Yesterday Michelle spoke about choosing a book title from the marketing department’s perspective, and about the “running argument” she has with us folks in Editorial.
Hmm, is it really an argument? Well, I will admit to thinking that if Marketing truly had their way, the title for every book would be an artless string of words broadcasting its selling appeal. The Hunger Games would be called ACTION PACKED DYSTOPIAN LOVE TRIANGLE and When You Reach Me would be FRIENDS ARE IMPORTANT, PLUS TIME TRAVEL. It would be like that Better Book Titles site, except worse, because it would be for real! And mostly not funny!
But I also get why it’s often necessary for book titles to be unsubtle. Since Whitman specializes in “issues books” I understand that a well-chosen title can broadcast its usefulness to those in need. If a child is diagnosed with asthma, chances are her mom would rather not scan endless titles looking for artful metaphors for “hard to breathe.”
If anything, I think my place in the running argument titles is somewhere in between Marketing and the author. In fact, I’m often the actual go-between: sometimes I’ll have to explain to Marketing that the author-illustrator I’m working with would rather not have “A Story About the Importance of Oral Hygiene” as a subtitle for her picture book about a wacky tooth fairy; other times I might have to persuade a writer to let us come up with something better than “Tommy the Turtle” or “Reflections.”
(Note: these are all hypothetical examples.)
And I’ve been there right in the middle myself. A few years back I wrote a picture book about a girl with a peanut allergy. I called it “The Princess and the Peanut,” which I thought was totally the cleverest title in the world for a book about peanut allergy. Except that it didn’t have the word “allergy” in it. Somehow it sounded a lot less witty with that “A” word. But Marketing began to insist, and while it took a while, I finally realized that while “The Princess and the Peanut” was a clever title, The Princess and the Peanut Allergy was a SMART one.
And then we all lived happily ever after, and with continued royalties, too! THE END.