I’ve got a great book for sale that hasn’t found its audience. (Not a book by me, I hasten to add, by someone else.) It’s funny, its sophisticated, (yet accessible), it makes sly fun of the human condition and yet it’s kind of…uplifting.
See what I mean? It’s a great read, but how to convince people? It’s about a girl who’s 16 and pregnant—only with a twist. She’s a doctor-certified virgin.
She’s newly arrived in the town of Bellingham, Indiana, won’t say a word, and has no ID. So there’s at least three mysteries right there. Who is she, how did she get pregnant, and why won’t she talk? The book isn’t really about her—it’s about the townspeople’s reactions to the various possible answers. Some think this thing is going to be HUGE—and boy, are they jockeying for a piece of the action. Others are kind of hoping for a miracle. A doctor wants to write a paper, one lady just wants the kid, and someone else wants to help. The paparazzi descent in droves.
So far, religious people think we’re making a big joke out of religion and apostates think the book’s religious. So both are turned off. And really, they’d all like it!
That’s the back story. Here’s our problem: We need an appealing title, and we need help finding it. We originally decided the audience was college-educated , sophisticated readers of literary fiction, so we called it SLOUCHING TOWARDS BELLINGHAM. All three of the readers who got the two (count’em, not just one!) literary references did buy it. But we now realize (somewhat sheepishly) that you shouldn’t have to have a working knowledge of Yeats to understand a title.
So we made a list of about fifty possible titles, narrowed it to five, and couldn’t get anywhere. But the ride was hilarious. Here were the candidates:
Well! Did you know some people are so prejudiced against the Midwest they wouldn’t buy a book with that word in the title? Neither did I. And others are creeped out by the word virgin! But get this—there are still others who are totally turned off by “mom”. Mystery fans said you could only have “mystery” in the title of a mystery. And our resident gay taste-maker thought “Mary Maybe” sounded like someone trying to decide to come out of the closet.
Curiously, and in line with everyone bringing their own experience to the title, maybe I should mention that those who didn’t like Midwest Madonna had lived in the Midwest. Not sure what the “mom” prejudice is all about.
But we’re desperate here. Our sample was too small to even get a majority on any of the five. So I’m throwing myself on your mercy. Can I have a show of hands on these titles? Can anyone stand any of them? Or perhaps I should ask which ones are absolutely, completely out of the question. That would be helpful.
And of course a gold star for anyone who comes up with the absolute perfect title that’s clearly so far eluded us. Or some kind of prize anyhow. How about a set of CDs of my book, WRITING YOUR WAY? (A $125 value, I like to say.) And free copies of the book to anyone who wants one. We need to get the word out on this thing!