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Thursday, August 07, 2014
What makes people buy a self-published book.
I’m surprised the title doesn’t play a bigger part in selecting a book, especially after reading this.
n 1928 the publisher E Haldeman-Julius was considered to be a literary Henry Ford who had perfected the art of merchandising the world’s classics. In the previous 10 years he had sold 100 million copies of his cheap reprints.
He believed that in order to sell a classic piece of literature, it had to have the right title. He believed that the title must have some connection with the three subjects which most appealed to the ‘reading masses’.
3. Attacks upon Respectability and Religion.
His motto — By their titles ye shall sell them.
In 1926 8 000 copies of Victor Hugo’s play “Le Roi s’Amuse’ were sold. He re-named it ‘The Lustful King Enjoys Himself” and 38 000 copies were sold.
Theophile Gautier’s “The Golden Fleece” enjoyed huge sales when it was re-titled “The Search for a Blonde Mistress.”
Scopeenhauer’s “Art of Controversy” was a dead duck until Mr Haldeman-Julius published it under “How to Argue Logically.” And De Quincy’s “Essay on Conversation’ sold like hot cakes when re-titled “How to Improve Your conversation.”
Always, for obvious reasons, it has been necessary to keep the reader in mind. Any change in title must be validated by the actual contents of the book. The change must serve, not deception, but enlightenment; the change must advance some particular information as to exactly the book’s contents. It would never do to re-title Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, for example, unless the title were also to indicate that the tales were still in archaic verse.
He never altered the text in any way — just the titles.
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