In the spirit of this blog unveiling the mysteries between getting a deal and hitting the shelves, I’ve decided to talk about my journey of landing on a title for my debut MG novel.
Like many authors, I was asked to change my original title. Which, luckily enough for me, was a request that didn’t actually crush my soul. My original title for this story was always just a placeholder in my mind. I wasn’t that attached.
My novel was written with the title DESTINED FOR MARS, which is the name of the training program my main character, Miranda, is in. Miranda’s been chosen for the first ever mission to Mars, along with five other international cadets. However, as my editor pointed out, the book isn’t really about exploring Mars. It’s about the unfolding sinister plot that threatens the lives of the cadets during their first few months of astronaut training. Therefore, DESTINED FOR MARS might be misleading–it could imply the book takes place on Mars!
I’d hate to disappoint a reader. I immediately agreed a title change was in order.
My editor asked me for alternative ideas. Ideally something that would convey the excitement of the story.
“Sure!” I said. “Can do!”
As it turned out, thinking of something that sounded exciting but not cheesy was almost impossible. A bunch of ideas were thrown around, each more cringe-worthy than the next. I lost count of how many emails my editor and I exchanged. My book is upper middle grade, which meant overly gimmicky titles were out the window, but overly poetic titles wouldn’t work, either. We also had to avoid a title that would include spoilers for the book itself. Once you read it, (as I’m sure all of you lovely people will someday, right?) you’ll see how easy it would be to give it a super cool title that would simultaneously completely spoil the plot.
Months passed. MONTHS. When people would find out I was being published, they’d always ask what the book title was, and I had to keep coming back with, “Uh…it doesn’t have one yet.” Yep. Awkward.
It was destroying me that I had no name for my book. Especially when I was in the revision process and had nothing to put on the top of the manuscript!
…Then, one day, I changed how I thought about my title. My title needed to be catchy, sure, but most importantly, it had to be honest as to what the book was about. DESTINED FOR MARS was thrown out because it was misleading…so…
What was my book really about?
Easy. It was about a sinister plot. But I couldn’t call my book, THE STORY ABOUT A PLOT. So off to thesaurus.com I went, and immediately hit upon the word “conspiracy”.
That sounded pretty cool! But I need to get more specific. I had to have something that could imply that this conspiracy had to do with space and astronaut training.
Then I remember my dad’s title suggestion: THE COUNTDOWN TO CHAOS. (My incredibly supportive parents had many, many suggestions, as I’m sure some of you in similar positions can imagine.)
That…that’s my book. That’s it!
So I sent the idea to my editor, along with a few others I liked, and she took it to her sales and marketing team while I waited and tried not to melt from nerves. A meeting later (and six months after getting the deal), it was settled!
DESTINED FOR MARS became THE COUNTDOWN CONSPIRACY.
And that, blog readers, is at least one way a book can change titles and have all parties involved be happy about it! It can be done!
Katie Slivensky’s debut novel (THE COUNTDOWN CONSPIRACY) tells the story of a 13 year-old robotics whiz who is thrilled to be chosen to train for an international mission to Mars, but soon finds herself and her fellow cadets in a situation far more dire and deadly than any of them could have imagined. Publication is set for Summer 2017 with HarperCollins Children’s.
Katie is a science educator at the Museum of Science in Boston, where she coordinates school visits, does live presentations, and runs the rooftop observatory program. With an academic background in paleontology and zoology, she only began dabbling in astronomy when she joined the Museum in 2009. It soon became a major passion, and spilled straight over into her writing life.
Katie lives in a suburb of Boston with her two completely absurd cats, Galileo and Darwin. She is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette.