Today’s mini-interview takes a look at a pair of interesting topics: how long it takes to get traditionally published, and what happens to the title of your debut book when you get there.
It took me ten years (and five manuscripts) to get my first publishing contract. My debut mystery, Claws of the Cat, was originally titled Shinobi. When the series sold to Minotaur Books, my editor, Toni Kirkpatrick, told me she loved “Shinobi” for the series but that the novel needed a title that offered readers more than a foreign word. With a little help from my critique group, Shinobi became Claws of the Cat: A Shinobi Mystery.
I asked a group of published friends to share their debut and title stories (as usual, in one sentence or less). Let’s hear what they had to say:
How long were you writing seriously before you sold your debut novel?
I wrote my first book in 2009, got my agent with my second book in 2010, and sold my third book as a trilogy in 2011. — Delilah S. Dawson, author of the Blud series and the upcoming YA Servants of the Storm
15 years! (Could tell a long story about that.) — Lisa Alber, author of Kilmoon, A County Clare Mystery
About 4 years . — Jennifer Delamere, author of An Heiress at Heart
Started writing when my daughter was two weeks old and sold my debut when she was finishing up 3rd grade. — Jessica Brockmole, author of Letters From Skye
Four frustrating, tear-filled years! — Hazel Gaynor, author of The Girl Who Came Home
I worked for 2 and a half years on my debut novel before I signed with an agent, and then we did revisions and it sold 4 months after that. — Heather Webb, author of Becoming Josephine and Rodin’s Lover
I had been writing seriously for about nine years before I sold my debut novel. — Alex Hughes, author of the Mindspace Investigations Series
About ten years. — Natalia Sylvester, author of Chasing the Sun
7 years & 5 manuscripts. — Anna Lee Huber, author of the Lady Darby Mysteries.
Forever – or since 6th grade, which is pretty much the same thing. . — Kerry Schafer, author of The Books of The Between.
8 or 9 years (a memoir, travel book, a never-published novel and then…). — Dana Gynther, Author of Crossing on the Paris
I had been writing for over ten years (many manuscripts are buried somewhere in the backyard with the dog’s bones and will never see the light of day). — Brenda Drake, author of Library Jumpers (Entangled Teen, 2015)
Off and on during a 10 year period, though the book that got my agent took 6 months to write. — Stacey Lee, author of Under a Painted Sky (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2015)
What was the working title of your debut novel, and if it changed before publication, at what point in the process did it change?
Working title of WICKED AS THEY COME was BLUD, but it wasn’t sexy enough and got changed about 3 months after sale. — Delilah S. Dawson, author of the Blud series and the upcoming YA Servants of the Storm
KILMOON SEASON. Final title decided upon as entering final edit stage (late in process actually). — Lisa Alber, author of Kilmoon, A County Clare Mystery
The title was “The Heiress Returns” but was changed to “An Heiress at Heart” at the contract stage. — Jennifer Delamere, author of An Heiress at Heart
It spent most of its life as REPOSE, was submitted as THERE YOU ARE, and was retitled LETTERS FROM SKYE soon after the sale. — Jessica Brockmole, author of Letters From Skye
THE GIRL WHO CAME HOME – from the very first scribbles in my notebook to publication. Totally different story to the title of book two! — Hazel Gaynor, author of The Girl Who Came Home
My title began as BECOMING JOSEPHINE: THE FIRST FRENCH EMPRESS and I ended up chopping off the last bit, because it was too rambly, to BECOMING JOSEPHINE. — Heather Webb, author of Becoming Josephine and Rodin’s Lover.
The working title was CLEAN, and while the publisher didn’t like the title, no one could think of any better one so it stayed. — Alex Hughes, author of the Mindspace Investigations Series
CHASING THE SUN originally sold as WHERE WE ONCE BELONGED, but after the first round of edits my editor, agent & I agreed it needed something with a little more … heat. — Natalia Sylvester, author of Chasing the Sun
My debut started as HALF SICK OF SHADOWS, but my agent thought it should be something more to the point, so it was changed to A FATAL PORTRAIT before submission; then the publisher thought that was too generic & HALF SICK OF SHADOWS was already taken, so they changed it to THE ANATOMIST’S WIFE about 6 months before publication . — Anna Lee Huber, author of the Lady Darby Mysteries.
SWIMMING NORTH, which I loved, but after a series of bone deep revisions it just didn’t fit any more. — Kerry Schafer, author of The Books of The Between.
“LAUNCHING PARIS” (still the file name on my computer) which my agent thought should be changed before submission . — Dana Gynther, Author of Crossing on the Paris
My debut novel is LIBRARY JUMPERS and has always had that name from first thought, and I’m not sure if it will change now that it’s with Entangled Teen. — Brenda Drake, author of Library Jumpers (Entangled Teen, 2015)
The working title was GOLDEN BOYS, and we changed it to UNDER A PAINTED SKY because my publisher had another book by that title. — Stacey Lee, author of Under a Painted Sky (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2015)
Now it’s your turn! If you’ve written a novel, I’d love to hear your answers to these questions in the comments! If you like to read novels, let us know what you think about title changes before publication!