Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Creating A Book Title

You may not know this, but authors go through several titles before settling on the right one for their projects. DOWN FOR WHATEVER, my first novel, is no different.

Originally, the title was Same Script, Different Cast. Yeah, kinda cheesy, and from that Deborah Cox/Whitney Houston duet from the late 90s. I thought it was cute, and so did my editor for a quick minute. My agent never felt the name. He's hilarious and blunt about these kinds of things. I thought it summed up what many of my friends say the LGBT scene is all about... same storyline, just different people. Over and over.

Uh, didn't work. So we brainstormed for several weeks:

  • Getting Over The Boys
  • Brown Days, Black Nights
  • Boyz On The Side
  • Men Of Color
  • Kickin' It
  • Something Sexy On A Saturday Night
  • So Over It
There were others... but I'll spare me... and you... the embarrassment.

And then finally, while on vacation visiting family in the midwest, I heard some Teena Marie song on the radio. Heard the phrase "down for whatever" said in the song. I was like: this is it! And I composed the following paraphrased e-mail to my editor:

"DOWN FOR WHATEVER. Like it because it's short and easy to remember. My friends and I use the phrase all the time: a yes to going out and not knowing where we're going; a yes for a short-term hook up; a yes to just being with people and open to the possibilities... kinda like love."

He wrote back immediately: "I kind of like this title. Let me run it by the other editors, the publisher, and sales. Touch base in a few days."

In a few days, editor, agent, and I were in agreement. DOWN FOR WHATEVER would be the title. My only worry was that the book would get lumped with all the "Down Low" books that came out in the past year or so. Didn't want people thinking I was jumping on the bandwagon. Last thing on my mind, and definitely not my intention. However, I notice when random people hear the title, it immediately creates an association with black and brown men having drama in their love lives. Is that a good thing? I don't know...

Selecting the right title is paramount to the story you're writing. It's what will roll off the tongues of potential readers and buyers when they ask, "Do you have ________?" Editors look for something that gives an idea of the overall theme. Sales look for something that will move books onto bookstore shelves. Authors look for something that best represents their work. Customers look for something catchy... that's easy to remember and repeat to their friends. I suppose.

I'm sure any of the other titles would have worked. But I think DOWN FOR WHATEVER works best. No turning back now. July 5 is right around the corner. And as I move forward toward editing my second novel, I know there will be no debate or discussion over the title. Agent and editor both love it. But I'll save, or reveal, that for another entry.

Coming up... editorial notes and requests for changes to your manuscript. Gotta be open. That's later in the week.


Rashid @ Old Gold Soul said...

Your blogs are SO helpful to aspiring writers -- this is better than any writer's guide.

Anyway.....the work that became LAZARUS was originally titled BEHIND CLOSED DOORS...then DISCRETION. Well, what had happened was the first work that evolved into Lazarus was actually a play. Lazarus itself always had the same title. (I think.)

It was written so long ago.....relatively.


@GaryTylone said...

I love that you give advice to aspiring writers, its very helpful to here the real deal from someone who has gone through the motions already.

N4R said...

I am so looking forward to reading your book. I put in my order weeks ago. Blessing with all your work.