Writing Journey: Part IV
After that February phone call, my editor Angela and I began the editing process pretty quickly because I had an unusually early release date. At first they waffled on two different ones: July or January.
With the typical publishing pipeline process, January would have made much more sense. I don't know why they ended up picking July, but I've always guessed they had an unexpected open slot or something. Looking back, I can see how insanely fast it all happened.
July turned out to be very good for me, as I was due with baby #4 mid-September. That gave me two and a half months to promote before baby arrived. Trying to do book signings and the like with a newborn would have been a challenge. (As it was, dragging my huge, swollen self around was tough enough. My last book signing was days before she was born.)
I spent my spring going over edits and proofs. At one point, Angela informed me in an e-mail that my book would be called Lost without You.
I stared at the screen, confused. I typed, "What does that have to do with my story?"
Her reply: "Oh, I think they figured it was just a romantic-sounding title."
Great. I pictured the marketing department with a list of "romantic" names in one column and a list of writers on the other and then someone randomly drawing lines between the two.
I'm sure it wasn't like that, but I still didn't like the title. To me, the romance wasn't the point of the book. Yes, it's a big part of the story, but it wasn't where I wanted the focus to be. I wanted it on the mother-daughter relationship. Oh, and "lost without you" isn't something any of my characters would say.
During the final editing, I asked if I could tweak the last scene. I added one sentence of dialogue (which included the words, "lost without you") so that the title would point to what *I* wanted it to. (Not the romance!)
Since then, I've gotten several reader letters saying that they wondered what the title had to to do with anything until they got to that line. So, yeah. Glad I did that.
Then I saw the cover. In case you don't remember it, this is what it looks like:
It's not my favorite cover (not by a mile), but it's not bad, either. It does the job pretty well.
Let's analyze it for a moment. Remember, authors don't get much (if any) say in their covers. As a first-time author, I had even less say. No clout at all. I didn't even see the cover until it was finalized and in the Covenant preview catalog that goes to bookstores.
I thought the vertical design was kind of cool. The color was catchy. But . . . the girl on the cover looks pregnant. Brooke isn't pregnant. Ever.
And the girl has curly, brown hair. Brooke has straight brown hair. At one point, she dyes and perms her hair for a part in a play. So if it's curly, it should also be red. She looks so sad and miserable, but the story is actually pretty light for the most part. (It even has some funny moments, I think.) Overall, I didn't fall in love with the whole stock photo thing.
Note how itty bitty my name is on the cover. That's because no one would be picking it up based on my name. I didn't have a name yet, if that makes sense. Ever notice how books by really huge writers have their name emblazoned over half the book, while you almost have to search for the title? That would be why. Their name is selling the book.
A lot of readers are horrified when they find out that the writer doesn't get much say in the title or the cover. But the reality is that the marketing and graphic design departments have a ton more experience in selling books than the writer does. The writer's job is to write a good book; they package it and sell it.
These people have the goal to get customers to pick up your book off the shelf and give it a chance. They have a lot of experience in knowing what types of covers and titles will do that, and which won't. On top of that, the graphic design people are trained in making covers look professional.
Granted, sometimes they create flops, but it's far more likely that they'll do a (MUCH!) better job than the writer could have if given the chance.
This is why it's pretty easy most of the time to spot a self-published book: the writer picked the title and the cover and didn't know how. The cover and title might match the story inside, but the book will almost certainly get passed over on the vast sea that the bookshelves are.
Since the publisher takes the entire financial burden for evaluating, editing, designing, printing, shipping, and marketing your book, it makes sense that they'd get the say on how to sell it to give it the best shot.
That still doesn't make it easy to wait to see what they come up with!
(But I'm still thrilled over my newest cover!)
For over a year I couldn't call my first book by its title; it was just "my book." Not until I had more than one published (so "my book" was no longer specific enough) could I call it Lost without You.
I discovered shortly after LWY hit shelves that getting such a quick release date had one pretty big down side: if I wanted to build any kind of readership in my market (so readers would actually remember me), I'd need to have a book out roughly once a year.
Next time I'd have the typical year-long lag between acceptance and publication, and that didn't count the time it would take to get through the submission and evaluation process with another book.
Which meant I needed to turn in another manuscript, oh, yesterday.