October 2007

People often ask if I get to choose the titles of my books. The answer is, “Sometimes.” I am not that great at making up titles. I guess all my energy goes into writing the book! One of my books, Eclipse, started out as What I Did Last Summer. My editors kindly informed me that it wouldn’t work. Together we came up with the final title.

Another one of my big flops was Lone Wolf. The book was a big hit, but I doubt it would have been if the editors had let me have my way with the title I wanted which was, When the Winter Wind Blows. You get the idea. Sometimes my titles are losers.

Editors want books to sell. So do authors. The choice of a title is really, really, really important! It’s the first thing people see and it should make them think, “Now this looks very interesting!”

Even though I’m not a great namer of books, sometimes I pick a winner. Dove Song was my idea. So was Nerd No More. A few years ago I wrote a very special book, based on stories my dad told me about growing up in a coal-mining town. The main character of this story is a boy whose nickname is Cuss, because he can swear in 14 languages.

I knew exactly what I wanted to name my book. I wanted to name it Cuss. My editors would have nothing to do with my title. We argued, we sent e-mails back and forth. I said, “Cuss is a great name!” They said, “No, it’s not.” When we finally settled on Grape Thief I was very disappointed. My last e-mail to the editor was, “I think you’re making a mistake. This book should be called Cuss.”

Grape Thief has done well in hardcover, but not as well as we had hoped. I think the reason is the rotten title. Grape Thief? Who cares?

Well, I have an announcement to make! Grape Thief has gone into paperback, and not only does it have new cover art (an actual boy, not a woman dressed up like a boy, as on the cover of the hardback version…take a good look) and the new title is Cuss!

I hope a zillion kids pick up my book and read it because it has a fun title.

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