Thursday, August 16, 2018

A Rose by Any Other Name...

How do you choose your titles? Does your publisher do it?


From Jim

My title situation is a little different from that of most writers today. I write the Ellie Stone mysteries, a traditional whodunnit series set in the early 1960s. My protagonist is named Ellie Stone, and all my titles are common expressions or portions of common expressions involving the word stone. That means there’s a limited number of possible titles for these books. And to maintain consistency and branding of the series, all the books need Stone titles. To date, my publisher has never once suggested we change any of the titles I’ve submitted. That’s pretty rare in our business where titles are changed as a matter of course during the publication process.

If you don’t believe me, consider this. Here are some little know facts about famous title changes. All 100% true. You can win money betting people on these, trust me.

Anna Karenina was Girl under a Train.



Here’s Greta Garbo in the 1935 film adaptation.











Moby-Dick was Whale Gone


But there was another title under consideration. You see in Melville’s first version, Moby-Dick was a brown whale, whence the title Fudgie the Whale.





And here is a rare photo of Herman Melville himself. 





The Grapes of Wrath was originally intended to be more upbeat with California Here I Come! as the title.






Graham Greene’s Our Man in Havana was originally Our Vacuum Cleaner Man in Havana, but the marketing department thought that gave away too much.

Hesse’s Steppenwolf was to be called Born to Be Wild.

It happens with movies, too. High Society was The Philadelphia Story. 

The Front Page was originally called His Girl Friday. And His Girl Friday was originally called The Front Page.



Dial M for Murder was actually written before the telephone was invented. The title was Tap Dash Dash for Murder.

Recognize Grace Kelly? 







As for my titles, here they are in order. I welcome any suggestions for more.



Book 1
STYX & STONE




Book 2
NO STONE UNTURNED (2015 Anthony Award finalist)




STONE COLD DEAD (2016 Anthony, Barry, Lefty Award finalist)




Book 4
HEART OF STONE (2017 Anthony and Macavity Award Winner; Edgar and Lefty Finalist)




Book 5
CAST THE FIRST STONE (2018 Anthony, Lefty, and Macavity Award finalist)






Book 6 
A STONE’S THROW









7. Up next in June 2019 is TURN TO STONE, after which I have a few choices left.

8. SET IN STONE (or ETCHED IN STONE or WRITTEN IN STONE)

9. BLOOD FROM A STONE

10. SINK LIKE A STONE

11. TWO BIRDS WITH ONE STONE

There are surely others I haven’t thought of yet. Please feel free to send me suggestions. 


In conclusion, publishers will usually change your titles. But as I’ve outlined above, I don’t have that problem for my books. Good luck to the rest of you.





7 comments:

Lyda McPherson said...

Loving Ellie Stone. My contribution to the list? Stone Deaf.

James Ziskin said...

Thanks, Lyda! I’ll put that on the list!

Jim

Terry said...

Great post. I vote for Fudgie the Whale!

Okay, here's a suggestion: Stoned in the Sixties.

Cathy Ace said...

Excellent piece - as always, Jim :-)

Susan C Shea said...

Jim, If I were a betting woman and an imbiber, I'd bet you a bottle of scotch...


So, did you know before the first Ellie Stone mystery was published that all the titles would have STIONE in them? Because, if you did, you're so far ahead of me. I was so thrilled that my first book was going to be published, but it never occurred to me someone might publish the second, or the third...And that keeps happening to me.

RJ Harlick said...

Love the before titles, particularly Fudgie the Whale. Surely not. Great post

pamela c. said...

My vote is for Like a Rolling Stone! and I prefer SET in Stone for #8