A WORK IN PROGRESS, WITH A COMMENT ABOUT TITLES
(July 2006) Well, this may seem like an odd idea but it appealed to me. I was talking to someone yesterday, and I happened to mention the many, many articles that I wrote for the original blog, The Ellory Journal.
Starting in July 2006, I attempted to post at least one article a month, and though I didn’t manage to maintain it, I did write a good few. This friend of mine said it would be interesting to read those articles again, going back to the earliest and working forward, seeing how things evolved as new books were written and released.
I took an hour out and went back to those articles, and they made me smile. It was a somewhat nostalgic exercise, and interesting to see my viewpoint change as the years passed. However, some of them seemed quite topical and relevant, even now.
So I am posting them again, one every few days. Not all of them, of course, but those that I feel might be of interest. Here is the first one, from July of 2006…
CITY OF LIES, due for release on September 6th, 2006 is the fourth book to be published. The fifth book, due for release in 2007, remains untitled. Beginning in Georgia in the 1940s it is perhaps the most unusual serial killer book that you will come across. The book spans the life of Joseph Vaughan, an aspiring author, and tracks his life as he grows up in a small farming community called Augusta Falls. A series of child murders spanning the decade from 1939 to 1949 holds this community in a grip of fear, and Vaughan, along with a number of friends, form ‘The Guardians’, children who dedicate themselves to the identification of the child-killer. Without detailing the entire story, this untitled work is perhaps closer in themes and atmosphere to Candlemoth.
Currently I am working on a sixth script, also untitled, which steps away from the historical nature of Candlemoth, Ghostheart and A Quiet Vendetta. This sixth work is the story of Danny McCarthy, a professional thief who attempted to steal an astronomical clock from the New York Metropolitan Museum in 2001. Having been caught, he served four years in Five Points Correctional Facility in upstate New York, and once released he determines to complete the original commission to steal the clock. This takes him from New York to Marseilles to Prague to Paris, involves him with a series of characters ranging from art dealers to ex-thieves to European terrorists. Like City Of Lies, it is a straight narrative, as opposed to a double narrative structure, however it does deal with the backstory of the original Metropolitan theft from 2001.
Considering the nature of titles, and working on two books simultaneously which remain untitled, highlights the issue of titles and how significant they are in influencing a reader’s choice. Candlemoth, the first book published, is the only only so far that retained its original title, a title I wanted to change! The second book, Ghostheart, was originally titled Letters From Cicero. The third book, A Quiet Vendetta, was called This Thing Of Ours, the literal English translation of Cosa Nostra. City Of Lies, as a working script, was entitled 66 Carmine, and thus I have learned that any title I might choose may very well not be the one that is used.
Hence, somewhat philosophically, I have decided not to title a book until it is finished, and then – for good measure – make a list of about a dozen titles and submit them to my editor for consideration…even a ballot in the sales office (as happened with Ghostheart!) So titles remain a mystery to me. How significant are they? Combined with the cover image there are some titles that manage to capture the potential reader’s curiosity and provoke an ‘impulse buy’. Other books – utterly, breathtakingly brilliant though they may be – never even arrive as the combination of cover design and title was somehow ‘wrong’. Other books, perhaps not so good, sell by the pallet-load simply because the title and cover were ‘right’. It is a fickle and unpredictable business. Such things are always a gamble, and covers are sometimes changed utterly for the paperback version in the hope that the combination of title and new design might capture readers that were missed when the hardback hit the shelves.
Conclusion: persistence is the key. Keep on writing, keep on publishing. By word of mouth you’ll garner a readership all your own, and those readers will tell other readers who will tell others. Some of our finest ‘Top Ten Bestselling’ authors are bestsellers only after eight, nine, ten books. The trick is to sell enough books, regardless of cover and title, in order to justify the next contract, the next one after that, the next one after that. As long as you stay in print it will come right, n’est ce pas?