Marketing rant: long freaking book titles

Alas, one of life’s great pleasures — browsing through book titles at the store without buying anything — is becoming a chore thanks to the publishing industry’s insistence on writing the entire jacket copy on the title page.  Just making your way through the nonfiction section is enough to create permanent eye strain.  Consider:

  • Publisher Crown forces us to fight World War II all over again on the cover of The Ghost Mountain Boys: Their Epic March and the Terrifying Battle for New Guinea — The Forgotten War of the South Pacific by James Campbell . . . as if to say, “Look at me!  I’m an epic!”
  • Into a little sex and religion?  Well, Random House gives both and more in Sin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys and the Battle for America’s Soul by Karen Abbott.   Whoa, heavy!
  • If you want to get your life together, you can always embrace Quiet Strength: The Principles, Practices & Priorities of a Winning Life by Tony Dungy, which sounds like something you’d get if Michael Porter and Ed Deming squared off in the Super Bowl.  Aren’t principles enough?

Now, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with the content of those books.  But the publishers insult us when they carpet bomb us with wordy titles, like a movie company that gives you every plot twist in the trailer.  Usually a wordy title is the result of insecurity (no one will buy this book if we don’t spell it out), a desire to improve visibility in word searches online, a lack of imagination, or all of the above.

Imagine if movie titles were like book titles.  I give you The Godfather of New York: An Epic Tale of Crime, Corruption and the American Way Starring Marlon Brando or Fargo, North Dakota: Greed, Paul Bunyon, Pregnancy, Murder, and a WoodChipper.  Or maybe Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace.   Hey, wait a minute . . .

And then there’s Malcolm Gladwell’s compelling The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference.  Now that’s what I call a great title — the “tipping point” has already worked it’s way into our lexicon (and the book is worthy of title).  Please.  We want more Tipping Points and provocative titles like Maureen Dowd’s Are Men Necessary?

Is that too much to ask?

2 thoughts on “Marketing rant: long freaking book titles

  1. I agree that wordy titles leave a little less to the imagination.

    But here\’s a thought: Maybe its our (the consumers\’) fault. In our culture of convenience, we demand information to be presented in a comprehensive manner so we know exactly what we\’re getting and we\’re not wasting time looking for it. Hence, the incredibly descriptive titles.

    They\’re giving (most of) us what we want: someone else to do the thinking so our lives would be easier.

    On the other hand, I doubt I would have picked up the classic Marquez book, \”Memories of My Melancholy Whores\” if it were titled \”Old guy falls in love at age 90.\”

  2. Great post. I\’ve also noticed this annoying trend. To the commenter above (Anonymous): No, they\’re not giving me what I want — I never asked for ridiculously long titles.

    Regarding \”The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference\”, why not just call it either \”The Tipping Point\”, or, more to the point, \”How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference\”? Far easier.

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