Author Guest Post

[Enter Title Here]: How a Book Gets a Title

July 7, 2017
Elissa Brent Weissman
Editor of Our Story Begins
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A never ending amount of work goes into each aspect of a book before publication. Just settling on the right title can take months of discussion, as it did for Our Story Begins: Your Favorite Authors and Illustrators Share Fun, Inspiring and Occasionally Ridiculous Things They Wrote and Drew as Kids. Read on to hear from Elissa Brent Weissman, the editor of this amazing anthology, as she gives us some insight into how the title for this adorable collection evolved! Then keep reading and check out an excerpt from the book below!


Our Story Begins: Your Favorite Authors and Illustrators Share Fun, Inspiring and Occasionally Ridiculous Things They Wrote and Drew as Kids reveals the earliest creative efforts of today’s most beloved children’s authors and illustrators. In that spirit, here’s a behind-the-scenes look at the origins of one small but important piece of this book: the title.

Just like collecting and curating the writing and art that appear in Our Story Begins, the process of finding the winning title began over two years ago and unfolded over countless emails and conversations. Here’s a condensed, never-before-seen look at how it went down between me and my editor at Atheneum Books for Young Readers, Emma Ledbetter:

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May 2015 – The initial title gets called into question

My original title: When I Was Your Age

Emma: It’s cute and fitting, but some people here are worried that it sounds a little folksy or stodgy. Will kids roll their eyes? Let’s see if we can come up with something better.

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August 2015 – Just spitballing here

Me: How about…

  • Before They Were Published (like “before they were famous,” but would also speak to kids who want to be published themselves someday)
  • Something with the word “Throwback” (Throwbook? Just kidding! That would be an awful title.)
  • The Coolest Anthology Ever (this is a serious suggestion! I like the idea of booksellers, librarians, and kids saying, “Have you read The Coolest Anthology Ever”?)

Emma: Let’s keep brainstorming.

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September 2015 – Maybe some of our brilliant contributors have title ideas!

Tim Federle: How about…

  • Origin Stories
  • First Drafts
  • Very First Drafts

Me and Emma: Some worthy contenders, but none are quite right.

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September 2015 – Now we’re getting started

Me: This is How We Started

Emma: I think we’re definitely on the right track! There must be a million expressions about getting started, but I’m blanking on all of them…

Me: Me too.

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October 2015 – On second thought….

Emma: When I Was Your Age might not be too bad after all.

Me: Okay.

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October 2015Unless…

Me: We try something like Where It All Began or just It All Began (since so many books start with “It all began…”) 

…or, almost as an afterthought:

Me: Our Story Begins.

Me, Emma, and everyone at Atheneum: Yes! We have a title!

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November 2015 – Now all we need is a subtitle.

Me: Easy. Children’s Authors and Illustrators Share Their Childhood Writing and Art.

Emma: Accurate but boring. We need something that shows how much FUN this book is.

Me: This book is SO fun. I’ll keep thinking.

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December 2015 – March 2016

Me: I can’t think of anything. Do we really need a subtitle?

Emma: Yes.

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April 2016 – The adjective epiphany

Me: Children’s Authors and Illustrators Share Stories, Sketches, and Secrets from Notebooks They Kept as Kids.

Emma: Better! But are there really any secrets in the book?

Me: A few. :) Though maybe we should avoid repeating the word “stories” from the main title.

Emma: Good idea. What if instead of naming the contents of the book, we use adjectives that describe the contents?

Me: Yes! Now it’s just a matter of picking the right words and putting them in the right order.

Emma: You’ve basically just summed up the entire process of writing.

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April 2016 – The right words in the right order

Me: Children’s Authors and Illustrators Share the Cool Stuff They Made as Kids.

Emma: Hilarious, Awesome, and Inspiring Things Children’s Authors and Illustrators Made When They Were Kids

Me: Children’s Authors and Illustrators Share Fun, Ridiculous, and Inspiring Things They Created as Kids

Emma: That’s good! But not ALL their childhood work is ridiculous, so let’s temper it just a bit.

Me: And let’s make it extra clear that the book contains writing and drawings.

Me and Emma: Children’s Authors and Illustrators Share Fun, Inspiring, and Occasionally Ridiculous Things They Wrote and Drew as Kids.

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February 2017 – One last tweak

Simon & Schuster sales team: Our Story Begins: Your Favorite Authors and Illustrators Share Fun, Inspiring, and Occasionally Ridiculous Things They Wrote and Drew as Kids.

Me, Emma, and (I hope) the world: Yes!

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July 4, 2017 – The book is published! Spread the word!

Me: Here’s a piece I wrote for Riveted about how our book got its title.

Emma: Great blog post! Now all it needs is a title.


Our Story Begins: Your Favorite Authors and Illustrators Share Fun, Inspiring, and Occasionally Ridiculous Things They Wrote and Drew as Kids is available wherever books are sold! Read an excerpt of this adorable and inspirational collection below and if you’re interested in more, you’ll find links to purchase it from your favorite retailers here.

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