Friday, July 24, 2015

The Title Dilemma

Oh what to call the precious gem. Actually, I'm convinced books are precious only in the eyes of the author. Once a book reaches a certain place in the production process and is subjected to the ideas of the marketing team nothing is more unnerving than the process of choosing the best title to maximize sales.

I'm used to houses changing my titles by now. The title of the first short story I ever published was changed from "Night Song" to "Alone at Night." After all, it was for a trucking magazine, Overdrive. And from then on it was strictly downhill. Or was it? Through the years, I've found the reasons for title changes fascinating. Come Spring was originally A Different Spirit. The reasoning there was that A Different Spirit sounded occult.

Bound by Blood was changed to Deadly Descent because my editor pointed out that clerks don't have time to read all the books and it would end up in the vampire section. I had envisioned the "Bound By" series. Bound by Blood, Bound by Death, etc. It's now the Lottie Albright series and each books has a distinctive name, although all have two alliterative words. I'm very glad. I have trouble keeping track of which books I've read in some series. John Sanford's Prey series comes to mind.

The academic book I'm publishing with University of Oklahoma press has been especially troubling. I worried about the first word, Nicodemus. It's about the ideas of three men who played a critical role in founding the town and I was afraid the descendants of people in Nicodemus would be distressed that their family wasn't mentioned. There are a number of books that could be written about the original colony and I hope those familiar with the genealogy will consider doing it.

Mine is about A.T. Hall, Jr., John W. Niles, and E.P. McCabe and its all about politics. I think the final title will be Nicodemus: Reconstruction Politics and Racial Justice in Western Kansas. The sub-title will narrow the focus an people's expectations.

I'm very, very happy with this one although Post-Reconstruction Politics would be more accurate. I started by wanting Creating a Civilization because African Americans had to do just that after they migrated to the High Plains.

This has been a hard book to write. Tracking down documentation is a lot of work. It's sort of like the sleuthing process in a mystery.

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