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How My Publisher Chose My Book Title

This week I've been answering some of your questions about in-house edits, specifically how I'm handling my first set of macro edits/rewrites.

I saved the final question for today, because I wanted to spend a little more time on it. The question came from T. Anne: Was The Preacher's Bride your working title and if not who came up with it?

Let me just say this first: coming up with titles is NOT something I'm good at. When I read some of your book titles posted on your blogs, I'm absolutely blown away by your creativity (and also slightly jealous that I can't think of deep, meaningful titles for my books!)

The first title I came up with was Bunyan's Bride--simple and straightforward. Since my book is inspired by the love story of the real John Bunyan (the author of Pilgrim's Progress), I thought Bunyan's Bride would capture the essence of my story.

However, when I entered my book into the Genesis Contest last spring, I decided I needed something a little more romantic, so I changed the title to My Elizabeth, My Beloved. At the end of his life, John Bunyan refers to his wife in those exact terms, so I thought it sounded very 1600's and sweet.

Then Rachelle offered me representation and the first thing she told me to do was change the title of my book to something shorter and less clumsy. Since she was sending my book proposal to Bethany House, she encouraged me to go to Bethany House's website, study their titles, and get an idea of what they use and what's popular.

Finally, after researching and brainstorming with my agent, we decided on The Preacher's Bride and that's what we sent to the acquisitions editor. It turns out this title fits the angle of the story better. Because my book is a fictionalized account of a wonderful love story from history (and for a myriad of other reasons to long to discuss in this post), I've agreed to change Bunyan's name.

After contract, I quickly learned the publishing house would have the final title decision. Some authors might find a title change frustrating, especially after laboring to find the perfect fit for their story. But, as I mentioned, titles aren't my forte. I figured if the Title Committee could find something better, I'd trust their judgement.

My acquisition editor emailed me the week before the Title Committee was due to meet. He asked me to come up with a list of additional title suggestions. So in my bumbling, but hopefully cooperative way, I emailed him a list of "possibilities." He graciously thanked me (instead of laughing at my attempts!). Then he asked me to verify that the term "preacher" was indeed used during the 1600's as opposed to vicar or priest or some other form of address.

Although I was fairly certain, I scrambled to locate "proof." I wanted my editor to have a couple of primary sources he could take to Title Committee that would support using The Preacher's Bride as the official title. Fortunately, I was able to find proof within actual church records of the time, and I discovered a title of one of John Bunyan's books where he referred to himself as "Preacher."

The Title Committee met, and later that day my editor emailed me the news that the Title Committee had decided to go with The Preacher's Bride. Almost 11 months before the release of my book, the title is official.

Believe it or not, we're already working on the cover. But more about that in another post. . .

For today, I'd love to hear how you decide on your book titles! Do you have an easy time picking your titles? Or like me, do you struggle to find the perfect fit?

P.S. If you want a little extra help with your title, Writer's Digest has an excellent article this month called: 7 Tips to Land The Perfect Title for Your Novel.

55 comments:

  1. I'm always amazed at how someone comes up with perfect titles for their books. I'm a title and cover snob (I know it's rather shallow of me, but I'm an okay person in other areas). But I love a good cover, and I love it when a title fits a book perfectly. What does that mean? It means I fret and fret over coming up with titles of my own. But it also means that I wouldn't be against a publisher/agent/editor coming up with one for me, as long as it's perfect. ha!

    I think a title should tell you if it's a romance, a suspense, inspirational. I'm not sure my current title does that, but I'll fret some more when the book is completely done.

    The last thing I'll say is that I've never felt titles need to be complicated. Sometimes one word does the job perfectly. So, there, all we must do is come up with the one perfect word that tells the public what our masterpiece we spent years bringing to print is about.

    I'm long-winded, today, Jody. Maybe I should go back to blogging more days since I have so much to say. I like your title, The Preacher's Bride, by the way, and I can't wait to read it. I know it will be awesome!

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  2. I am always envious of the great titles I see. Some are so creative! I think The Preacher's Bride is a great title and I can't wait to see the cover! Your publishing house has nice covers! :)

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  3. Jody,
    Great subject. The original title of my soon-to-be-published novel was RUN AWAY HOME. I chose that because it deals with a female doctor who flees to her hometown to start over after her world crumbles. Then my editor reminded me that the title did nothing to show the medical aspect of the novel...which is, after all, medical suspense. Since there is (at least) one cardiac event in the novel, they chose CODE BLUE. I'm happy with that, but you can bet I've taken great pains with the titles of the next ones in the series.
    I know authors don't always get to choose their titles, but it's nice to send a submission with a title that's a "keeper." Something to keep in mind

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  4. While I would hardly call myself a title expert, I have to say the world of blogging has greatly improved my skills. When I was in college, I could not title a story at all. My roommates titled everything for me all four years. But they're not here anymore, so I had to grow up and learn how to do it myself!!

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  5. Love this post! I'm always curious about titles.

    I have a love affair with titles. I have a document devoted to all kinds of titles, unattached to stories, some that probably never will come attached to stories.

    I usually come up with a title first, then the story.

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  6. I LOVE the preacher's bride. Great job with the title! and I like the other titles too (although I gotta say, Bunyan's Bride made me snicker for I was thinking of a guy with a sore on his foot....)

    Being uncontracted, I have no clue if my titles work or not. ONe of them is a no brainer, as I'm aiming it towards the Love finds you series.

    My Cyberlove series was more difficult. At first, I wanted to use all chat acroynms, but couldn't think of 3 that were romance/laughter oriented.

    So, origininally they were LOL, ROFL, ROFLOL. So... yes, they needed changed, but this was temporary.

    Now, they all start with LOL, but each book features a funky "mission" on the part of Paige and Jenny, best friends, so I decided to incorporate their funky titles for their "mission" into the title.

    LOL: Mission Jack
    LOL: Mission Peeps
    LOL: Mission Superman (still working on this one... it's a filler until I think of a better mission title!)

    Now, if someone ELSE likes this, like, say an agent/editor/title committee, I have no clue.

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  7. For my first 2 books, I came up with my own title. For the first of the Memphis BBQ series, I just hit some sort of mental roadblock. Penguin sent it to their copy department.

    Thanks for the post!

    Elizabeth
    Mystery Writing is Murder

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  8. I'd rather write another book than to have to choose titles! Since I mostly write short stories, I'm constantly in a tizzy about story titles. I'm thinking I'll have a title contest every time I finish a story 'cause I know there are a bunch of you out there who are more creative than me! LOL!

    How do you stay glued to your chair with your writing when there's so much celebrating to do about your book?!

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  9. Jody, I'm like you in that I struggle with titles, both for my articles and manuscripts. Sometimes I get one that I think is brilliant, and other times I come up with ten different ones that are all mediocre.

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  10. Oooh, thanks for the link. I need all the help I can get usually. The only book that the title came easily to me was my first one. All the others are still up in the air for me. Good thing, since I don't have the final say anyway if they ever get published.

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  11. Wow. So fascinating to see the evolution of your title!

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  12. I love the title of your book, Jody. My working title for the memoir was "I'm Nobody, Will You Listen Anyway?" because it was originally a self-help book and I am a first-time author. Once it shifted to memoir, the title just came. The cover is a photograph I took at Lake Louise, in Banff, Canada that just seemed to represent what I mean by Following the Whispers.
    Karen

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  13. I love this post, I am so curious about this process (and cover design, too)!

    My novel was originally titled NONE THE WISER. My crit group, however, felt that it was too much of a downer, and that my main character does in fact grow and learn and therefore IS wiser by the end of the book... although the character herself might not put it in such dramatic terms.

    Because names and identity are such big themes in the novel, I then searched every name-themed saying and pun and famous quote I could find, and IN NAME ONLY was the one that suited the story best.

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  14. From Blushing Bride to Wedded Wife (2006) My title, they kept it, I wish they wouldn't have.

    Is That All He Thinks About? (2007) LOVE this title. My working title was Sweeter Sex. Some brilliant mind at the publishing house thought of Is That All... I still love, love, love it.

    Changing Your World One Diaper at a Time (2008) Title was my agent's idea. Like it but getting tired of looooong titles.

    Expecting (2009) Short title! Yeehaw! Original title: Expectant Prayers. This phrase was copyrighted. They asked me for alternate titles. I said Expecting. It stuck. I love it.

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  15. I'm horrible at titles! I'm impressed you did so much research with yours.

    I've long known writers usually don't get to keep their titles. I figure editors know how to market the book, so stand out of their way and let them, right? :)

    Have a wonderful weekend!

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  16. I really like the title you ended up with! I have a hard time picking titles myself and I usually spend a lot of time going through potential ones.

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  17. I'm horrible with titles and pet names. Thankfully, we did all right with our children's names. LOL The title of my WIP is WHAT TIME I AM AFRAID. It's taken from Psalm 56:3, and I think it shows the tension in my suspense. I think it's too long and doesn't flow well for a title, although it works great as a Scripture verse. I dread the thought of an editor asking me for additional ideas because I've tried to come up with something else. I got nothing.

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  18. I really like The Preacher's Wife! You ended up with a great one.

    This post is really helpful because it shows how much a title can change throughout the process, and that we should never get too attached to our original titles. A friend of mine is going through this right now -- I can't count the number of times she and her agent have changed her title, and I imagine the publisher might do the same. It's gotta be just right!

    As for me, I've got about six pages of ideas for titles for my WIP, a travel memoir. And yet none of them seem perfect. I'm hoping that by the time I've revised the manuscript and it's ready to go, something genius will come to me.

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  19. I struggle with titles too! Usually they come in the middle of my WIP and I just stick them on. I think the ones I have fit, but like you, I'd be fine if the Title Committee had a better idea.

    Have a great weekend!

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  20. I have a hard time with titles too. I imagine some of mine will get changed in the future. I usually just pick a word or phrase that kind of works and stick with that until query time and then I change it to something stronger.

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  21. The whole concept of creating a title is like a form of art. It's the ability to squeeze a lot into a small space. I like the challenge of it, kind of like a small puzzle, for blog posts and twitter. I have created titles for preliminary book outlines. For me, the title almost comes first. Because it is, in a nutshell, what the book is about. Creating the title actually helps me sharpen the concept of the book. But who knows what a publisher will one day think about my titles? They may be trashed.

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  22. The title committee. Who knew? That's a great relief because I struggle with titles as well. Love the Preachers Bride. It flows so nice, I can practically imagine a cover. (which by the way I cannot wait to see! How exciting.) Thank you for answering my question in such detail. I've heard stories of how books get there titles and to me that seems like half the fun. I'm glad to know the whole endeavor wont be on my shoulders!

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  23. Soooo glad there's a title committee because I absolutely detest titles! I (almost) always write the story before I title it, and even then they're always horrid. ;-) My creativity hits a block when it comes to what's on the cover.

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  24. I struggle with titles. I get jealous of those who seem to be able to come up with catchy, amazingly awesome titles at the drop of a hat. I find it intersting about your editor wondering if 'preacher' was used in the 1600s - I never would have thought of needing to have a title that was historically accurate!

    Glad I read your post - I learned something new today! Thanks so much!

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  25. What a fun journey for you, but I bet a scary one too, huh? I'm so glad you have Rachelle to help you, Jody.

    I LOVE picking titles, like choosing an ice cream flavor. My favorite ones are plays on words.

    Thank you for changing your title; if you heard it without seeing it, it sounds like a bunion on your toe! Oh dear.

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  26. So far I haven't had any of my titles changed, but I guess it wouldn't bother me too much if they were.

    I'm a title browser. When I go to a bookstore, I read titles and will often pick up a book based on an intriguing title...or one that turns something familiar on it's head.

    I also try to make my titles match the feeling I want a reader to think of when they see it.

    I'm also a big fan of alliteration in titles. :)

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  27. I'm with Eric -- love alliteration in titles. You'll see that a lot with me, even in my blog (Mama Mondays, Writing Wednesdays, Faith Fridays). I spent the first part of my writing career in a newsroom in which I had to come up with my own headlines for stories. So, I love title-making. I really do! But it definitely is something that, like all other aspects of writing, you hone over time. I think the more you do it, Jody, the more naturally it will come, and the more you'll enjoy it. I'll have to check back on that a few years from now. BTW, I can just imagine the exhilaration you felt when you discovered the word "preacher" in that document. I remember having to verify certain historical things while editing P is for Peace Garden. I loved finding the right piece of evidence that held my claim firmly in place!

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  28. I fall short when coming up with catchy titles. Once in a while, I'll come up with a great one, but it has NOTHING to do with my WIP. (Don't tell anyone... I have a list of great titles to hopefully inspire a future book.)

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  29. Cool stuff! I love the title too.
    As for me, I usually save my work with the heroine's name until a title pops up. Then I just keep whatever pops into my head until someone tells me to change it. And I'm positive mine will get changed. LOL Not a creative namer here.

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  30. I'm so fascinated by this whole process, thanks again for sharing.

    Sometimes I dwell too much on titles, and change several times during the process. It's not an easy thing to come up with for me!

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  31. Thanks for sharing so much about your publishing experiences! I really enjoy thinking up titles. I struggle sometimes, but often the story just speaks it. Recently a title popped into my head and now I'm compelled to write the story based just on that. I had to research it to make sure it just wasn't something I had heard in my travels somewhere. I'm excited about it now.

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  32. So interesting reading your title story.

    I have read on a few writer's blogs not to get too attached to your title since it will probably change.

    My book is yet to be titled. I have a dozen possibilties and about 2 or 3 of those are winners. Going to wait until final edits are done before I decide. My current, favorite, potential title is nothing like the ones I started with, the ones I was so sure of.

    Things change, you know?

    Oh also, I have such an easy time titling blog posts but the pressure of naming a book is similar to naming a baby:)

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  33. Thanks for sharing how you chose The Preacher's Bride as your title.

    I've changed my working title from Echoes of the Past to The Moses Conspiracy. For the moment, Book 2 is Fading Freedom.

    I notice a lot of books have short, punchy titles. They reach out from the cover and drag you into the book.

    Blessings,
    Susan :)

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  34. This was an interesting post, and got me thinking. Maybe my title needs to be "shorter and less clumsy". I'll check out the link you provided,
    Thanks!

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  35. Thanks for the glimpse into how the title decision was made.

    I get so attached to titles when I'm writing the book that I'm not sure how I'd handle it if/when the publisher wants something different. LOL.

    I like alliteration too - Pigskin Parables (published) and Pouting Peter (picture book seeking a home). My Genesis book title of Serving Up Love seemed so appropriate for romantic threads in a diner setting. (I thought the series could be called Diner Diaries - more alliteration).

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  36. I'm terrible with titles. I usually pick a working one, but always change it in the end. I'm sure none of mine will stick when, yes I said when, I'm published. It really wouldn't bother me, though.

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  37. Interesting! Thanks for continuing to share your journey and process with us.

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  38. This was fascinating, I generally keep a note of titles as I go along and then hope that one day it will fit something I've written- that never happens! I have a few titles I really love that I'm hoping to use one day. Otherwise, I always tend to find a sentence in the story that I feel sums up the story; and I like odd titles that are slightly evocative and that are hopefully intriguing. That's not always what happens- with my short story blog, because I knock them out fast, I tend to go along with any title I come up with, since its my policy to get it out there, but when I look back sometimes I think, hmmmm, could have been more creative. There's an interesting book called 'wood for the trees' or something like that, a great book by an editor on writing, which has a fun bit about how other writers have chosen titles. Anyway, thanks as always for the blog, and its inspiring to follow.

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  39. So interesting! I love hearing about stuff like this!

    I like to think I'm good with titles, but there's always that seed of doubt (as with anything writerly, I suppose).

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  40. I stink at picking titles!I would love someone to do it for me and so wouldn't be unhappy at all if it was changed ever. I enjoyed reading this about what happened--what a process!

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  41. I love picking titles. About 75% of the time, I come up with something great that I love, and maybe I'll change it if the novel evolves elsewhere. But 25% of the time I hem and haw and cannot believe how sucky my titles are. It depends on the story.

    What's hard for me is when I have a bad title, and I know it, but I love it. I once wrote a novella entitled "The Photograph Man" which was inspired a bit by "The Invisible Man." No way is it a good title, especially since it resembles The Invisible Man. But I just love the way it rings.

    Some of my favorite old titles were "The Messenger," "Trapped in the Closet," and "Parallel Minds"

    Sadly, those stories are trunked. But I still love the names :)

    Thanks for sharing all this, Jodie!

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  42. I write romance and I always name the book after the male lead.
    You take care.

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  43. Titles for my articles are usually pulled from a phrase within the text... something that relates to the content and mood of the piece and might be a bit quirky. For my novels the working titles have just been single words (Connections, Refuge, Showdown) that relate to the theme. They serve to identify the ms for me, but I'm not so tied to them that I would be upset if they needed to be changed.

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  44. GREAT subject, and great blog.

    I chose kinda a theme of women and their stories, An Irishwoman's Tale and A Southern Woman's Story. However, Kregel's publicity and sales thought a Southern book would do better if an image of the South were used and not the word South. Thus What the Bayou Saw was birthed.

    Love it!

    Book 3? I've named it My Name is Sheba.

    For some reasons, I love the woman's name being put in the title!!!

    Would love you to visit my new blog if you have time.
    www.pattilacy.com/blog

    Thanks, Jody!!

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  45. I love thinking up titles and then thinking of a story to match.

    I love the historical detail of being sure the word "preacher" was in use.

    I absolutely cannot wait to read this book!

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  46. As a playwright, I tend to need a good title before I write. A good title tends to inspire me, sort of like a green light. Not that the title won't get changed later - but I usually get asked, 'so what's the title of the play you're working on now?' Being able to tell them and hear/see their response is a good gauge.

    But then, I may be a really good title writer...maybe better than the actual product?

    Who knows - every writer works differently.

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  47. Jody,
    I struggle with titles too. I feel like there's always something witty, clever or inspired just beyond my grasp. So glad your title made it through to the end. I CAN'T wait to see your book on Amazon!

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  48. Oooh so close with the second pick! I would've had my name on the cover of your book. :) It's amazing how easily I can come up with a title; the story is usually harder. Most times it's the title that lures me into a good book. I think your decision was good one!

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  49. Very interesting post. Roni made a post in her blog (http://fictiongroupie.blogspot.com/2009/11/title-struggle.html#comments) about getting good titles last week. Here is what I commented, which perfectly applies to your post today:

    I was/still am writing a novel and its second part. For the first part, the name came to me, I don't know how, when I was telling the story I had in mind to some friends, I was like 'hey, this sounds pretty cool', so I took it as a possible title and there it is, still working. For the second part, a friend and I were having lunch when she took out an apple, and looked at the label. She thought it made an excellent title for my first story, but I thought it applied better to the second one.

    In regards to my short stories, I recently had to write one for my Spanish class. My story was about a man that got obsessed with daisies, and tried to get the most perfect one to the woman he loved, which was also called Daisy (bear in mind that the word ‘daisy’ is ‘margarita’ in Spanish, so it’s not so repetitive), so I decided to call it ‘Daisy and her flower’.

    I don’t know where inspiration for names comes from, they just strike me like stories strike me, they come out of nowhere…

    Thanks for the cool post!

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  50. It is so exciting to follow along this path with you!

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  51. I get the title first, it is the rest I have a problem with! LOL
    I am not looking forward to letting go of my title, but I am sure it will happen.

    Good luck with your book.

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  52. Had no idea there is such a thing as a "Title Committee." I'd love to be a fly on the wall during some of those meetings. I've done lots of corporate and product naming as a brand consultant, so I feel I can imagine some of the conversations that take place. Probably lots of laughter, bad puns, etc. While I like the title of my book, I've heard so much about enforced title changes by publishers that I'm trying not to be too attached to it. I figure it is a lot like naming a company or a product--there really is no such thing as a "perfect" name. The closest you can get is one that meets strategic (don't you love it?) criteria and doesn't have any obvious negatives. I'm sure the same is true for book titles. I hope to find that out for myself one of these days. Patrice

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  53. Jody - I found your blog via Seekerville and just had to drop in and say hi when I realised who you were.

    I was privileged enough to be one of your judges in Touched By Love and My Elizabeth, My Beloved completely blew me away. I was SO excited to see at ACFW that you'd had to withdraw because you'd been awarded a contract as after finishing your entry I was desperate to read your entire book and prayed that it would be quickly snapped up by a publisher!

    So a massive congrats, The Preacher's Wife will be on my Amazon pre-order list as soon as it is released there!

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