Tuesday, April 7, 2009

What's in a Book Title?

What's in a Book Title?
by Tim Kavi

We've all heard about translated titles and company slogans having unfortunate and strange meanings when the titles and slogans are made available to foreign markets. But what about when books are published in their own countries, and still have unfortunate consequences? And what happens when the book title itself becomes an inadvertent partner in a marketing strategy that is contrary to the purpose of the book or the purpose the author intended? Finally, what about a book title that seems so influential that many people who see the title assume they already know what's in the book without reading it?

No doubt, book titles are a part of the overall marketing campaign and appeal to readers in the marketplace for the book itself. Books that include brand names in titles are cases where I think one is risking more of a possibility of a book being confused with the brand name or product being mentioned in the title. This can result in the book itself being confused and comingled with the brand name, marketing strategy, and even the company itself, that the brand name belongs to.

Such seemed to be the case with Listening to Prozac by Peter D. Kramer (1993). In fact, the March-April 2009 edition of the magazine Mental Floss shows that this title is ranked third on their list of The 25 Most Influential Books of the Past 25 Years. The article points out that Kramer coined the terms 'cosmetic psychopharmacology' with the intent that Kramer was strongly opposed to it. Prozac, which became the first of a new generation of antidepressants helped to give people a little bit of a lift because of its ability to influence serotonin (a chemical messager in the brain). According to the article, almost everyone that took it felt the effect, and although truly indicated only for clinical depression, the book inadvertently helped to popularize the drug and 'cosmetic psychopharmacology' with the overall effect of greatly increased prescriptions for the drug during the years just after the book came out.--TK

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