art, and then the publisher still needs a few months to get catalogues into the hands of booksellers. And so on.

Trudy--this is going to sound very odd, but I don't get antsy waiting for a book to come out. Maybe it's my age--maybe I'm not all that eager for the months and years to start flying by.

Mir--I guess people do go for those hooky words. This is why I am a writer and not a marketing director.

Speaking of hooky titles...

Thanks for the tip, Neal, but I don't think any of the following are going to work for me:

Does "impossible flowers" suggest a SF novel, or a how-to book on making plants behave?

Would that be a horror novel, do you think, or the memoir of a Brit who's dissatisfied with his body type?

Uh, I'm not sure that would be a book I'm comfortable reading, let alone writing.

Tracy--Not that you aren't welcome, but what are you doing over here, girl? I thought you were on a wicked deadline this month.

Toni--aren't you going to tell us what the title was/is? You're such a tease.