Quite the World, Isn't It?

Jonesís Bones Ė it was just a name anyway

August 29, 2013

Tags: books

Well, for those of you expecting to read Jonesís Bones: The Search for an American Hero in the spring, it ainít going to happen. Oh, the book is still being published, but after some back-and-forth and input from the folks who actually have to market and sell it, weíve changed the name.

The Admiral and the Ambassador: One Manís Obsessive Search for the Body of John Paul Jones

I hear your communal sigh, and ďbut, I LOVED the Jonesís Bones title!Ē Truth be told, I loved that title, too. But my loyalty to it was eroded by some pretty compelling arguments, and Iím trotting them out here because I think itís probably interesting to book lovers to see some of the thinking that goes into these decisions.

First, the folks at Chicago Review Press, who are publishing the book (they did Detroit: A Biography, as well), had the same initial reaction to the original title as we all did. They loved it. But they knew the book was coming, and what it was about. They showed the title to some folks who didnít know what the book was about. And after reading the title, they still didnít. Because it doesnít say which Jones, and old John Paul just doesnít have the instant recognition of, say, Miley. Even adding a picture of Jones in his admiralís hat didnít help much. But getting the John Paul in there, well, that was instant recognition.

Most significant, though, was that without John Paul Jones in the title, we feared search engines looking for his name would not find the book. And in this era of digital existence, if Amazonís title search engine canít find it, let alone Google, the book may as well not exist.

So we bounced around constructs along the lines of Jonesís Bones: One Manís Obsessive Search for the Body of John Paul Jones. But the double Jones just felt odd, as though a line in a poem had slid off rhythm. We played with some others, all of which fell short either because of redundancy, or imprecision.

So we finally hit on The Admiral and the Ambassador: One Manís Obsessive Search for the Body of John Paul Jones. Doesnít grab like Jonesís Bones, to be sure, but it could help me sell more books. Which would be really nice. Because as much fun as working on these projects might be, writers still need to eat. And I donít like cheap beer.

Oh, and Iíve seen mockups of the cover. Verrrry nice. Iíll share it when I can.


  1. August 30, 2013 5:49 PM PDT
    It was of great interest to read your explanation. Thanks for that insight into a world YOU really know. Good cover coming up and that is the next best thing to what I know will be an excellent book.
    - Joan Murphine
  2. September 5, 2013 6:21 PM PDT
    Why not "Jones's Bones: One Man's Obsessive Search for the Body of John Paul Jones"?
    - Dave Borcherding
  3. September 5, 2013 6:58 PM PDT
    We wrestled with it, but the double use of Jones was a bit jarring.
    - Scott Martelle
  4. September 5, 2013 9:12 PM PDT
    FWIW, I think the second title is far, far better. I'm tired of cutesy rhymes in titles like "Jones' Bones." The second title has authorit-ah, as Cartman might say.
    - Days of Broken Arrows
  5. September 8, 2013 6:25 PM PDT
    Loved this post and used it as a jumping off place for my own blog post this week(http://www.vweisfeld.com/?p=862), with links back to you, Scott. Read Detroit: A Biography, story of my home town with great interest. Thank you for your wonderful writing.
    - Vicki Weisfeld
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About me

A third-generation journalist, I was born in Scarborough, Maine, and grew up there and in Wellsville, New York, about two hours south of Buffalo. My first newspaper job came at age 16, writing a high school sports column for the Wellsville Patriot, a weekly (defunct), then covering local news part-time for the Wellsville Daily Reporter.

After attending Fredonia State, where I was editor of The Leader newspaper and news director for WCVF campus radio, I worked in succession for the Jamestown Post-Journal, Rochester Times-Union (defunct), The Detroit News and the Los Angeles Times, where I covered presidential and other political campaigns, books, local news and features, including several Sunday magazine pieces.

An active freelancer, my work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Sierra Magazine, Los Angeles magazine, Orange Coast magazine, New York Times Book Review (books in brief), Buffalo News, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Teaching Tolerance (Southern Poverty Law Center), Solidarity (United Auto Workers) and elsewhere. I teach or have taught journalism courses at Chapman University and UC Irvine, and speak occasionally at school and college classes about journalism, politics and writing. I've appeared on panels at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books and the Literary Orange festival, moderated panels at the Nieman Conference in Narrative Journalism and the North American Labor History Conference, among others, and been featured on C-SPAN's Book TV.

I'm also a co-founder of The Journalism Shop, a group of journalists (most fellow former Los Angeles Times staffers) available for freelance assignments.

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