Friday, September 02, 2005

What's in a name?

Folks have been asking what the heck is going with the title of my book, but before I launch into my explanation, a few links for the uninitiated …

For a brief summary and info on the deal itself, click on my Publishers Marketplace page. For backstory on the book and other behind-the-scenes lit facts, click on this interview in Susan DiPlacido’s blog or this interview with Steve Hansen for Ink Pot.

Now, my working title for the book was GEORGE CLOONEY IS COMING TO APPLEWOOD.  Some folks raised an eyebrow, asking if it was really okay to use his name.  But when I pointed out that Al Franken wrote a book called RUSH LIMBAUGH IS A BIG, FAT IDIOT, most agreed that it wouldn’t be a problem.  My editor and agents were unconcerned.

However, we discussed using another version of the title that would be more descriptive of the plot, and wound up with GEORGE CLOONEY AND OTHER SECRET LONGINGS OF THE APPLEWOOD PTA.  But the green light turned red on that one when others in the publishing company said they preferred the shorter original title.

For me, no worries.  I liked both, and was still as happy as could be.  But then the dreaded thing happened.  The legal department got involved, and they said no how, no way.  Not without George Clooney’s consent.  Of course, this was at the eleventh hour, as the catalog copy was going to press.  I had about 48 hours to get approval from Hollywood’s most sought-after super hunk.  Easy, right?

So okay.  Fortunately, I’m married to a researcher, and he was able to get me the phone number for Clooney’s agent in minutes.  So I called the office and this was the conversation I had with his agent’s assistant:

Hello, my name is Ellen Meister and I’m a first time author with a book coming out next summer.  The book is called “George Clooney is Coming to Applewood” and I need to find out who I need to speak—

What is this about?  I have ten phones ringing.

Well, I … er… I need to t-talk to someone about getting permission—

Can you talk faster?


Call his publicist.

Then he barked out the number and hung up.  So I called his publicist and had this conversation the woman who answered:

Hello, my name is Ellen Meister and I got your number from George Clooney’s agent.  They said you were the people to call to—

Talk faster.  I have people holding.


Gimme your phone number and he’ll call you back.

I blurted out my phone number and tried to explain the nature of my call, but she hung up before I could get it out.  This was bad, because it was likely she got the impression that I was looking  for a publicist.  So I called again.


Write us a letter.

WAIT! I DON’T HAVE TIME! I’m in a terrible time crunch and—

Here’s our email address. Good-bye.

So I wrote his  publicist an email and got a quick reply saying it was a long and complicated issue and George Clooney didn’t have time for it.  I couldn’t let it go at that without a bit of groveling, so I wrote back explaining that the book had been my life’s work for so many years and that I heard that George Clooney was so accessible with a great sense of humor about himself and would he PLEASE pass it by him?  The reply was quick.  He DID pass it by George Clooney and the answer is no.

So that was it.  And it was back to the drawing board on titles.

This was a long, frustrating process, as I was sending my agent forty different title ideas a day, and each one got nixed in favor of a title I was miserable with.  I was looking for something where the irony was obvious, and the one they wanted to use just sounded too corny to me.

And then, at last, pay dirt.  I presented a title I really dig that everyone seems happy with.  If you read my little blog profile you know that the final approved title is SECRET CONFESSIONS OF THE APPLEWOOD PTA.  Now I’m all excited to see what kind of campy cover art the designer comes up with.  

And meanwhile … I’m working on my next book.  More on that soon.


Katie said...

I'm suspicious that he didn't really pass your request on. JERK!

As great as your original title is, I know your book is going to be a smash hit no matter what you call it.

Ellen said...

Thanks, Katie!

All in all, kind of silly for him and/or his publicist to say no when the book would have done nothing but make him even more of an icon.

Oh well.

P. H. M. said...

Send Clooney your picture, and a picture of your wedding ring so he doesn't get confused, and you'll have permission in no time.


P. H. Madore

Stephanie said...

I like the new title better!

I'm not into giving people unnecessary publicity, but I do understand how wonderful the first title is. :)

Ellen said...

Hehe. Thanks, P.

Steph, good to hear from you! I was so disappointed to lose the title, but I'm starting to enjoy the new one and keeping my fingers crossed for a cool, campy cover.

Miss Snark said...

As readers of my blog know, I am devoted to George Clooney, and thus devastated to hear your book had to be retitled.

I had a client trying to get permissin for rock song lyrics, so to quote another guy who could have used better gatekeepers "I feel your pain".