Authors renounce subtitles of their own books


Publishing houses have a well-worn relish for sweeping change, or at least for plugging it on the covers of the works they put on the bookshelves. Just run a search for “books changed America” or “books changed world.” In 2005, Ben Yagoda wrote a New York Times essay on this lack of originality in book labeling, titled “The Subtitle that Changed America.”


The purpose of the publisher is to sell books. A subtitle often adds more information to the subject. After all, the single title word of "Ramblers" gives no infomration about what the book is about. By adding the subtitle, the publisher is sparking interest, controversy and a hook for a reader. This is what the publisher does. The author wants to write a book, and gets annoyed when commercial interests ruin his vision. But this is hype and manipulation is what sells a book. If he doesn't like it, he can publish the book online or with a vanity press, and see how far that goes. The publisher needs to sell books to live. The author needs to write books to be able to stand on the tree branch and pound his chest. Somewhere, the two interests have to come together, and usually the commercial interests win. I, too, lost the argument over the title with the publisher. But my book went through two editions, and a third edition from another publisher. So I can't really complain. Well, actually I can, btu the publisher was, in the end right. And that hurts.

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