Titles, Cover Art and Random Wonderful Things…


So. My novel, out in July, was originally titled No Tea For The Fever.

And that title was scrapped by the publishers. Too literary. (Ouch!)

I submitted two more titles. The answers were no. And no.

I chewed my nails, rocked back and forth in a little ball and tried not to cry.

And finally. My editor broke the news to me.

My novel would be called…

Well, I can’t tell you right now. She’s sworn me to secrecy until December 2nd, when the catalog goes out to the book world.

For now, we’ll call it ‘NewTitleofAliya’sBook.’

And when I read the proposed title, I cried. Real tears. And not tears of joy.

Here’s the email I got from my editor, Sulay Hernandez:

And finally, we have to talk about the title. I know giving you these edits and then hammering you over the head at the same time about the title and showing you a cover draft is a lot. But this is really how fast things are moving now. The deal is that the sales and marketing people, my publisher, editor-in-chief and associate publisher all love ‘NewTitleofAliya’sBook’.

I gasped out loud and clasped my hands over my mouth. That couldn’t be the title of my book! That didn’t feel like what I was going for at all. This one-word title felt street-lit-esque, (not there’s anything wrong with street lit), common, derivative and simple.

Did Sulay think I had written a common, derivative, simple novel? Why the hip-hop-ish title? Just because there are rappers in it? Damn. That’s whack!!

I cried a little more and then went back to Sulay’s email.

Just like the novel ‘Bling’ capitalized on a word that became a movement, ‘NewTitleofAliya’sBook’ is our society’s new point of reference. It’s derivative, yes, but so is everything in this business.  ‘NewTitleofAliya’sBook’ signifies class in our society and it also points to the music business. We’re not positioning this as a music business novel, but it is a book set in this world of smoke and mirrors. You are showing us the ugly side of the entertainment world.

Okay. She had a point there. My novel definitely shows an underside to the glossy music business, particularly as is pertains to relationships. Fine. But what about the two titles I submitted? I toned down the literary stuff and tried to make it more direct.

Sulay went on:

They turned down both TheSecondTitleYouSubmitted and TheThirdTitleYouSubmitted as titles because they were too quiet and not big enough for a book like this–they  felt more like romance or bittersweet women’s fiction than the blockbuster we hope this to be. I thought about it and I do agree.

Blockbuster? Hmmm. Is my editor trying to gas me up? Because it’s working. I continued to read.

To be completely honest, (and I can be honest to my own detriment sometimes, but I hope you appreciate this) I was iffy on ‘NewTitleofAliya’sBook’ as a title but after I heard my publisher out and thought about it and saw the proposed art, I was floored.

The proposed art? My heart started racing. I scrolled up to the beginning of the email and noticed that there was an attachment. Oh snap. The proposed cover art is here? In this email? Just a click away? I yelled out to TH. “Yo, she sent cover art!!” And he said, “Open it!” And then started he videotaping me as I went back to my email.

Ok, I know you have a lot to think about so I’ll let you do that. The only thing I ask is to please let me know what you think about the cover as soon as possible!

Wait! TH said. He panned in on my face as I clicked onto the attachment.

[And here is where I wanted to insert the video he took of me. It’s pretty funny. But I’ve been calling him all morning so he could email me the video and he’s not picking up. Grrrr! I guess I’ll update it with the video another time.]

I opened the art. And I said.

I like it.

Except I didn’t just like it.

I effing love it.

The cover is mysterious and striking and makes me do a double take.

Um. I can’t post it until December 2nd. Blame Sulay, not me.

I conferred with my agent and a few close confidants. The verdict was the same across the board.

The title? Eh.

The art. Hot!

How do I feel about the title now?

Well. I’ll tell you this. It’s a far cry from No Tea For The Fever. (Like, way far.)


It also makes me feel like my publisher believes in my book. And thinks it’s got half a chance to sell a couple copies.

If they like it, I love it.

My book is coming out in July of next year. (As of today).

Can I just tell you I don’t know how I’m going to make it that long? I really don’t.

Dear Readers:

How important is the title and cover art when you’re shopping for a book? Do you buy books based on cover art? Do you not buy books based on cover art? Would you buy a book solely because you know the writer’s name and like their stuff? Do you read a few pages in the bookstore? A whole chapter?

I’d love to hear from you…

P.S. You can find out the title of my book with a quick Internet search. But please don’t write it in the comments. I don’t want to get yelled at by Sulay. If you find it, email me at aliyasking@gmail.com and tell me your HONEST opinion.


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20 Responses to “Titles, Cover Art and Random Wonderful Things…”

  1. Joyce E. Davis Says:

    So you know how I feel about the title of your book. I’ll address you other questions from the standpoint of a magazine book reviewer who hasn’t had to buy books in like 10 years, but talks to readers, publicists, authors and literary folks on a regular basis.

    Title and cover art (as well as placement) are key in bookstores, especially if you don’t have a Oprah following or Zane-Steven L. Carter-Stephenie Meyer name recognition. I think that a good many people buy books based on a numerous things – book title, cover art, back-of-book description-friend referral-visibility-hype. Not sure about the reading a few pages in the store or whole chapter. Most people I’ve found purchase books based on the elements I mentioned earlier. Oh yeah, and book clubs and school and public librarians – VERY impt.

    But look, if its a good book, with a good story, good writing and you get out there and promote it, encouraging everyone you know to assist in your promotion, whether they tweet about it, gift or recommend it to friends/fam, choose it for their bookclubs, etc. you’ll have your success (by whatever measurements you subscribe to). At the end of the day, you need to be all good with what you wrote, which is what you can control. What its called, what the cover looks like – not so much.

    Hope this helps. You’re a fantastic writer. And you’re book will be well received. Hope your working on your next. And I know, I know, I’m so far behind with the writer’s group, I’m really ashamed to leave this quote. But I do plan to comment on the last two excerpts. Thanks for not kicking me out :)

  2. Mignon Says:

    When I buy books, its definitely a combination of a lot of things. I do read a few pages in the store. The first few lines and a few from smack dab in the middle of the book. I need a good opener and to be able to see what kind of dialogue happens towards the middle where the story should be taking off.

    The cover art, oftentimes, draws me in more than a title might. Especially if its mysterious and provocative. I like to take off the covers of the hardback books and save them. If the cover is “raunchy” i wont buy it. Especially if its paperback and I can’t hide it, lol. I do buy books because I like an author, recognize the name, read something they wrote before and loved it and assume the new title will be hot by default.

    Honestly though Aliya, people love your writing…via this blog, your magazine work, your memoir work, etc. Your book could be called “Poopy Pants” and people would still buy it. Believe it or not, people still crave good literature, no matter how its packaged.

    Oh, are you doing like a video diary of this journey? I was curious as to how the videoing came into play.

    *scoots off to Google to do some digging around*

  3. akima Says:

    Covers draw my eye and make me pick a book up for a closer inspection. They might matter to me more than a title. I’ll pass over a book with a promising title if it has a trashy cover. Been burned in the past by those.

    Sorta like Mignon, I do a little scoping out. I’ll read the the blurb, see who reviewed it, author bio, first few paragraphs of the book and a few random pages from the middle. If those pass muster, I’ll consider buying it.

  4. Alisha Says:

    The cover of a book is just like the cover of anything else, say a person, even. It attracts the eye, but what’s on the inside (flap) is what determines what’s a “keeper” and what’s not.

    I love glossy covers, especially those with people (animations and drawings) on them. Real people don’t do it for me because it takes the fun out of imagining the characters for myself. Simple covers with one-word titles work for me, too because it leaves some sort of mystery.

    Remember our dreams aren’t always what we imagine them to be, but they are our dreams nonetheless! (Look at me getting all inspirational and stuff! LOL)

  5. Val Says:

    Congrats! Can’t wait to see the cover art on the 2nd!

  6. jovi Says:

    You had me on pins and needs reading this. Your book could be called #@$% and the cover be blank and I would still buy and LOVE IT.

    I don’t purchase books, usually get them from friends after they rave about how good the read was. If your book comes close to all the excitement and energy that I feel from reading your blog, then your book will EXPLODE. And YES, I will purchase my own copy and maybe a couple for my friends.

  7. Lashonda Silver Says:

    When looking for books title and cover art catch my eye, but do not make or break the deal. I have never purchased a book based on the cover art, but I have purchased a book where the cover art caught my eye and the context keep my interest. There are authors who I support because I love their work and buy their books without reading anything in the store. I tend to read the back cover, skim the 1st few pages and see if the exerpt is catchy if it is an author I do not know, or heard about but had not read yet.

    With all of that said, I got a book for review, HATED the cover. I would have never picked this book up in the store. That book sat on my TBR pile for a while because the cover made me dread reading the book. I have to say I was entertained when I actually took the time to read it. I still feel the cover was not great for marketing and will turn people off at the shelf, but the book really had some good twist and turns and kept me interested. It was better than I thought based on the cover. That truly may be one of the only times I judges a book for its cover.

  8. E. Joyce Says:

    When I am not familiar with the author I look at four things as filters, the title, the cover, the back of the book (synopsis) and the first three pages to see if I like the writing style.

    If the title is Harlequinn Romance-esque I put it down. If the artwork is listless, I put it down. If the back cover is standard formulamatic synopsis, I put it down. If the first few pages are badly written or I am not engaged, I put it down.

    BTW, this is the perspective of both an avid reader and a writer.

  9. SingleSassySweet Says:

    A lot of things draw me in when purchasing a book….price is number one (smile), but I’ve picked up books based solely on the cover art. I usually scan the summary on the book and pick it up from there.

    I also go by names….If I find an author I like, I’m likely to buy their latest books without reading the cover. I don’t read in the store b/c I’m one of those that has to get in and get out of a bookstore. I’m likely to spend at least $30 a trip. I currently have a bookshelf FULL of books that I haven’t read, so I have to stop myself from walking into the store b/c I won’t walk out empty handed.

  10. paul cantor Says:

    Is the new title “swag”? (Only thing I could think of like bling)

    Cover art I think makes a difference. Sure.

  11. carolyn Says:

    Aliya, I agree with the commenters who said your book could be titled #&@@__+ with no art, and I’d buy it. That said, when I’m book-shopping, the title and cover art can be more of a turn off than a draw. If the title and cover art signify “street lit” or “ghetto lit” then I’ll pass. I cheated and Googled, so I know the name of the book. I look forward to seeing how it looks with the cover art. Finallly, as an aspiring writer, I appreciate all of these tips you pass along about how the business really works. Thanks!

  12. Taiia Says:

    i am a card carrying member of the barnes & noble club. no, seriously, i have a membership card. and in my writing workshop, i just learned that b/n has the power to reject a book based on the title. there’s a tragic story of a writer who refused to change her title and b/n passed on it. ouch.
    but i digress…

    i spend hours @ b/n deciding which books to use my discount card on by:

    1. reading the first few pages and the last graph of the book
    (been doing that since i got addicted to edgar allen poe in j.h.s.); i’m also a visual creature so the cover art does need scream “buy me, buy me, buy me now!”

    2. looking for new work by my favorite authors

    3. looking for the work of close friends, associates, people i respect, admire and wish i could be like when i grow up; so will be right there to support you (just like i did with keep the faith)

    4. looking for titles suggested by friends

    based on sulay’s email, i guessed what the title was. go me! while it doesn’t ring bells, it WILL resonate with the same ppl who made bling a runaway success. and if the cover art is the attention grabber that you say it is, then just prepare to look cute when you cash those royalty checks at the bank.

  13. Artieka Nicole Says:

    I read a few pages of books that I have never heard of and decide if I’m going to buy them but if I know an authors work, I will buy based on the book jacket (is that what it’s called? lol).

    I just looked through a lot of my book collection and realized that a lot of my books are by the same author or the author was mentioned on the back cover of another book I’ve already read.

  14. clove Says:

    omg I guessed the title! ;)

    The cover art isn’t really that important to me but I don’t like anything too gaudy. I like more simplistic, like a black background with just a picture in the middle or something. I also like the one word title idea a la Blink (even though that has a subtitle).

    I already have the title for a book I’m working on and I think it’s perfect but reading this now I’m sure it’ll change. sigh.

  15. huny Says:

    almost every book I’ve purchased in person has been because something about the cover art drew me. I’m an artist, though, so I’m a very unapologetically aesthetic person. then it’s the title. and then I read the back/inside flap. if I don’t like the cover I don’t even get as far as reading the summary unless it’s an author I already know. but yea…I’m as visual as it gets and a fantastic cover draws me in every single time. there are books I never would have discovered had it not been for something crazy good about that cover.

    re: your title (I just looked it up) it ALL depends on the cover as to how I would take that. off the bat it does sound street-lit-ish. but the right design can turn that around in a hearbeat, IMO. can’t wait to see it.

  16. Raht Nah Says:

    If the title seems lame I really won’t bother with the book. If it seems pandering to the audience I will blindly hate the book. If it is derivative and puts words in “blackface” by picking something that sounds “hot in the streets” I rage against the effort. I think I know the title and I’m going to have to go real hard to remind myself that I LIKE the person who wrote this. The issue I have is that buying your book with a crappy title will only tell the publishers they made the “right” decision in retitling it. I have problems with the fact the my choice to promote your career and reaffirm the value of your gift comes at the cost of reaffirming their ill-notions of what is “right” for the audience. If I could buy it and simultaneously gut-check them about how effed up this is I would. as for your cover art…I hope it’s stellar and I am thrilled that is is the spoonful of sugar for what sounds like some bad medicine for you! I value your efforts and wish you all the best.

  17. la negrita Says:

    Tell your people that No Tea for the Fever will be easier for me to sell to Oprah, and getting you on Oprah is what really matters here. Kthx!

  18. schukumba Says:


    Congrats again on your novel. I guessed the title and I actually like it and agree with Sulay that it will go a long way towards establishing the book as a must read (if for no other reason than the name). If the art is as compelling as you say, then those two elements combined will make your book something that won’t be passed by on bookstore shelves.

    When I’m in B&N looking for books (with the wife, I never actually buy books for myself – but I’ll definitely buy yours) it’s the art that catches my eye first. Then, depending upon how the title is incorporated or separated from the artwork, the title. If I’m passing spines, then obviously, the name (if it’s intriguing enough) will catch my attention.

    If I know the author, then that actually takes precedence over both of those factors. At the end of the day, the success of your book will come down to how well it’s promoted and marketed. Is your publisher going to get you marquee placement in bookstores or will you be buried? Are they going to spend money to market and promote you (radio, tv, print, internet, etc.)? What are you going to do to spread the word and make sure that every single person you know buys the book and tells their friends to do the same?

    December 2? I’m there!

  19. African American Mom Says:

    The cover of the book is big deal for me. I am shallow like that but I need a draw. So glad I found your blog. I’ll be stopping by more often.

    @la negrita : LOL!

  20. Kenesha Says:

    I found the title and it’s not too street-lit-ish, which is not my cup of tea. Usually the title is not important to me unless it’s something ridiculous, like “All That and a Bag of Chips” (real title), that’s trying to pander to it’s supposed audience. Cover art can influence me or dissuade me to pick up, no raunchy covers for me. I usually buy books from authors I know and like, friends suggestions, and/or book reviews I’ve read.

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