Sunday, September 28, 2014

A Title for My New Book?

OK, here is where I really need some help from readers. I am down to the wire on a title for my new book on Chinese agricultural investment (or not) in Africa. I had what I thought was a great title, Feeding Frenzy, which would play off of the general perception that the Chinese are leading the land grab in Africa, to grow food to ship back to China. (There is little evidence of any grand strategy to do this, let alone of Chinese farms in Africa growing food for China -- at least for now). Then, a few months ago, someone else published a book with that title. It's about the global food crisis and not about China and Africa, but my publisher (Oxford again), emailed me on Friday: "Ok - we're at the finish line for titles. We need one asap (for the catalog). Feeding Frenzy is taken and doesn't work." They proposed The African Rice Bowl: China, [Global] Food Security, and the Agricultural Revolution in Africa [or African Agricultural Revolution].
Hmmmm ... this doesn't work for me. It's too much of an echo of other writers who have argued the thesis I am going to dispute, i.e. that China does want to make Africa into its rice bowl.
Here are a few other thoughts:
1. Green Dreams: Myths and Realities of China's Agricultural Engagement in Africa
2. Mandarin Harvest: Fact and Fiction of Chinese "Land Grabs" in Africa
3. No Easy Harvest: Chinese Farms in Africa
4. Will Africa Feed China? Investigating land grabs and food security ...
5. The Dragon's Harvest: Chinese Agribusiness in Africa
Feedback? Other ideas?

Update, October 10: Oxford has decided to go with Will Africa Feed China? -- no subtitle, but the cover will have a blurb or other written material that makes the point about the myths and realities. They liked the link with Lester Brown's famous 1995 book: "Who Will Feed China?" and the simplicity of the title which, they said, "says it all."  So there we are. If anyone thinks this is really a problem title, please post! I still shudder to recall the original title selected by my last editor for The Dragon's Gift. They wanted to call it Rogue Donor? The book will be published at some point next year, probably in the summer.

34 comments:

  1. 2b. The Chinese "Land Grabbing" of Africa: Facts and Fictions

    ReplyDelete
  2. Is Africa becoming China's rice bowl?

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi,

    The "African Rice Bowl" has a better ring to it than the other suggested titles... but what to do now?

    What do you think of "The (African/Black) Fortune Cookie: Myths and Realities of China's Agricultural Engagement in Africa" ?

    All the Best

    ReplyDelete
  4. As someone who has been reading up on the issues discussed in your forthcoming book I'd be looking for something like title no. 5.
    Other suggestion: Securing the Lion's share: ( Myths and Realities of )China's Agricultural Engagement in Africa

    ReplyDelete
  5. Congratulations! Green Dreams (1) Will Africa Feed China (2)

    ReplyDelete
  6. I agree that the title they have proposed is tedious. My suggestion is that you need in your title the word "myths" or "fantasies" for sure.

    If you use the keyword 'land grabs' in your title you will also get a huge audience. So my suggestion is that the best title of the 5 you mention would be number 2. Mandarin Harvest: Fact and Fiction of Chinese "Land Grabs" in Africa

    However, I would rather go for a combination of 1 and 2 with a different wording, i.e.:
    Farm Fantasies: Fact and Fiction of Chinese "Land Grabs" in Africa (NB: Green dreams may be associated with ecological projects and other social 'green' interventions in parts of Europe)

    ReplyDelete
  7. Personally, I prefer a combination of 1 and 2: Green Dreams: Myths and Realities of Chinese "Land Grabs" in Africa. Hope it may help.

    ReplyDelete
  8. These are all super helpful. Thanks so much! I'll wait a day or two and see if any more come in and then run them by my editor.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I say keep the title in the series. 1 vote for "The Dragon's Harvest: Chinese Agribusiness in Africa"

    I know you didn't pick the "Dragon's Gift" title the first time... but this would give your books a great common thread and continuity.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Picking a good title is definitely harder than I thought. I like the second proposed title the best: Mandarin Harvest: Fact and Fiction of Chinese "Land Grabs" in Africa. "Land grabs" definitely is a catchy phrase, but I am not sure if it sends the right message. Having something short and representing China is a good idea. "Mandarin Harvest" would be easy for people to remember, just like the "Dragon's Gift". I like "Green Dreams" too though I agree with one comment saying that it sounds a little bit like some ecological projects in Europe. Just my two cents. I was thinking the title could be "The Grain Strategy (echoes "the grand strategy"): Myths and Facts of Chinese Agriculture engagement/Chinese 'Land Grabs' in Africa".

    ReplyDelete
  11. I dig Mandarin Harvest or The Grain Strategy, or improvising on one of the comments, the Black Rice Bowl. Or Chopsticks in Africa, which would allow for interesting cover art on your book.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I'm in process of writing a much shorter paper to finish my degree, dabbling in the subject. I have been batting around this very theme, with a 10 page draft already evaluated and ripped to shreds lol, it's a tough subject! I look forward to your book.

    Would you prefer a slice of African Pie or Rice Pudding?

    African Agri-trends:
    The world is coming over for dinner, how shall we feed her? .. and ourselves too.

    Sustainable Pie:
    Slicing out equal portions of African Agricultural resources .. forever.

    I like your #1 .. also. I don't know your thesis, but seeing traditional Green Revolution techniques being over-utilized or revamped over the African continent seems to be a hopeless and perilous path for a promising future, for China, and especially Africans who have to suffer the consequences.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I agree that the second bit of 2) is the most grabbing: 'Fact and Fiction (or myths/realities) of Chinese "Land Grabs" in Africa'. But I'm less keen on the first-bits of some of the proposed titles. How about something like Feeding the Dragon? Bit more evocative, it's still got the dragon-theme continuity, conjures up a sense of some of the power dynamics...

    ReplyDelete
  14. Congrats on the new book. Alternative Oxford suggested title is terrible. I like continuing the dragon theme but would prefer "The Dragon's Seeds: China and African Agriculture" since we don't know what is being planted. If you want to move away from the dragon theme there is "Planting the Seeds of the Lotus: China and Agriculture in Africa." The lotus in Budhism is a transformative plant eg. A beautiful flower arising out of murky and muddy waters. It suggests the idea that China can transfer their knowledge and technology to benefit African agriculture so it can also bloom. However it is still a Chinese flower and it raises the idea that their investment in African agriculture would benefit China more than African countries. My two cents worth...

    ReplyDelete
  15. The Dragon's Harvest: Fact, Fiction and China's 'Land Grab' in Africa

    ReplyDelete
  16. # 5 The Dragons Harvest sounds sinister. Mandarin Harvest too soft. On the cover I can see a muted picture of a dragon in the shape of Africa and the type in red. Also big machines in foreground.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I'm not sure I like the quote marks and overly long title. It only needs to give a taster and shouldn't be too complex if for popular consumption. How about Mandarin Harvest: The Myths and Realities of China's African Dream?

    ReplyDelete
  18. Or perhaps Mandarin Harvest: Is China stealing Africa's Dinner?

    ReplyDelete
  19. We would strongly support "Feeding the Dragon? Facts and Fiction about Chinese "Land Grabs" in Africa" - it is very attractive and will sell well while avoiding unnecessary '2nd continent' stupidities

    ReplyDelete
  20. Yeah, another vote for 'Feeding the Dragon? Facts and Fiction about Chinese' from here!

    ReplyDelete
  21. Is there a Chinese Feeding Fenzy for African Land: Unearthing facts from myths

    ReplyDelete
  22. Planting the seed for future harvests: Chinese Agribusiness in Africa

    ReplyDelete
  23. Thanks to all for such great ideas. I'm talking to my editor this afternoon. Will post on the results.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Feeding China: Myths and Realities of China's Agricultural Engagement in Africa

    ReplyDelete
  25. Just no dragons please! let's move away from cliches

    ReplyDelete
  26. OK -- I spoke to my editor yesterday. Most book contracts give the publisher the final word in the book's title and cover, as I learned with The Dragon's Gift. The marketing department folks like "Will Africa Feed China?" which plays on the famous 1995 book by Lester Brown, "Who Will Feed China?" But he seems to like Mandarin Harvest, with a subtitle. So, thank goodness, no dragons. Will post when the title is final.

    ReplyDelete
  27. how about: The Hans are farming: investigating the myths and realities of Chinese agribusiness in Africa.

    ReplyDelete
  28. When the book will be published? Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  29. Oxford has decided to go with "Will Africa Feed China?" -- no subtitle, but the cover will have a blurb or other written material that makes the point about the myths and realities. They liked the link with Lester Brown's famous 1995 book: "Who Will Feed China?" and the simplicity of the title which, they said, "says it all." So there we are. If anyone thinks this is really a problem title, please post! I still shudder to recall the original title selected by my last editor for The Dragon's Gift. They wanted to call it Rogue Donor?

    ReplyDelete
  30. The next book you write should be:
    " Africa: Caught in the dragon's teeth?... Really?"

    ReplyDelete
  31. Dear Deborah,

    My suggestion - "The Food Connection - Is China treating Africa as its future rice bowl?"

    The title is a play to the thriller movie "The French Connection" back in the 1971, with a sprinkle of "mafioso" flavor added in - after all, the West keeps on trying to portray China as a "big bully" or something not that dissimilar to a character from a gangland / mafioso background

    ReplyDelete
  32. Oh, I like that title: The Food Connection with all its implications! I think it's probably too late. The publisher likes "Will Africa Feed China?"

    ReplyDelete
  33. Sounds like a really interesting book! I like the title but have one reservation: "Will Africa Feed China?" presupposes that Africa can potentially feed or has a surplus to send China's way. Perhaps the title should have been phrased "Can Africa Feed China?" to really explore the perception that Africa abounds with vast tracts of arable land and the potential for surplus agricultural produce...in addition to understanding the extent of Chinese investment in the African agricultural sector.

    ReplyDelete
  34. Good idea, but the title spins off of "who will feed China?" By Lester Brown (1995)

    ReplyDelete