The Secret Lives of Titles

Remember when it seemed every single title (fiction and nonfiction) in the bookstore claimed to be “The Secret Life of” something? Or when we were forced to hear about daughters of Gravediggers and Memory Keepers and Heretics and Calligraphers and so on and so on?

Working in publishing, I see a lot of similarities among titles just here at the office. Preparing our rights guides for the Frankfurt Book Fair this year, I noticed the children’s and YA titles usually told some kind of story involving The [noun or verb] Of The [noun]. Who decides on these trends anyway? What makes one type of title catch on over another?

In late summer/early fall of this year, it seemed magicians were staking their claim as the next cool title accessory with the release of The Magicians by Lev Grossman and The Magician’s Elephant by Kate DiCamillo. I admit that the word “magician” does make a book sound more appealing, but I’m still hoping this trend doesn’t catch on. Trends in general put me off because I am the type of person who will say something like, “If I see one more novel claiming to The [scandalous career or quirky subject matter] Diaries, I’ll scream!” Hence, I will not buy the book based on something resembling a principle.

What would you like to see become a trend? Or, what title do you think will start a trend, whether we like it or not? For 2010, I’m making the prediction that Sarah Palin’s Going Rogue will begin a Going [blank] craze for a while. It’s already spawned the parody, Going Rouge, and if 2008-2009 has taught us anything, it’s these two things: 1) Publishing houses will cling to anything in order to survive, and 2) Sarah Palin cannot be stopped.

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