When I tell people I have written a book, the first question nearly everyone asks is: "What's it called?" And I hesitate to tell them every time. Because the title I have now--the so-called "working title"--is very likely not the one the book will end up with.
This is something that takes a while to learn. When I wrote my first novel, I came up with a title I loved. (More about that later.) It was short, succinct, and had a cute double entendre going for it. The trouble is, it wasn't a real indicator of what the book was about, so my agent and I brainstormed lots of titles that suggested both Shakespeare and the book's Jersey setting.
This activity soon became a kind of parlor game for my family and friends, who came up with suggestions like:
Much A Dude About Nothing
The Merry Ex-Wives of West Windsor
The Two Gentlemen of Verona, NJ
and my personal favorite, courtesy of my son Adam: Julius, Seize Her! or alternatively, Julius Sees Her. (Isn't this fun?)
Anyway, my current project is going out as Taming Kate, which gives a pretty clear idea of what my book is about and what it's referencing. But its very familiarity could end up working against it, and down the line it could certainly change. And there's always that frustration of coming up with what seems like the perfect title, only to find that it's already out there. The lovely, rhythmic, and oh-so-apt Much Ado About You, for example, was off limits to me, because it already belongs to the incomparable Eloisa James. And a title I considered for my current book, Plain Kate, is a young adult book that was released in September.
And that first title I came up with? The one I loved? It's The Marriage Plot, which just happens to be the name of Jeffrey Eugenides' upcoming novel, due out in October. Eugenides is the author of The Virgin Suicides and Middlesex, works that are about as far from fun beach reads as you can get.
So I had to have a little going away party for my title. (I always knew it had potential.) I wished it luck, gave it my blessing, and now look forward to seeing it on the New York Times bestseller list.
Just not with my name next to it.