So how do you come up with a book title and cover? I’m not really the girl to tell you because I didn’t come up with either for my book.
I’m a decisive girl … until I’m not. Take the birth of my third son. Take his whole gestation. He was a surprise, and it’s not so much that I couldn’t wrap my mind around his existence, it’s that I didn’t. And so I didn’t talk names. Boy might still be nameless if my husband hadn’t caught me at a maternal moment one hour post-birth. With his right hand, Matt produced a steak and mushroom sub from SDS (read: local hoagie heaven), and with his left, a list of names.
“Here’s seven names I came up with in the last five minutes. I think it’s time to pick one.”
I skimmed, ranked, and circled picks #1 and #2, thus concluding the naming ceremony of Thomas Luke Troy.
I was in a similar position this March, but with the book this time.
“What’s the title?” my friend, Michelle, asked.
“I don’t know.”
“You need a title.”
“I know …”
“Like now. The book is done, and you need to stop calling it, ‘the book.’”
I shared some potential titles with her, but she shot them all down with underwhelmed facial expressions and comments, like “I can’t see people sitting around and talking about a book with that title.”
“Well what would you title it?” I challenged Little Miss Know-It-All.
And so it was.
“The book is titled, Lu,” I proclaimed to my graphic designer, Emily, later that day. This signaled the beginning and end of my helpfulness in that meeting and over the next few weeks as we bandied design ideas. Descriptions are most writers’ bread and butter, but I don’t think in images, and I struggled to offer feedback other than, ‘That’s nice but that’s not it.’”
“Help!” I bemoaned to another friend, Amber, when she exercised poor judgment in picking up the phone to hear about my coverless state.
“What is the book about?”
“I don’t know.”
“Are there any images you carry throughout?”
“I don’t know.”
At this point, most people would have chucked the phone at the wall, but this was not Amber’s first rodeo with Beth Troy.
“How about a scene – one scene that describes this girl and her story.”
Technically, the book is filled with those, and I closed my eyes to flip through them. Put a verb to Lu’s story, and it’s a search – one women’s search for an answer, a place to stand still. At one point, Lu hears a sermon about how God works through broken people the way light works through stained glass. Neither is a straight shot, and yet both refract exactly as they’re designed to. Lu returns to the church that next Monday:
The sanctuary was empty, but brighter than yesterday – the setting sun cross-stitching the pews in a rainbow of color. I stepped forward to place my hand in one of the beams, twinkling my fingers to watch the patterns of gold, red, blue, and purple play on my skin. “Just as their creator intended …”
“Well there is this thing with stained glass …” I said in response to Amber’s request, and I handed over this thread to Emily.
Two years I worked on this book, but put the wrong title and cover to it and girls won’t pick it up. There’s a whole phrase admonishing us not to judge a book by its cover, but I do it all the time as a reader. Just yesterday I scanned the Lucky Day section at our library, looking for a title-cover pairing worthy of a 30-second skim before I headed to the children’s section with my boys. Nothing.
It’s a tough game, one that I’m still not convinced I’m cut out to play. But …
When I first opened Emily’s file for my eventual cover, I gasped. I took a step back, put my hands to my gaping mouth, then to my pounding chest, then back to my gaping mouth (it was a heightened moment). And I didn’t care what anyone else thought. Not because I’m the type of writer to give readers the finger as they pass my book on by for another girl’s but because here was the cover and the title for my book. It took a little while and a little help to get here, but I was as certain of the binding for this story as I was in the story itself.
Let’s have another look.
It never gets old.