Monday, November 19, 2012
Titles That Jump Off the Shelf
I took my daughter to a thrift store yesterday on a sweater-shopping spree. I strolled over to the used books while she checked the racks (she failed to find an acceptable choice from the hundreds of sweaters available) and wound up buying a used copy of A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian. (It's a novel, but was mistakenly stuck in the history section.)
There's so much that goes into shopping for a book, especially when you're just browsing the bookstore shelves. An unusual title is one thing that might get me to take a peek; it's what got me to take a look at a book I discussed awhile ago, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (since made into a movie with Ewan MacGregor and the lovely Emily Blunt). I'm a lot less like to pick up some book called A Blue House or The Lost Love or something.
I wonder about the science of picking a title. How often do agents and publishers require authors to change titles? Is there, in fact, even a science of title selection? Is there some old marketing report sitting in a file drawer somewhere at Random House-Penguin (or is it Penguin-Random House)? (And wouldn't "Random Penguin" be a great name for a publishing house -- or a rock band?) The same question applies to cover art, of course -- is there an actual science of this subject, or is it all seat-of-the-pants decision-making?
Anybody know the answer to those questions?
Any favorite title that you just couldn't resist?