The Malcolm Gladwell Book Generator may not be uproariously funny, but after clicking through a few iterations I had to concede that it is at least moderately amusing.
The Generator is, of course, a spoof. You start with the cover of Gladwell’s The Tipping Point and then click on Generate New Bestseller. With each new cover, you realize how tritely manipulative the formula is.
Did I say “formula”? Oops. But yes, that’s essentially what it seems to be: the marketing department‘s (as opposed to the author’s) idea of a catchy title and subtitle. As the Generator puts it in one iteration (pictured above):
Subtitles: How Secondary Titles Inflate a Sense of Importance
Now, as it happens, I have been meditating on this subject in recent weeks because I am, right now, in the process of finalizing a title and subtitle for my own forthcoming book.
We seem to have decided on a title (which I will announce as soon as it is official), but we’re still bouncing subtitles back and forth.
Who is “we”? Well, we includes me, of course, and my agent, and my editor at Riverhead, and the marketing and publicity departments at Penguin (which owns Riverhead), and possibly lots of other people. Lots of folks in lots of meetings, in other words. Meetings that I don’t get to sit in.
The result is quite interesting. Each “faction”, if I may call it that, seems to have a very different sense of linguistic aesthetics. Or possibly a different sense of strategic objective.
For the record, I am not slagging off the marketing folks — they’re bringing a vital perspective to this, and their suggestions have been good. But authors and marketers do appear to perceive the effects of word combinations in different ways.
So one might speculate, while browsing a book store, which side prevailed in which Title/Subtitle decision on display. There are fantastic titles and subtitles out there. And there are the others.
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