I hate titling books. There, I said it. I’m much better at taglines. Just ask my team at the publisher where I work as a children’s book editor. If someone can’t come up with a tagline, I’m your girl. I’m VERY proud of my tagline record. But over the course of my career titles have been my albatross. I’ll come up with a title I LOVE only to have my editors tell me it doesn’t “say” anything or it won’t help sell the book. (Return to Orchard Hills was one of those.) I’ve then had editors come up with titles I HATED, but let them run with because I couldn’t come up with anything better. (She’s so Dead to Us was one of those. Which, ironically, had been Return to Orchard Hills.) There was one instance when I definitely should have stuck to my guns because I allowed the publisher to decide on the title of a book trilogy and the title they chose dictated the covers, which had nothing to do with the content, in my opinion, and the series tanked. (I’m keeping that one to myself.)
All of those things happened when I was writing YA exclusively. It all happened years ago. Flash forward to today when I’ve sold my first contemporary fiction novel for adults—Secrets Between Friends—and, once again, the title became an issue. Now, granted, that title was not the best. I knew this going in. But it DID say something and it did match the content. We were so far along in the process with this book that I had started to think that no one was going to bring it up and we were going to go to press with Secrets and that would be fine.
Just as the book was going to the proofreader, my editor emailed me to tell her the publisher thought we needed to change the title because it was too generic. That was a fair assessment, so I said fine. Let’s brainstorm. We would come up with something easily, I was sure. So I came up with a list. There were six titles. It was a pretty good list, I thought. I would have been happy with any of them.
They all got rejected.
Then my editor, my agent and I put our heads together and came up with another list.
I spent an entire weekend brainstorming. There are a lot of themes in the book, so there were a lot of possibilities. There are important friendships, a couple of broken marriages, a lot of lies, a lot of twists, a lot of secrets. There’s addiction and mental health issues and money problems. So many titles could have worked.
The third list was also rejected.
Cue downward spiral. If it was this difficult to title my book, did that mean that the book was bad? That the book had nothing to say? That it wasn’t going to sell? What was the point? Why was I doing this anyway? Why, why, why?
Ahem. That was when my agent and editor suggested taking a new tack. We’d come up with a new list, and this time, we’d take a vote.
Asking friends! Right! What a concept! Maybe the whole Covid quarantine had made me forget, momentarily, that there were people out there who could help and who would help—willingly. So we put together a long list. We made a Google Form. We sent it to a bunch of people. We put the five top titles together and, low and behold, we had a winner:
Wish You Were Gone
I’m so happy with this title. It works on a number of levels. It also inspired a cover that is basically to die for, so there’s that. Only time will tell if it helps sell the book, but so many things go into book sales. The title, the cover, the marketing, the publicity, the current market trends, the, dare I say it . . . story? Here’s hoping that the particular cocktail we’re mixing with this one will make it a hit.