Title: Now All We Need is a Title
Sub-title: Famous Books Titles and How They Got That Way
Author: Andre Bernard
Publisher: W.W. Norton and Co.
I really enjoyed reading this book. I found it fascinating to read about some of the behind-the-scenes workings of how many of my favorite books finally arrived at their title. It was very amusing to see the back-and-forth struggles between editors and authors over a book’s title. Although not a how-to book, this small short amusing book will certainly appeal to every writer and editor.
The book discusses over 100 different famous books of fiction, such as “Jaws”, “The Great Gatsby”, “The Maltese Falcon”, and “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”, and how their title came to be. One of my favorites is the story of “Gone With The Wind”. It was first called “Pansy”, then changed to “Tote the Weary Load”, and then to “Tomorrow is Another Day”.
Bernard’s book also has great advice, sprinkled throughout the book, from authors and editors about choosing a title. One of my favorites is a quote by Walker Percy: “A good title should be like a good metaphor; it should intrigue without being too baffling or too obvious.”
Some historic literary facts are also given for many of the titles. One of my favorites is the story about Lewis Carroll being the first one to suggest to his publisher that the dust jacket carry the title of the book. Carroll’s “The Hunting of the Snark” became the first book to be published with a printed jacket.
In Bernard’s Introduction, he says that this book is an “… an anecdotal account of how some of the most well-known book and play titles come to be. It is not meant to be a comprehensive compendium of every catchy title, but rather a lighthearted look at a struggle that has bedeviled writers for centuries.”
As an author and publisher I can really appreciate how important a title can be to the financial success of a book. Nowadays, a title must not only be catchy, but also be key-word-rich and search-engine-friendly, if you have any hope of it being found on the internet. The proper title is essential if you want your publication to stand out from the huge number of publications that are published every day. If you are an author or publisher, you will certainly know that a good title is an essential part of a successful marketing plan for any publication. In Bernard’s book you will read about very famous authors going through the same (but on a much less sophisticated level) agonizing process that we authors and publishers go through today. Nowadays, developing the best title is even more important than it was when most of the books discussed in Bernard’s book were written. But it was still very interesting to see how these famous authors and big-name publishers dealt with this important process.