The Perfect Title --- by Jane Kelley

My first middle-grade novel had a perfect title:  NATURE GIRL.

It was short. It was efficient. It was bold. It described my character at the beginning of the novel, when she used the phrase sarcastically. It described her at the end, after she had been enlightened by her long journey. It embodied my theme. It had been the title of my novel since its very first draft. And now it was going to be in bookstores and libraries everywhere!

There was just one problem. Two years before my book was scheduled to come out, I saw this.

Yup. My title. On another book.

And oh by the way, not just any old book. A book by a stupendously popular, best-selling author.

I was devastated. Especially since it seemed like the title wasn't even that well suited to his novel. Look at the picture. She wasn't a girl. She was clearly a woman!

That argument didn't carry much weight. There was no arbiter of literary justice who had the authority to tell Carl that he didn't need this title. Debut novelist Jane did. My powers of persuasion didn't matter. His book had come out first. Mine wasn't even an ARC yet.

I began to try to think of a new title. This didn't go well. None of my ideas were as good as the perfect title. I was like a jilted lover, unable to forget my first romance.

And then a miracle happened. I don't know how. I wasn't at the meeting at Random House. But somehow people decided that since the first Nature Girl was an adult novel, it would not confuse the potential readers of the second Nature Girl.

I was thrilled. After the book was published, I know that title helped the book find readers. (So did Heather Palisi's excellent cover.)

But as I reflect on the book's journey, I realize that the title was most useful for me while I was writing the novel. It reminded me of my themes. It was a lodestar for whenever I was tempted to stray. It kept me on track. 

And in that sense, it truly was the perfect title.


  1. I'm so glad that title worked out for you. There is another MG titled WHEELS OF CHANGE that pops up now and again when I see mine on Amazon. I got a copy of it, just to see what it was about and it's about how the bicycle changed the world for women. Isn't it fun to come up with titles that end up being perfect?

    1. Finding the right title is like solving a puzzle. And yet they can work for totally different books.

  2. Yay for NATURE GIRL! - as working title, final title, and perfect title.


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