Monday, January 07, 2008

Title Woes

I had no problems at all with the titles of my first three Sebastian books. They came easily, and my editors loved them. But that was yesterday, and yesterday’s gone.

The last book, WHERE SERPENTS SLEEP, was in naming fits for the better part of a year before ending up right back where it started. Book Number Five is shaping up to be even worse. I’d called it WHAT HELL MARKS, which is taken from a Shakespearean quote, “Sin, death, and hell hath set their mark upon him…” It really, really fit the book, but after my last experience, I decided to run it past my editor. Her response?

“I’m afraid some of the accounts (“accounts” are New Yorkspeak for booksellers) might not order a book with ‘hell’ in the title. We don’t want to give them any reason not to order the book.”

Sigh. I’ve spent the better part of a week trying to come up with something else, playing with words, all to no avail. I thought about, “What Death Marks,” but it just doesn’t excite me. I’m afraid I’m in for another long slog.

And I don't know what's happened to the blog header, but I'm trying to get it fixed.


Steve Malley said...

How about, "What Blood Marks", from:

My tears shall wipe away these bloody marks; King Henry VI, part III: II, v

Or "With Blood Mark'd" from my favorite, the Scottish play:

When we have mark'd with blood those sleepy two Macbeth: I, vii

Just a thought...

cs harris said...

"What Blood Marks." Wow, that fits the book even better than the original! Thank you, Steve. I'm off to run it past my editor.

Charles Gramlich said...

or "We mourn in black. Why mourn we not in blood?"

Chap O'Keefe said...

I hope your editor approves of Steve's great suggestion.

Yet more evidence from your experience here of how little sway editors have been left these days. I know that when I put up a proposal to the New Zealand arm of an international publishing corporation, I was told it had to be run past the people who ordered the stock for the big retail chains, whose reaction was negative. "There is no market for western fiction," they said, basing their decision on the slow sales of thirtieth-plus reprints of books by an author who died nearly 20 years ago.

Those "accounts" -- people I suspect never read fiction -- are the real editors, it seems.

Though I've never tried using it myself, "Hell" as a no-no in a title is a new one on me. My publisher has used it on several westerns that have gone into library systems. And I figure many of the libraries are conservative. I've often been asked to tone down explicit descriptions of violence and sex for fear of upsetting them!

Anonymous said...

Since your other titles start with What, Why, When, and Where, perhaps "Who Blood Marks"?

(I see that this is going to post under my first name only, for reasons that escape me. That seems discourteous, when others are using their full names, and I apologize.)

Mike Maddin

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