Is it wrong that many authors enjoy conjuring titles for their Word Doc babies as much as they enjoy conjuring names for their delivered by a doc babies? Should they be more devoted to the names of their novels than to the names of their non-fiction flesh and blood? Which of these do you think was given more consideration: Sing Upon the Dells Tomorrow, or Emily? By the way, I just made up that title; so if you’d like to use it for whatever, feel free. On the other hand, if you intend to profit from it, best of luck.
Here’s the problem with titles: unless they’re totally appalling, they’re invisible. Sing Upon the Dells Tomorrow is obviously an awesome, well-crafted title that could slot nicely anywhere along the commercial to literary spectrum. But no one who stumbles across this gem of a name will feel compelled to explore its chapters – because nobody told them to.
I’ve given this a lot of thought over the last couple of minutes. What motivated me to choose the books I’ve read? I suppose some were lying around the house, just like me, with nothing better to do. Some were gifts, but I read them anyway. Some I picked out at a bookstore, because there were lots of copies available. I deduced that the abundance of inventory was a testament to their readability.
But to be honest, most of the books I’ve read throughout my life I’ve read because they were required to be read. It all started in elementary school. Without fail, my teachers would ruin the last day of the school year by handing out a piece of paper detailing that summer’s required reading. Although the lists were well defined, there were always some options, I think so girls didn’t have to read stuff about trains, and boys didn’t have to read stuff about girls. Otherwise, unless you could figure out a way to attend a different school the following fall, there was no choice but to read a book you were told to read. Some unknown teacher would soon be requesting a book report – a book they had probably read themselves. I was too naïve, or maybe too stupid, to cheat by scrutinizing the blurb on the jacket. And there was a circulating rumor that teachers could tell if you had read the Cliffs Notes instead of the book, on account of Cliff purposely adding something fallacious to his notes then informing all teachers of such. I never really believed that rumor, since Cliff seemed to be on our side and such a move would certainly put a dent in his revenue; but I was just a panicky kid like the rest.
It may have taken me until now to learn the lesson buried within this woeful childhood memory; but it may have been worth the wait. My next book will be titled: Required Reading. My stomach still gets all goofy when I hear the phrase, but people will buy this book. They have to, right? I realize that Required Reading will come with certain expectations, so I promise to make the prose worthy of the title. And if it works – and I don’t see why it wouldn’t – I will use it as the title for everything I write going forward. It’s a great idea. I’ll not only sell lots of books, but I’ll finally have time to do the things I’ve been meaning to do for years – like naming my kids.
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Harry Margulies is the author of The Knowledge Holder and the recently released The Weight of the Moon. When he’s not writing about romance, money, women, and other subjects he thoroughly enjoys but knows nothing about, he’s frittering his precious time as a cartoonist.