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Famous Titles, Before and After

This lesson is a part of an audio course Brainstorming a Better Book Title by Marcia Yudkin

I thought I'd cap this section of the course with a tour of well-known novels and nonfiction books, along with a few interesting non-famous examples, giving you first the original title and then the final title that's known throughout the world. See if you can guess the famous title from the original one.

Tomorrow is Another Day – Gone With the Wind (And can you believe that Scarlett O'Hara was originally called "Pansy"?)

All's Well that Ends Well – War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

Catch 18 – Catch 22 (That's an easy one, but you probably don't know why it was changed. Another author, Leon Uris, had just come out with a World War II novel called Mila 18, and the publisher didn't want the books to be confused.)

They Don't Build Statues to Businessmen – Valley of the Dolls (A sizzling potboiler published in 1966)

Strangers from Within – Lord of the Flies (The original title doesn't have the creepiness of the final title.)

The Mute – The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers (The latter has much more of an emotional impact than The Mute)

At This Point in Time – All the President's Men, by Woodward and Bernstein, the journalists who broke the story of Watergate.

The Science of Being and Art of Living – Transcendental Meditation (According to book marketing expert John Kremer, the change occurred right at the height of public interest in TM meditation, and the new title increased book sales.)

Chapters in the Life of a Young Man – Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, by James Joyce (The final title is much classier, more elegant.)

Something That Happened – Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck (Ditto here, the final title has more of a ring of a classic.)

How Different It Was – A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway (This was his memoir of Paris in the 1920s, published after Hemingway's death, still selling extremely well today.)

Animal Farm: A Fairy Story – simply Animal Farm by George Orwell (The subtitle was dropped for the U.S. edition in 1946 and dropped from most translations as well. That was a good move, since the book was an allegory but without any fairies in it as far as I can recall.)

Here now are two other interesting examples of changes from the original British edition to the American one:

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone in the U.S. edition (The American publisher told JK Rowling that most Americans had never heard of the Philosopher's Stone, which is a substance alchemists tried hard to discover because it was supposed to transform any metal into gold or silver.)

Darwin's Ghosts: In Search of the First Evolutionists – Darwin's Ghosts: The Secret History of Evolution in the U.S. edition (They made the subtitle sexier, more mysterious.)

And finally, an example with an interesting story to it...

Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Fight Terrorism, One School at a Time – Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace, One School at a Time in the paperback edition

What happened here is that Greg Mortenson, the author of this book about building schools in remote areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan, had hated the original subtitle and made a deal with the publisher that if the hardcover didn't do that well, they'd change the subtitle for the paperback to the version he preferred. That's exactly what happened, and with the more positively worded subtitle, the book stayed on the New York Times bestseller list for four years.

We will wrap up the course in the next lesson, the course conclusion.

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Written by

Marcia Yudkin