The evolution of a title

At Readercon this past weekend, I had breakfast with Kelly Link and Gavin Grant of Small Beer Press and we talked about the collection. First, we settled on a target date for the book’s debut: Readercon of 2013. That’s a year to play with, but — since they will be putting out several other books before then — the ball is already rolling. I’m told we have to get the cover art locked down in a month’s time, so we’ll be poring over possibilities in the coming weeks. This part, I must admit, is a lot of fun.

When choosing cover art, it’s necessary to consider the title. And the title to this collection has just changed for the third and, one hopes, final time.

When I sent Small Beer the manuscript, it was called Monsters of Heaven: stories. (I’ve never liked “… and Other Stories” as a part of a title; I prefer a book to have a single title, with the word “stories” close by, to avoid confusion (and sometimes I wish we could even get rid of that).) I told them I was also considering You Go Where It Takes You as the collection’s title, and that met with a much more enthusiastic response. I poled my friends, and opinions were pretty split between the two. Since I liked them both, I decided to go with the latter.

At Readercon, I was told that when they asked people they knew, reactions were decidedly in favor of Monsters of Heaven. More memorable, they were told. More likely to get picked up. “So we’re going with your original title,” they said.

Just one problem: the novel I’m working on now is called Map of the Lower Heavens. Though there’s no guarantee that will be the title when it’s finally on the stands, I have no reason now to think that it won’t be, and I don’t want each of my first two books to have the word “Heaven” in the title. So I suggested the third title, again drawn from a short story in the collection, which I thought could work for the book as a whole. This one, mercifully, everyone liked right away. (By this time the writer Jedediah Berry had joined us, and offered his approval as well.)

The book is now called North American Lake Monsters: stories. I like it because it sounds like a field guide, or a bestiary, and because lake monsters are necessarily hidden beneath a placid surface, which is a theme that links many of the stories.

This suggests an entirely different sort of cover art than either of the previous titles, and so I’m spending the evening looking for something strange and beautiful.

I love working with a press that cares so much about what the writer wants for the book. I can’t wait to see what we make.


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