Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Popular Wasn't Originally (Alissa Grosso)

My first published book was titled Popular, but that wasn't the original title or even the second title. I've told this story in more detail elsewhere but the manuscript I submitted was titled The Balderdash Semesters. My publisher didn't think this was quite right so they changed it to The Subrosa Semesters (note: Prior to this the term Subrosa was not in the book.  It's a Latin word more common to legal documents, something I learned after getting saddled with the title and having to explain it to all and sundry).
This was pretty much the expression people had on their face after I told them the title of my book. The response was usually something like, "The What-Now Semesters?"

After the bookstore buyers at the major chains physically gagged (or something like that) upon hearing this title it was then changed to the succinct one-word title it bears to this day.

A bookstore buyer upon learning the title of my book.

So, I guess that's the first thing I would have changed about my book. I would have submitted it with this clean and simple title from the start and saved us all a lot of aggravation.

Speaking of aggravation. I probably would have done a better job of writing the book the first time around, and actually written the second part of the book before submitting it instead of trying to turn the final, rushed chapter into a whole second part later down the road. But sometimes we need an editor to point out the things that should have been obvious to us from the start.

My desk looked something like this, but far, far messier when I was struggling to turn my abrupt final chapter into a whole bunch of chapters that wrapped up my story without giving anyone whiplash.

Despite having been written more than a decade ago, I think the book still holds up pretty well, and I still like it. Sometimes I wonder if it was the right book for a debut book. Other times I think it was the perfect book for a debut, but that I should have followed it up with books that were more like it.

Popular's a somewhat unique book in that it has a twist element to it, making it not what it might appear to be at first. But my second book, Ferocity Summer, though still very much YA didn't have any twist element like this and even though there's a bit of a twist/surprise in my third book, Shallow Pond, I don't think it's really anything like Popular.

I like pigeons, but we're not kindred spirits.
I'm not saying we should write the same book over and over again--where's the fun in that? But, maybe three books that had a more similar style might have done a better job of establishing myself as a writer of a certain kind of book, and maybe led to my books doing better commercially. Then again, I've never been very good and fitting myself into pigeonholes, so while I can say this is something I would have done differently, I strongly suspect that even if I could go back in time and give myself some advice, I kind of doubt I would take it.

In any case, I've enjoyed the journey that began more than ten years ago when I submitted a book I called The Balderdash Semesters for publication, and I can't see what's next in this journey.

Alissa Grosso is the author of four young adult novels plus some books for grown-ups and shares the details of her author life on her weekly Awkward Author vlog and podcast. Find out more about her and her books at

1 comment:

  1. As a retired librarian, I can attest to the value of unique titles, at least when searching for books patrons want, but you're right in terms of some being 'too' unique.