Pulling Back the Curtain on Title Changes
In general, even as an editor, I’m not a big fan of title changes. I very quickly get used to a book’s original title (even if I don’t love it) and I sometimes have a hard time switching to the new one. Plus, there’s always a period of confusion, where you have different people calling the same book by two different names, so you have to use both of them for a while. And if someone new joins the project during that time, having an old title floating around is even more disorienting.
But, despite all that, title changes happen ALL the time in publishing, for many different reasons, and they are almost always a good thing. Many wonderful authors have a terrible time coming up with titles, and we often get manuscripts with a “working title.” Or something will come in from an agent that we really love, but the title just doesn’t seem to fit the book at all. There can be many reasons for this, maybe it’s an esoteric reference from the author’s research, or a hold-over from an old draft (I’m not the only one who is resistant to change when it comes to titles), or it’s one of those phrases that have multiple meanings and it only makes sense after you read the book. Sometimes you even get my least favorite kind of title change, the one where the editor, author, and agent all agree that this is the perfect title, and then we take it to sales and marketing only to learn that our perfect title just won’t work. Maybe the title is too close to another book already out in the market, or the title references one aspect of the book so strongly that sales feels it might exclude a huge segment of readers and limit the audience for the book. When this happens, sales, marketing and editorial will all brainstorm possible title directions, and then work with the author to try and find something that everyone is happy with.
And it’s just the same with Swoon Reads books—except that sales and marketing are involved even earlier in the process! When Jenny Elliott’s THE REAL DANGER was first discussed at our finalist meeting, our sales director Mark gave a whole pitch about how much he loved the book, and ended it with “of course, the title will have to change.” And he was right: while there is a lot of action and danger here, at heart, this is a book about a girl finding her soul mate despite all the obstacles in her way. Yet the title THE REAL DANGER says thriller to us, not romance.
After a brief period of brainstorming, Jean Feiwel herself came up with what everyone agreed was the perfect new title. SAVE ME speaks to so many different aspects of this book, especially since so many of the characters need to be saved at one point or another. J Now, we just had to cross our fingers that Jenny would agree…
Here’s what she has to say on the title change:
“I had originally titled my novel REAL DANGERS, wanting to convey that there were several potential dangers in the book, and to let the reader determine which was the “real” one. Then I changed the title to THE REAL DANGER, wanting the reader to focus on the main threat in the story. I remember hoping that the title would attract readers who love thrillers as much as I do. But the romance in the story grew as I revised, and I had doubts as to whether the title worked for a romance.
When I first heard the title SAVE ME suggested, it seemed almost too simple. After I gave it some thought, though, I realized that it actually complements multiple aspects of my story. It’s a perfect fit.
Now I’m just smacking myself in the head, wishing I’d come up with it myself! But that’s all part of the publishing process. It’s a team effort. And the professionals truly know their stuff.”