Thursday, November 8, 2012

My Titling Process: You May Never Look at My Covers The Same Way Again

MY BLUEGRASS BABY, my first Pocket Star e-book is an example of my books that go through several titles before we finally land on one that works.  This new series, featuring a cast of characters working in a Kentucky tourism promotions office, will be launched in December 2012.

I get a lot of questions about my titles.  In general, it's something like, "How the heck did you come up with that?"

I guess with books like HOW TO FLIRT WITH A NAKED WEREWOLF and THE CARE AND FEEDING OF STRAY VAMPIRES to my credit, I have that coming.  Oddly enough, the only projects I’ve had that made it to print with the original titles are DRIVING MR. DEAD and THE CARE AND FEEDING OF STRAY VAMPIRES. There is a multi-step ordeal that leads to the finished title product, and the winding process that led to my newest title just shows what my publisher has to put up with. 

In general, my process is as follows:

Step 1: I turn a manuscript to my agent, Stephany, for a first read.  She'll send me notes on what I could improve about the story, usually including the phrase, "Are we sure about this title?"  

For example, the first draft of NICE GIRLS DON'T HAVE FANGS was called Single Undead Female.  We changed it because we were concerned about readers mixing it up with another vampire series with "Undead" in the titles.  (For a more comprehensive list of original titles, see below.)

Step 2: I turn the re-titled manuscript over to my editor, Abby, for a second read.  (Usually after at least one re-write based on Stephany's notes.)  Abby asks me to think of a new title as the current selection isn't quite "there" yet. 

My newest Jane Jameson spin-off is a good example.  I called the book WITCH HUNT, because it's about a witch hunting for magical items that the late Mr. Wainwright hid in Specialty Books. The publisher wanted a title more funny and punny like my other titles.

Step 3: I submit a list of suggestions, usually with Stephany's input, which bounces between Stephany, Abby and myself until we arrive at a selection.  For WITCH HUNT, it went a little something like this: 

MOLLY:   How about something like-

Any Witch Way
Which Way is Witch?
Ain't That a Witch?
Shape-Shifted and Spellbound
Shapeshifters and Scavenger Hunts
The Young Witch's Guide to Surviving Half-Moon Hollow
Molly Harper's Almost Vampire Free Paranormal Romance Spectacular

ABBY:  Actually, I was thinking along the vein of the second to last one, too—something that sounds self-helpy, but for witches. But I think “Surviving Half-Moon Hollow” is too inside-baseball for new readers. Surviving something else, though…

Witchcraft for Any Occasion (Including Possums)
A Young Witch’s Guide to Keeping Your Man Spellbound
Men Who Love Witches
STEPHANY: I'm definitely picking up anything with possums in the title. 

MOLLY: I never should have encouraged this possum fascination.*

A Witch’s Guide to Love Spells
What Do Witches Want?
The Rough Guide for Witches Traveling Abroad

STEPHANY: The Reluctant Witch's Guide to Kentucky Comfort?

ABBY: How about “A Witch’s Guide to Spellbinding Your Man”—I’m checking with art to make sure we could fit that on the cover!

STEPHANY:  Does "Witch's" need an adjective? Should "A" be "The"? i.e., "The Something Witch's Guide to..."Or taking another tack...A Witch's Compendium of Curses and Kisses?
MOLLY: Ooh, I like that last one!

STEPHANY:  Well, maybe A Witch's Compendium of Curses and Spellbinding Kisses. What's a Molly Harper title without a little excess?

ABBY: Now you're just causing trouble!

STEPHANY: My best talent. :)

MOLLY: Somewhere in this chain of emails, there is a blog post about how my insane titles are born.

Step 4: The three of us are reined in by more responsible, non-possum-obsessed adults.  Ultimately, it was decided that "compendium" was a little too complicated, so the official title is, A WITCH'S HANDBOOK OF KISSES AND CURSES.

THE WITCH'S HANDBOOK OF KISSES AND CURSES will be released in June 2013.  A preview is available in the back of THE CARE AND FEEDING OF STRAY VAMPIRES.

*Abby has a fascination with possums that I haven't quite figured out yet.

More Original Titles, changed under the guidance of my former Pocket editor, the ever-patient Jennifer Heddle.


NICE GIRLS DON’T HAVE FANGS was originally called Single Undead Female.
Other suggestions included:
No Pulse, No Problem

Southern Fried and Fanged
Deerly Beloved

NICE GIRLS DON’T DATE DEAD MEN was originally called Single Undead Bridesmaid

HOW TO FLIRT WITH A NAKED WEREWOLF was originally called NICE BOYS DON’T BITE. (I was trying to play an "opposite game" with the Nice Girls books.)

Other suggestions included:
Leader of the Pack
Northern Comfort
Fur Afield
Alpha Male
Love and Bear-Traps


AND ONE LAST THING… was originally called THE BEST REVENGE.

MY BLUEGRASS BABY, due out in December 2012, was originally called, Bizarrely Bluegrass.
Other suggestions included:
My Old Kentucky Hometown
Getting Lucky in Kentucky
Wooing in the Bluegrass

MY BLUEGRASS BABY is available for pre-order.  Click here.


Vicki said...

Once again you have confirmed why you are my favorite author. :) Your books just can't be released fast enough. Love you Molly (And no I'm not a psychotic stalker) ;)

CB said...

I must say putting a possum in the title would have grabbed my interest. :)

donnaas247 said...

I agree with Abby. possum's are cute. as for your title process. thanks for the insight. my best friend the poet helps me title everything.

vergehiggins said...

Oh, I'm so glad I'm not the only one who comes up with a hundred titles in the attempt to find The One. Thanks for sharing your process!

bookishdragon said...

You're books are what I call my chocolate box books. You know, the guilty pleasure we've all got stashed somewhere in the house....
Any who - I thought I saw on the blog at one point that there was a 3rd Grundy Werewolves book to be released in 2013. Is that still coming?

DGoodall said...

Loved reading about your titling process. Can't wait for the new books! You can't write them fast enough for me. :)