Title Sleuthing

title sleuthingYesterday I realized it’s been five months since we began our self-imposed quarantine.

That’s probably true for many of you, as well. Other than a few medical appointments and walks on the beach where we can socially distance, we haven’t gone anywhere. I’m including a photo from our most recent walk because what else can I show you other than the bread I’ve baked from the treasured sourdough happily foisted on us by a neighbor?

Writers spend the majority of their time indoors, so in some ways, staying at home isn’t too different for me. I spent the first months of quarantine finishing a book, and I’ve spent the last months going over edits, working on covers for a new anthology I’ll finish writing soon and also covers for three of my backlist novels, which will come out in September, October, and November. More about those in another blog.

This week I’ve been title sleuthing.

If you read my blog regularly, you know I talk about titles a lot. What does title sleuthing mean exactly? Well, last week my editor let me know that although I thought the title of my next book for Mira Books was all set, my choice had been challenged. After mainly positive responses, a few new voices were heard. And now they wanted me to rethink it.

Remember the book is well and truly finished, and I’ve even proofed the edits. So wow, a title change at this late stage? The cover mock-ups I’ve seen even feature the old one.

My original title was Lies and Other Mercies. In many ways the story is about the lies we tell those we love to spare them from the truth. That’s where “mercies” comes in. My friend Casey Daniels/Kylie Logan came up with this title in one of our group brainstorming sessions, and all of us oohed and aahed over it. Right then I knew that because I liked it so well, it was bound to be rejected by my publisher.

You can tell I’ve been through this before, right?

In all fairness to my publisher, some of my title choices have, in retrospect, been horrible. I wanted to call my third romance novel The Soul’s Seduction. Yes, I did, and no they didn’t let me. They titled it Something So Right. Not the best title in history but a lot better than my choice.

So by now, I listen when my editorial team complains, no matter how much I don’t want to. Their feeling this time was the title sounded too “literary.” It sounded like it might belong to a short story collection. So because with a pandemic raging around me and my sense of what matters in life undergoing a huge change, I said okay, let’s see what we can do.

I can’t tell you how many titles we’ve considered and rejected. I came up with another I loved, but when I went to Amazon to see if there were other books by that title, I learned that my good friend Diane Chamberlain had written and published a book with the same title with our mutual publisher years ago. Although I thought I’d read all her books, somehow I missed that one. See what good taste we share?

Another, House of Lies, has been used repeatedly. I can see why. 

My editor has a favorite, and while I like it a lot, I have a few questions. Luckily I have a Krewe of Review, some of my loyal readers, who will give advice. We’re debating it now. I’ll let you know what the decision will be.

Meantime, even though I’m not actively writing a new book, I’m spending hours proofing edits, making cover and title decisions and yesterday and today reading through two more of my backlist titles to see if I want to put them online with new covers. (I do. They’re lots of fun.) So my life is still filled with books, and writing, and decisions, even though I’m entering my sixth month of quarantine.

I hope all of you are keeping busy at something you love. I hope whatever you’re doing includes books, not just because I want you to read mine, but because other authors’ books are helping me get through this difficult moment in history.

I hope all our books are doing the same for you.


  1. melody brown on August 19, 2020 at 3:36 pm

    I’m reading your Fox River book now. The story had me after a few pages! I like that your books include social issues, family interactions, mystery and usually a surprise twist or 2! Thanks for all you do in writing your books.

  2. Coelle Baskel on August 19, 2020 at 5:30 pm

    Yes, Fox River was an excellent book. I find what’s saving me during this time is not only reading lots of books, but also paper crafting. I’m making lots of cards and sending them as well as continuing on the scrapbooks for my 5 granddaughters. I was walking twice a day up until this past week….AZ is just too hot right now. Stay safe everyone!

  3. Judy M Zell on August 19, 2020 at 5:33 pm

    The plural “Lies and Other Mercies” does make it sound a bit like a collection of stories. How about “When a Lie is a Mercy” or “When a Lie is Merciful.”

  4. Joan Leopold on August 19, 2020 at 6:52 pm

    Very interesting. Sorry I can’t help on a catchy title. Maybe “Lies that Matter”, I hope you get all your chores finished and start a new book. I know you must have many ideas for the next one.
    I go a few more places now while being very careful.

    • Emilie Richards on August 20, 2020 at 9:46 am

      Joan, I like your title idea. If my publisher chooses not to go with the one they’re set on right now–and that can happen–I’ll pass this one along. But thank you for your creativity.

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