Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Historical novel title changes...

I've been browsing older historical novel deals in Publishers Marketplace and have come across some interesting data on title changes. As I'm sure you know, titles of novels are occasionally changed after they're sold, usually for marketability purposes.

The following are examples of this phenomenon: when the publishers bought these novels from the authors' agents, they had different titles than the ones you'd recognize. Do you prefer the newer titles, or the older ones?

Diana Gabaldon's Lord John and the Chamber Pot became Lord John and the Private Matter

Jenni Grizzle's Beyond the Mists of Midnight became Jennifer St. Giles's The Mistress of Trevelyan

Linda Holeman's Linny Gow became The Linnet Bird

Deborah Larsen's Two Falling Voices became The White

Kate McCafferty's Cot became Testimony of an Irish Slave Girl

Lilian Nattel's The Theater of Consolation became The Singing Fire (not The River Midnight as I originally reported, sorry - my mistake)

Mary Rourke's Mary and Joanna became Two Women of Galilee

Jed Rubenfeld's The Name of Action became The Interpretation of Murder

Frances Sherwood's Threshold became The Book of Splendor

Anne Easter Smith's Of Blood and Roses became A Rose for the Crown

Debbie Taylor's The Mistress and the Dwarf became The Fourth Queen

Edmund White's The Life of Frances Wright by Mrs. Trollope became Fanny: A Fiction

I tend to agree with all of them, with the exception of the Larsen - Two Falling Voices sounds like the more evocative and appealing title to me.


  1. I mostly prefer the newer titles, though I agree with you about Two Falling Voices - The White sounds very generic. I do prefer The Theatre of Consolation, though, because The River Midnight says nothing to me.

  2. I'm with you ladies on The White--it's one of those titles that makes me ask, "The white what?" Think I also prefer Threshold to The Book of Splendor, just because the latter title sounds similar to so many others.

  3. I just realized I screwed up on the final title of the Nattel book, and amended it in my original post. It's The Singing Fire, rather than The River Midnight (which was an earlier novel of hers; I read the PM blurb too quickly).

  4. I like the new ones better in all cases except the one you noted--Two Falling Voices sounds much better--and The Mistress and the Dwarf. That one is much more intriguing than The Fourth Queen.

  5. I gather this isn't unusual at all. As writers we're told never to get too attached to the titles we give our mss as publishers are likely to change them after buying the books :-)

  6. This isn't a terribly scientific study, I admit, but most of the historical novels in Publishers Marketplace's deals database were listed under their published titles. Doesn't mean that the agent didn't change them before they sold. I'm sure that happens often, too.

    The majority of the titles I listed, too, were from first novelists.