You’ve written a terrific book for teen readers. The idea is wonderful, you’ve done your homework and your facts are in order. The characters are fully developed, the plot is tight, the voice is original, the descriptions vivid, and the dialogue revealing and realistic.
So what else is there to do before your book goes out into the world?
The title and the cover are designed to hook all readers, but especially teens. You can’t do much about the cover, but it’s important to get the title right. Sometimes it needs tweaking.
Cleopatra Confesses was initially called Cleopatra’s Spell. Victoria Rebels was Victoria Rules for about ten minutes before I discarded that idea.
Mary, Bloody Mary came to me before I wrote the first sentence, having no idea it would be the beginning of a series. I wanted to call the next book, about Elizabeth, My Sister, My Enemy, but marketing wanted her name in the title. It became Beware, Princess Elizabeth. Doomed Queen Anne and Patience, Princess Catherine followed, although neither pleased me as much as the first one. When I began work on a book about Mozart’s sister, I called it Playing with Mozart. Marketing changed that to In Mozart’s Shadow: His Sister’s Story. I’m still not sure why.
Everyone agreed on The Bad Queen, and when we decided to add a provocative subtitle, Rules and Instructions for Marie-Antoinette, we used that idea to add chapter heads based on those rules. Great title, but not all readers have liked those chapter heads.
It made sense to title my next book in the series The Wild Queen with another provocative subtitle: The Days and Nights of Mary, Queen of Scots. Teens like it. Some older readers grumble that the title promises a racier story than the one I’ve delivered.
When I wrote the story of Shakespeare, with his sweetheart, Anne Hathaway, as the narrator, the title arrived with the idea for the book: Loving Will Shakespeare. There was a debate about shortening it to Loving Will, but I argued against it and won.
I’m happy with The True Adventures of Charley Darwin, but I’m puzzled to hear it called a “fictional autobiography”. Does that mean that every historical novel with a first-person narrator is a “fictional autobiography”? The label has not been applied to the Young Royals, in which Catherine, Mary, Elizabeth and Anne Boleyn all tell their own stories.
The cover is the most important tool for attracting a reader’s eye. In the course of writing more than fifty published books, I’ve learned that I have very little input. Usually the finished design arrives with a note, “Don’t you love this jacket?” and often I do. But sometimes I do not.
I love the jackets for Cleopatra Confesses, both the original and the paperback, and Victoria Rebels is gorgeous. I got to choose Mary’s gown for The Wild Queen. I love the look in the eye of Marie-Antoinette as she peers over her lacy blue fan, but the fan is Victorian, not 18th century. The fan remains and her look beguiles.
At the time of writing this I anxiously wait to see what the art department will do with Beauty’s Daughter, about the daughter of that famous seductress, Helen of Troy. I’ve just learned that marketing doesn’t much like the title. By the time you read this, it may have changed completely.
Carolyn Meyer’s author website: www.readcarolyn.com
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