Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Delicate Art of Title Creation

Coming up with the perfect title for one's masterpiece is, as any writer will tell you, not so easy. For authors of some publishing houses, it is not even an option, conferred as their titles are by mysterious editorial/marketing powers-that-be. Some ubiquitous title word inclusions have come to have the power to signify instantaneously what the book's genre or subgenre might be: "savage", "sword", "scoundrel", and "billionaire", to name a few. (Having strung together the previous words, Apprentice Writer is now overwhelmed with the urge to write the first chapter of "The Savage Sword of the Billionaire Scoundrel.")

In some cases, however, one wonders whether the author/publisher took even the briefest moment to consider how the title might sound to browsers who aren't steeped in the subject matter. There are some mighty peculiar but seriously intended titles out there, a phenomenon celebrated by the


Over the years, the finalists and prizewinners have included many a humdinger. Apprentice Writer laughed muchly at such gems as

"Big and Very Big Hole Drilling"

"How to Avoid Huge Ships"

"Proceedings on the Second International Workshop on Nude Mice"

The Diagram Prize (aside: why diagram? Is it meant ironically, considering that there are usually only words and no pictures in a title?) is a British creation, unsurprising in a culture that prides itself on eccentricity. In this vein, one learns that the origin of the competition was as a means to break up boredom plodding down the endless aisles of ginormous (AW can personally attest) annual Frankfurter Buchmesse, or Book Expo, and that the actual title conferrer is not the person to receive a reward, but rather the person spotted and sent in the winning title. It all makes delightfully whimsical sense.

To read an entertaining article on the subject, go to

As the author notes, "...Oddness is in the eye of the beholder." Wise words to ponder.


Wylie Kinson said...

LOL - Those are some good titles, but my all time fave is Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.
I haven't read it... I don't want to spoil the mystique!

Amy Ruttan said...

LOL. Awesome titles.

Well I had titles for my books, but the marketing manager and publisher changed them to fit the series.

I mourn the good titles, but Meh, what are you gonna do.

Abby said...

Did you see the winner of the oddest title in the past 30 years? Apparently it is "Greek Rural Postmen and their Cancellation Numbers".

Personally, I would have picked "Waterproofing Your Child".

M. said...

Wylie - Zen and Motorcycle Maintenance - not exactly concepts one would expect to see close to each other. Then again, bikers can be misunderstood. I used to work for the Red Cross, and we had a humongous, bearded, tatooed, leathered guy come in regularly to donate, as a way of giving back to the community.

Amy - I'll be intrigued to hear of your original titles compared to the 'bestowed' ones.

Abby - Why do only Greek postmen get books describing their numbers? Is it the same reason why it's always a Greek billionaire, rather than an Albanian one, in the Presents line? *g*

Thomma Lyn said...

Titling is a hoot -- I have a friend who had, I thought, a wonderful title for her memoir. Well, she got it accepted for publication and it's coming out next year, but they changed the title -- and while the new title is fine, I liked the first one best! :)

Here's an interesting title for ya: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. Haven't read the book, though it's on my TBR list.

That's how it goes sometimes, though.

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