Thinking about choosing book titles

I’ve posted a couple of things on here about the book I’ve been working on for the last few months (I actually set this blog up to gather things together for the book and also to play about with some of the media forms I was writing about). I’ve got quite a bit done now and I’ve spent most of the time I’ve been writing thinking about book titles. I’ve reworked the title quite a few times but nothing has stuck so far. I did a bit of looking around and found this post on the choosing of book titles by Stuart Elden which linked to an earlier post on the topic by Graham Harman. Both posts highlight the difficulties of book titles. Both also describe their various experiences of negotiating book titles with publishers. Publishers of course want to sell books, so they are often, it would seem, keen to negotiate book titles that contain keywords. This is so that people will find the books when they search for keywords, and I suppose it also means that the content of the book is instantly recognisable to potential readers.

Given that they both note that publishers like to think about the title after manuscript submission, I suspect this might be an issue I’m going to have to revisit. My previous book was part of a series, so the title for that was fixed from the outset. So we didn’t need to enter into any discussions. This time I had some discussion with my publisher, who have been excellent, when I was offered a contract. My original title was a rather loose, The Circulations of Popular Culture. I can see that this might not get to the required audience. They suggested putting ‘new media’ into the title in order to open up the books audience. I can see their point. Also I’m quite keen for the book to sell well. So I’m thinking that I might go for a very keyword based title in order to have broad appeal. This goes against Graham Harman’s instincts. But I can see that it is now hard to sell books, and that making sure of connecting into a market is important. This might sound a bit crude, particular as I’ve spent the week teaching Adorno and Horkheimer, but it seems best for me to take the advice of the publisher in this case. The book is looking like it will be quite unconventional, it brings together all sorts of conceptual and cross-disciplinary references to study culture, so maybe nestling this with a quite understated title might get the ideas to a different and broader audience. But all this makes picking a title feel quite important and pressurised. As things stand, and this might change, I’m going to go for keywords. So I’m thinking that a nice simple and targeted title is the best bet. At the moment I’m settled on Popular culture and new media: the politics of circulation. This is something I feel fairly comfortable with and I think the publisher might also be ok with it. But I’ll find out when I’m able to submit the book. Anyway, I found it really helpful reading through Stuart and Graham’s pieces, it was interesting to see how other more experienced book authors had dealt with this issue. Funnily enough I seem to have titles for two or three future books nailed down, it’s the morphing form of my current book that seems to be the problem.

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2 Responses to Thinking about choosing book titles

  1. stuartelden says:

    Reblogged this on Progressive Geographies and commented:
    David Beer on choosing book titles, with links to earlier discussions by Graham Harman and me – back when The Birth of Territory still had the title The Geometry of the Political.

  2. Pingback: A description of my forthcoming book… | Thinking culture

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