Gentle Publisher has forbidden the title I chose for the Compleat Liam, oh, four years ago. It’s boring and unevocative, he says, won’t attract readers. At the moment he issued the ultimatum I told him this had never happened to me before, in the nearly forty years since I sold my first story: but on reflection I realize it isn’t so. My second pro sale was retitled for similar cause and the third for reasons having to do with long forgotten sci-fi politics of the day. So be it. Ave atque vale, Liam in the World.
Because he is not entirely heartless (or maybe he is), Gentle Publisher came up with a list of five alternate titles. Following a strategy I’ve only recently noticed other writers using, they’re all direct quotes from the text itself.
Fairy Teeth A Literal Fairy
- That Door Is a Mischief and My Heart Is Sorrowful
- All the Feral Promises
In the Grotty Mirror
As you see, I’ve dismissed three out of hand. Doubtless he expected me to. Number 4 is perhaps too…Sweet Savage Love? Or maybe I’m thinking of a movie from the 1950s.
Number 3 I love. I loved it in context when I wrote the line of dialogue, love it again divorced from context. But does it work as a title? First of all, the last time I used a book title similarly lengthy, You Will Meet a Stranger Far from Home, the title proved a mischief—misremembered, misquoted, mangled, once ignored entirely in favor of the subtitle Wonder Stories. Nor will I soon forget the snarls of irritation that greeted the novelette title “Wheat, Barley, Lettuce, Fennel, Salt for Sorrow, Blood for Joy.”
Second, I wouldn’t wish people to assume Liam’s book is some lugubrious recitation of sorrows or any variety of tragical Faerie Ballad: it is quite other than either.
Third, the mischievous door, although present in the first chapter, doesn’t assume its true importance till quite near book’s end.
So I will ponder and fret a while longer. There’s time. I await responses (thoughts, critiques, rippings of new assholes) from a couple of people I sent the current draft to who have more pressing demands on their time. As do we all. I have two (at least) books to design and lay out and a couple of novel-length MSs to proofread prior to layout.