A Brief Taxonomy Of Book Titles

Here’s a secret: many, many, many titles are changed once a publisher gets hold of them. In fact, every single one of my book titles has changed, if you can believe it.

from Alison Winn Scotch, writer

Well, I will admit to thinking that if Marketing truly had their way, the title for every book would be an artless string of words broadcasting its selling appeal. The Hunger Games would be called ACTION PACKED DYSTOPIAN LOVE TRIANGLE.

– from Boxcars, Books and a Blog

taxonomy book title

Continue reading “A Brief Taxonomy Of Book Titles”

How Well Do You Know Genre?

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For More On Genre

Gothic Horror and Children’s Books 

What is the horror genre for?

Notes On Tall Tales

How To Write Mystery

Tips For Writing Melodrama

Masks In Storytelling (about transgression comedies and transgression thrillers)

I think it’s a lack of exposure to contemporary YA lit that makes adults refer to it as a “genre.” Much of the time when people say “the YA lit genre,” what they really mean iscategory rather than genre, and that’s fine. However,  I recently attended a talk by an author who had been writing adult genre fiction and was working on her first YA novel, and she kept referring to the characteristics of the YA genre, as if all YA books were somehow fundamentally the same.

– In the library with the leadpipe

The same would apply to short stories. Short story is not a genre; it’s a length.

Likewise, women’s fiction is not a genre; it’s a marketing term.

And if YA is a category rather than a genre, then it follows that there’s no such thing as ‘the genre of children’s literature’. That, too, would be a ‘category’.

Right now I can picture my dad watching the Emmys & muttering “reality shouldn’t even be a category” & my mom telling him to shut up.

– @sarahlapolla

Related Link: Genre Theory — continued, from Michael Rosen.

The Labryrinth of Genre is a web app which helps you to find subgenres of a genre.

Children’s books are also sometimes referred to as a ‘genre’: “The genre has come a long way over four centuries. “Early children’s books tended to be solemn and purposeful,” Marcus says. “They were created to teach a moral lesson of some kind and they spoke to the child from on high.”

— The Atlantic.

Why writers should leave book-genre debates to the marketing department

genre
Some combinations of genre are more successful than others. Comic by Poorly Drawn Lines

The Girl Title Trend In Children’s Books

The girl title trend in publishing is interesting because it is popular despite some pushback against using the word ‘girl’ to refer to grown-ass women.

Author Emily St John Mandel wrote this week about why so much of the bestselling fiction this year has ‘girl’ in the title.

  • It’s an evolution on all those titles from a few years ago which emphasise a woman’s relationship to a man. The [X’s] Daughter/Wife and so on.
  • Book titles are like book covers — not decided by authors but by marketing departments.
  • This ‘girl’ trend probably started with the phenomenal success of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, and marketing departments are hoping to replicate that success.
  • There may be something about ‘girl’ that promises a character arc (with the ‘girl’ becoming a ‘woman’, regardless of the fact she’s already a woman in years at the beginning of the story.)
  • I am slightly disturbed by the stat that when men write books with girl in the title the girl is significantly more likely to be dead by the end of the story than when the book is written by a woman. This leads to the question: Are male authors more likely to kill characters of any gender than female authors, or do best-selling male authors take a particular pleasure in killing off girls?

Those are my takeaway points but the entire article is well worth a read.

Basically, books with girl in the title tell the reader that this is a ‘psychological thriller about middle class white women with jobs’.

girl title tweets

The Girl Title In Kids’ Books

This book impresses me about as much as the UN’s decision to appoint Wonder Woman as its gender equality ambassador, even as the UN itself haemorrhages women in leadership roles.

the-big-book-of-girlpower

Contrast with the ‘boy version’ of the book, reinforcing for everyone that when girls have power it’s ‘girl power’, but boy power is the unmarked version.

the-big-book-of-superpowers

It may be 2016, but be very suspicious about books for young readers which emphasise gender on the cover.

YA titles are a slightly different matter.

Girl Titles In YA

The basic criticism of all those adult novels with girl in the title is about the infantalisation of women. This isn’t an argument when it comes to YA characters who are, indeed, minors.

While Mandel’s article looks only at books marketed at an adult audience, I wondered if those bestselling adult thrillers were influencing marketing decisions in the YA department.

On the Barnes and Noble list of bestselling YA 2016 (so far) we have a standout collection of titles about kings and queens, with a not-insignificant number of covers which are quite obviously hoping to attract Stieg Larsson crossover audiences. When a YA book has ‘girl’ in the title in 2016, it’ll probably be a gritty crime thriller.

dragon-tattoo-cover_472x700 the-girl-from-everywhere_462x700

The word ‘gone’ in the Heidi Heilig cover will also appeal to the Gone Girl audience. (About fifty percent of YA readers are adult women.)

moth-girls-cover

This book doesn’t have ‘girl’ in the title but the cover design is very reminiscent of ‘Gone Girl’. Same font, perhaps?

Moth Girls is a YA thriller. The book tells the story of Mandy, and her friends Petra and Tina. Petra and Tina had gone into an old local house years before and never been seen again. Mandy is only around because she refused to go in with them.

american_girls

In case the American Girl series with the expensive dolls springs immediately to mind, this new publication is a YA crime thriller focusing on a 15-year-old who runs away to Los Angeles to live with her D-list actress sister. The sisters are based on the Manson sisters, who the author researched heavily.

This book is marketed across the pond as My Favourite Manson Girl. So, same book, different English speaking cultures, both with girl in the title.

my-favourite-manson-girl

If I Was Your Girl breaks the mould. This isn’t a crime/thriller but a realistic coming-of-age novel about a transgender girl by a transgender woman.

if-i-was-your-girl-cover

This Goodreads question gave me a chuckle:

if-i-were-your-girl

What will 2017 look like for YA?

I predict more books about transgender because there is a need there, and those books are highly likely to indicate gender in the title or title graphic somehow.

Mandel is hoping adult titles will evolve to include woman in place of girl, and offers an example of that starting to happen. But we’ll have to wait and see, I guess.

Why You Can’t Get Your Hands On That Old Book You Remember From Childhood

In the early 1980s, to encourage aggressive sales, the U.S. government raised the taxes charge on goods left in warehouses at the end of each year. As applied to books, this meant that publishers could no longer afford to keep large numbers of titles on their backlists (the still-available books published in previous years). Books that had been in print for decades suddenly became unavailable. Now, only those titles that still sell well remain in print for very long.

The Pleasures of Children’s Literature, Nodelman and Reimer

(Add it to the list of other reasons you already are sure to know about.)