What's in a name? Quite a lot, actually
Just as we thought we were going to have a quiet period in terms of signings at Hobeck, someone new enters our lives to wow us. That is exactly what our latest signing did.
As an award-winning playwright, Lin Le Versha knows the power of a dramatic
opening. That is all it took for Adrian and I to take notice of what she was offering us. I can remember the impact that the prologue to her debut novel made on us both. We were sitting in bed one sunny Sunday morning, reading two different submissions, when his jaw dropped open.
‘What is it?’ I asked, worried he had bad news or another bout of nerve pain he’s occasionally prone to.
‘I’ve got to read you this …’ he replied with a mix of awe and shock. He cleared his throat, and in his best audiobook narrator voice, began to read. Three minutes later I was writing to Lin to ask for the rest of the manuscript, so impressed were we both by the brilliant first twist in Lin’s manuscript.
A few weeks later, with the images and incidents in her stunning, as yet unnamed novel, dancing in in both of our heads, we began the negotiations that have led to this moment, the formal announcement of Lin as our fourteenth Hobeck author.
Lin’s book has a working title at the moment, which sums up the book’s setting and premise neatly. However, the three of us are currently toying with different ideas as we are just slightly concerned about the international appeal of the current title. We may debate what the novel’s title should be for some time, or we may have a title before I publish this blog. The title is there somewhere. But that’s part of the fun of this publishing lark, and you would be amazed at the number of iterations a book title can have. Getting the title right is crucial. You may be surprised at how much time and energy this can take. It is worth the time and energy though, it has to be right.
Here are some examples of famous books that were nearly called…
Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell was nearly called The Last Man in Europe.
Bizarrely, Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov was going to be The Kingdom by the Sea.
Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace could have ended up being called All’s Well That Ends Well.
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (one of my all-time favourites) was going to be Catch-18 - somehow it doesn't have the right feel to be in a Catch 18 situation.
It’s hard to tell because the actual titles are so iconic, but I think the right decisions to change were made here.
It is not unheard of that here at Hobeck we can go through the process of rumination only to return full circle to the author’s original instinct. In fact, as I type, this has happened with another one of our books. Gut instinct is a powerful force when it comes to titling and often the gut says ‘do you know what, you were right in the first place’. Adrian and I both feel quite strongly that everyone involved has to be happy with the title of a Hobeck book; it has to be just right. If anyone feels uneasy or unsure, then it is back to the drawing board.
We won’t reveal too much about the book yet, title or otherwise. There is plenty of time for that (and we love to tease).
Whatever the book ends up being called, and we know we will get there, even if we do another full circle, we feel confident that Lin’s story will make the hairs on the back of your neck tingle, as it did for the both of us.