Saturday, August 28, 2010


Is that the goal? I mean, of academic book titles? I'm within a couple of days of finishing the intro, and I'm starting to look down the line, past the fall of revisions, to the sending out of the proposals. And I'm wondering: do I choose a title that accurately reflects the main argument of the book? Or do I go for a title that reflects the larger implications of the book, which get covered mostly in the concluding chapter, and though they are set up and gestured toward in the body chapters are not, really, the main argument of the book? Specific and potentially too-narrow-sounding? Or broad-flailingly aspirational?

I guess I'm wondering how much of a gap there is, in the proposal stage, between selling THE PROJECT and SELLING the project.


Kristen said...

when in doubt I always go for pizzazz. but you knew that already.

Doctor Cleveland said...

Catchy is good.

Anonymous said...

I like pizzazz followed by a topic-specific subtitle.

Fie upon this quiet life! said...

I'm with Ink. Pizzazz plus subtitle. Think of who is going to read this book -- grad students, profs, and the like. They will be sifting through a bunch of MLA listings, looking for the perfect thing to read to support their own arguments. They won't have time to read a synopsis, likely, so the title really needs to tell them if the book is worth their time. I mean, unless you're going to be the next Harold Bloom of George Herbert studies, and market to the NY Times best seller list, I'd go for a title that will inspire the intended audience to take the next step and check out the book.

Two cents from someone who has no time to read a synopsis anymore.

Anonymous said...

Pizzazz is good, but even better is getting some words into the title that will help your book show up quickly (and one hopes accurately) in searches. So, in my medieval / early modern world, a dream title is one that, for instance, gets both Chaucer and Shakespeare into the title.

I have a funny story I can't really tell in detail in a blog comment about reading a manuscript for a press. The author gave the project a version of this sort of title title--even though neither big name author mentioned was really a primary focus of the book! The author was obviously a savvy marketing person, but the title was kinda misleading.