Book titles: When colons attack
I’m glad I don’t have to come up with book titles for a living. Naming books is hard—it’s as much a science as an art. Imagine trying to sum up a book’s entire plot (or purpose) in just a few words.
Maybe that’s why publishers are going back to that most beloved of Victorian conventions: The “colonized” book title. One of my favorites is Eleven years a drunkard, or, The life of Thomas Doner: having lost both arms through intemperance, he wrote his book with his teeth as a warning to others.
See what just happened? By adding a colon to the title, the publisher cleverly gave himself license to write a whole second title. No need to economize words. Brilliant!
Unfortunately, modern publishers are getting equally carried away. Consider Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Human Intelligence but Were Too Dumb to Ask: A Humorous Look at What Intelligence Is, How It Works & Who’s Got It. Isn’t it impressive how, in just 29 words, the title manages to insult your own intelligence and tell you everything you don’t know? Don’t you feel smarter already?!
Wittgenstein’s Poker: The Story of a Ten-Minute Argument Between Two Great Philosophers (I’m guessing the argument ended when one of them got poked with a poker.)
… and for those of you who prefer a more colloquial approach …
Narrow views of World History
Fun with raiments
… and yet more food.
Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World
But of all the colon-enhanced titles I found, one was conspicuous by its absence.
Naming Books: Why Adding a Colon is Not the Solution to Your Book-Naming Woes (Because Even the Brightest Readers Won’t be Able to Remember Your Ridiculous 67-Word Book Title)
I think I may have just stumbled upon my next self-publishing project.
Filed under: Attempted humor, Grammar and usage, Psychology, Writing | 16 Comments
Tags: book publishing, book titles, naming books, postaday2011, writing