I was lucky that the employees agreed with me, and that my
editor was big enough to admit it.
When it came to deciding on a title for my latest book, I
was faced with another problem. This is a very hard book to describe. It is
about the secret backstories of plants we grow in our gardens, from the
botanical marvels displayed by virtually every plant to the exploits of the explorers
who once – and still do – race across the globe like Indiana Jones in search of
rare and exotic specimens, fragrance, poison, art, and finally the need to
conserve the threatened diversity of the natural world.
The publisher’s suggestions for titles included, “My
Favorite Plant,” a title that has been used for several other books, already;
and “The Secret Life of Plants,” another recycled name. (You might be surprised
to learn that the title of a book cannot be copyrighted, so repeating an old one
I coined a new word –Planthropology – kind of anthropology for
plants. Can you imagine the reaction to that made up word? The marketing
department said no one would be able to remember it. The sales department could
not pronounce it. Since no one could come up with a more descriptive title,
Planthropology: The Myths, Mysteries, and Miracles of My Garden Favorites made
Besides risking a big long word on a cover, there’s the
choice of the image. Authors, and even author/photographers do not always get
to choose. Do I have a favorite photo among the 450 shots in the book? (That’s
like asking which of your children is your favorite — don’t ask, don’t tell.)
The photo of the poppy on the cover of Planthropology was not my selection, but
I love it. It’s a bread seed poppy (opium poppy to the less faint of heart)
called ‘Drama Queen’.
The publisher did punch up the color in printing, but if
that is what it takes to get attention, so be it. It will be nice if the jacket
gets displayed facing out on the bookstore shelf, but in many cases, publishers
have to pay for that privilege. But the bottom line for me is not the bottom
line – it’s helping people discover the miracles of plants all around us – we
would not exist without them.
Just remember, it is much easier to buy a book than to
publish one. And you can get it at a 30% discount through my website,
kendruse.com, or at Planthropology.com, where you can see a “book-trailer”
And now, our contest. Readers, tell us about a social situation in which you desperately wished you had a wealth of scintillating botanical conversational tidbits with which to impress those around you. Bonus points for social situations involving potential romantic partners and/or former rivals. Convince us and Ken’s fascinating new book will be on its way to you, perhaps giving you a second chance to make a first impression.Posted by Amy Stewart on November 20, 2008 at 5:54 am, in the category Unusually Clever People.