Thursday, May 17, 2007

Book Titles Matter

In a recent column in the New York Sun, David Blum wondered why Joshua Ferris's wonderful novel Then We Came to the End never made the NYT bestseller list. Here's one of the reasons he came up with:

“In the case of Little Brown and Mr. Ferris, some attention to the novel's cumbersome title might have helped. Was Then We Came to the End really the best title for this wonderful novel? I doubt it. By allowing his impossible-to-remember title to remain on the book, everyone involved willfully ignored the pragmatic truths of the 2007 literary marketplace: Sometimes the catchier title wins. It's no coincidence that the cleverly-titled Heyday sold better, even though it's hard to believe any readers preferred Mr. Andersen's self-conscious artifice over Mr. Ferris's heartfelt tour de force.”

Even the editor of Ferris’s book admitted that “Nobody ever remembers the title exactly right. Usually they call it the office novel or something.”

Blum had a great comment on that: “Try asking for the office novel at Barnes & Noble and see how far you get.”


In a blog post written about a year ago, blogger Rohit Bhargava had this to say about book titles:

Why the Irish Saved Civilization was a very average book released with a perfectly crafted title just engaging enough for all Americans who claim some amount of Irish heritage to buy it for other Americans with similar backgrounds. It probably sold well in Ireland too. But my guess is that only 10% of people who bought the book ever actually read it. The title is what sold the book.”

Don't let your book titles ruin your chances of success. Keep working on the title until you come up with something memorable. If you need help, take advantage of my Book Title Critique service. It only costs a $125, and it's worth every penny. Call me at 575-751-3398 to set up an appointment or email me at
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