Last night I attended a cocktail party (an event designed to raise the profile of the charity I chair, Girls Write Now, with women in publishing), and fell into conversation with one of my favorite leaders, innovators and prognosticators in the publishing industry, Jane Friedman. (No, not that Jane Friedman, though she's fabulous too.) Jane has lived many lives in her publishing career, and is credited with, among other things, inventing the author tour by taking Julia Child on the road. Her latest incarnation is as head of the digital publisher and multimedia content company Open Road Media. Jane is always up to something exciting, and a story she told about her latest project last night caught my attention. On Tuesday, Open Road reissued William Broyles Jr.'s memoir "Brothers In Arms" (the book that inspired the television series China Beach) but with a new title. Or, more accurately, with an old title, the title the author always wanted in the first place: "Goodbye Vietnam." That title gave me chills. The first title made me think of Dire Straits (dating myself), and has now become the name of smash hit violent video game series.
Which got me to thinking: when it comes to a title, who knows best? The author, or the marketing department?
I had a truly terrible title for my first book. Taken from a line in my vows, it was "The Rest of My Life Will Never Be Long Enough." My publisher, thank god, came up with the far catchier "I Do But I Don't," though the risk of a catchy title is that its very catchiness will catch up with you -- if you search "I Do But I Don't" on Amazon, you will find "I Do (But I Don't)" the A&E movie starring Denise Richards, "I Do & I Don't," a 2010 comedy starring Jane Lynch, and a whole bunch of other things, and it will take you a heck of a lot of scrolling to find my book. (I realize this is also because my book is out of print.) My agent and I battled over the subtitle with the publisher, however, as many writers I know have, and this battle is glaringly in evidence when you look at the hardback cover of my book versus the paperback. (Hint, the subtitles are not the same.) Titles and subtitles are hugely important, of course -- part of the reason we changed my subtitle for the paperback was that the original subtitle implied I'd written a how-two book, which my book decidedly wasn't, leading to some pissed off readers who felt they'd been sold a false bill of goods. And a great title can be so great it has value all on its own; I actually know authors who have had only the titles of their books optioned by television production companies, not the books themselves.
So I want to know: have you ever battled a publisher over a title or a subtitle? Have you ever been saved by a savvier soul than yourself (as I was), or condemned by a fundamental misunderstanding of your book to misrepresent it in the marketplace (as I, with my original subtitle, was too)? Alternatively, have you ever had a title-battle with yourself, an editor, or a friend?
Please feel free to share multiple titles and their more or less fortunate incarnations. I'd love to see them. Oh and a final note...I just typed the working title of my novel into Amazon books' search bar and found no fewer than SIX books of the same name. Back to the drawing board? Or does it matter?