Thursday, 2 September 2004

The art of titling
How "how" can target your readers

At the Guardian, David Aaronovitch has been noticing that there are a lot of political books on the shelves. And that most all of them have a subtitle, which, most of the time, starts with "How."
The subtitle told the possible purchaser what side the book was on. So marked was this polarisation that the bookstore had mounted above its display a diagram created by a Chicago social networks analyst, Valdis Krebs. He had analysed book purchases to look for patterns among bookbuyers. He then plotted these purchases, and created two separated clusters, looking something like two testicles - one blue and one red.
What he showed was that there was almost no crossover at all. Liberals read only liberal books and conservatives only conservative ones. Their authors were not just preaching to the converted, they were marketing their works specifically at the converted.
But thinking about it, this is a great business opportunity. If an American publisher is reading this, may I offer them my own forthcoming bestseller: Big Fat Stupid Lying Liars and the Big Fat Stupid Lies They Tell (subtitled: How the Other Side Are Destroying Everything You Hold Dear, Whatever That Is). Open the book one way round and it's a blistering condemnation of Bush and Fox News; open it the other and Hillary and the Washington Post get it in the neck. As ex-CIA chief George Tenet would say, it's a slam dunk and yours for half a million bucks.

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