What’s in a name?

Imagine if you gave birth to a beautiful baby, perfect in every way. You nurtured her and watched her grow and she became more precious to you with every passing day. You gave this beautiful baby a beautiful name: Cassandra.

Then one day your baby went off to school and the teacher told you she could no longer be known as Cassandra. She must be given a new name.

Gertrude.

This is what happened to me, not with my daughter, but with my mystery novel. Way back in 2003, I wrote my first mystery novel, which took place in a small town in the Adirondacks called Trout Run. I titled it Take the Bait because my detective, Frank Bennett, refused to take the bait when people tried to mislead him in his quest for the truth. My publisher, Pocket Books, liked it so much that they insisted that every book in the Trout Run series have a fishing-themed title even though the books themselves had absolutely nothing to do with fishing. Themed series titles were really big then—think Janet Evanovich’s Number series and Sue Grafton’s Alphabet series.

So I began writing the second novel in the series. It was about a black market adoption scam, and I immediately titled it The Lure because it was about the lure of a healthy white infant to desperate adoptive parents. Every day for a year I opened the Word file called The Lure and lovingly developed the story, page by page; character by charater. Finally, I sent The Lure off to my editor. And she loved it. Then she sent The Lure to the Marketing Department. And they hated it. Not the story, but the title. The Lure, they said, was too literary.

What? Are my readers chopped liver? They’re not capable of appreciating a good metaphor?

Despite my protests, the Marketing Department decreed that the second book in the series would be titled Swallow the Hook.

Swallow the Hook?? Fish, I pointed out to the Manhattanites in Marketing, do not swallow hooks. They swallow the bait: worms and minnows and bugs. And what did that title have to do with illegally adopted babies? To make matters worse, Marketing decided to put an image of the mythical Trout Run on the cover. Except no one in Marketing had ever traveled north of W. 86th Street because the image they chose looked like a town in the Wild West, not the Adirondacks.

So my precious baby was saddled with a bad title and a bad cover. Fast forward 11 years. I have regained the publishing rights to Swallow the Hook and Blood Knot (the third book in the Adirondack series) and I am reissuing them at a lower price (yay for my readers!). And Swallow the Hook is reverting to its original title: The Lure.

I hope to write a new Frank Bennett adventure later this year. But I think I’m done with fishing titles!

 

 

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