You know how you hear about a good new book or movie you’d like to check out but you can’t quite remember the name? For me, something like this will run through my head: “I’m looking for the new book by the author who wrote that other book that was about a man and woman...”
You get the picture.
I’m terrible with names, whether I’m trying to remember the names of new acquaintances, or books or movies, or naming my own books. (For some reason, I don’t have a similar problem naming characters, just the books themselves.)
I was thinking about my naming-challenged situation a few months back while reading the list of best-sellers in the Sunday paper, wondering how they all came up with the names.
I’ve never published a nonfiction book, but it seems fairly easy. You have a specific expertise or point of view you want to share, then you stick on a colon and a bunch of explanatory words after. Here is the list that printed in my paper this past Sunday. Take a look at No. 1:
“Girl, Wash Your Face: Stop Believing the Lies About Who You Are So You Can Become Who You Were Meant To Be” by Rachel Hollis. Okay, so I presume that first phrase has a special meaning to the author, maybe an expression she heard over and over growing up. The rest, after the colon, is all self-explanatory. Easy, right?
Why can’t naming fiction be like that?
Why can’t we title a book something like “Raven: A story about a woman with black hair and how she meets the man of her dreams”? (Yes, I just came up with that. Catchy, huh? :-) I kind of like the Raven bit though....)
Fiction authors aren’t that lucky. We have to come up with a catchy title that somehow, in some way, conveys what the story is about, without giving too much away. And we have to be somewhat unique. With literally MILLIONS of fiction titles currently published, that’s not always easy.
To me, Margret Mitchell’s classic “Gone With the Wind” is a perfect title, one that – if memory serves me correctly – borrows from a phrase in the book itself. None of my titles have come that easy, but then I am not a world-famous best-selling author!
Seeking guidance, I took a look at the current list of fiction best-sellers and discovered something interesting. It seems the trend is to tack a colon after the title, followed by “A Novel.”
I’ve seen that before, and not just recently, but it seems more and more book titles are following that naming model. Five of this week’s top ten sellers have done it. Another two have “novel” stuck in the series title, like “Feared: A Rosato & DiNunzio Novel.”
The latter I understand perfectly. You want readers to know the book is part of a specific series. But I don’t understand why you would add “A Novel” to a book title that everyone pretty much knows is a novel. Do we really need “A Novel” added to Stephen King’s “The Outsider” to know it’s a novel?
Is it a way to assist with searching? So if I can’t remember the book title (which is probable for me), I pop “A Novel” in the search field and I’ll narrow the field down by 50 percent? (That’s presuming I remember there’s “A Novel” in the title.)
I tested that theory by searching for “A Novel” in Amazon’s book section, but it pulled up every book with the word in the title or description. So that can’t be it.
Next I theorized it’s a device meant to indicate a certain type of novel, a certain intellectual level, maybe literary versus genre fiction. But then I saw the King novel. Stephen King is a brilliant novelist on so many levels, but he doesn’t write literary fiction.
Do those simple words add a mystique? Would “Gone With the Wind: A Novel” have sold more copies? Doubtful.
Whatever the reason, it annoys me. It feels pretentious, like the author is saying, “Hey, look at me. I wrote A NOVEL!” But then I remember the publisher usually rules the title, so the publisher is saying, “Hey, look! He/she wrote A NOVEL!”
None of these thoughts seem to make sense, so I figured I’d toss my question out to this group.
Any idea why so many current book titles seem to include “A Novel”?
Does this annoy anyone else, or is it just me?
When not frittering away her writing time obsessing over things like book titles, Leah writes stories of mystery and romance, good and evil and the power of love. Learn more about her books (not necessarily the titles) at leahstjames.com, or visit her on Facebook or Pinterest where she occasionally posts about life, writing and her favorite things.