Book titles arrive different ways. Some crop up at the get-go, even before I start writing a book. Others come when my publisher reads the opening of the book and a word or phrase pops up that is perfect. Others take longer to find.
My preference? I like having a title early on. It helps me focus.
When it came to this new book, which I finished writing this summer, that didn’t happen. My publisher initially liked Feels Like Home. I did not. I liked Home Plans. My publisher did not. One of the problems we had was the dilemma of following up on Sweet Salt Air as a title, which captured smell, taste, and feel, and was a done deal from the start. But this new book, being very different from Sweet Salt Air, needed a very different title. I was adamant about that.
The problem is, a title is a marketing tool. It has to work on many different levels, has to resonate with my publisher’s art, marketing, and sales departments, as well as all of us involved with the book’s contents. To best pick that marketing tool, people in the know have to read it.
I turned the completed manuscript in to my editor in mid-July. She and her assistant read it first, and her assistant generated a list of possible title words. My editor ran through them with me on the phone, reading the list herself for the first time. When she reached one particular word, she stopped, repeated it, and said, “Oh!” I echoed her sentiment exactly.
We both liked it. We found it different and fresh, and it resonated with the story. We checked lists of novels either already published or about to be published, and found it free. Playing devil’s advocate, we wondered whether readers would think the book non-fiction with BLUEPRINTS as the title. But with my name on it? With A Novel printed beneath it? With the kind of cover art we envision? I don’t think so.
The marketing and art departments were immediately excited about the possibilities. Quickly, my editor went back and edited the catalog copy to incorporate this title. Here it is:
BLUEPRINTS is the story of two strong women, Caroline MacAfee, a skilled carpenter, and her daughter Jamie, a talented architect. The day after her 56th birthday, Caroline is told the network wants Jamie to replace her as the host on Gut It!, their family-based home construction TV show. The resulting rift couldn’t come at a worse time.
For Jamie, life changes overnight when, soon after learning of the host shift, her father and his new wife die in a car accident that orphans their two-year-old son. Accustomed to organization and planning, she is now grappling with a toddler who misses his parents, a fiancé who doesn’t want the child, a staggering new attraction, and a work challenge that, if botched, could undermine the future of both MacAfee Homes and Gut It!
For Caroline, hosting Gut It! is part of her identity. Facing its loss, she feels betrayed by her daughter and old in the eyes of the world. When her ex-husband dies, she is thrust into the role of caregiver to his aging father. And then there’s Dean, a long-time friend, whose efforts to seduce her awaken desires that have been dormant for so long that she feels foreign to herself.
Who am I? both women ask, as the blueprints they’ve built their lives around suddenly need revising. While loyalties shift, decisions hover, and new relationships tempt, their challenge comes not only in remaking themselves, but in rebuilding their relationship with each other.
What do you think? Does BLUEPRINTS work for you?