Friday Debate: US Second Titles

Friday Deabte

Welcome to Friday Debate, a feature on cup of tea with that book, please, where every Friday a question will be posted that tantalize the brain and expands our horizons. For this week’s question: 

It probably has passed your notice. I know it has passed mine. However, when I took an interest in international books, I started to make a few comparisons:

Have you ever noticed that some book has a second title?

It appears to be more of a common practice in the US. For instance, 25 of Agatha Christie novels have been “localised”. Murder in Three Acts was published as Three Act Tragedy in the UK and other countries. By looking at the title, you have a hard time figuring out the logic there. Why did the publisher change it? Did they think the title would not be as appealing to a US audience? But the name changes do not stop there.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was published in the US as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone since it was felt that the book would not appeal to children if it was associated with Plato. Across the pond, the second volume of Little Women was titled Good Wives. And most recently, the book, The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton was released in the UK but it will be released with the title The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. When asked why the title change, the US publisher Sourcebooks said that they didn’t want to confuse it with another book that has a similar title. That idea is ridiculous since there are a lot of books out there with the same title. It appears that publishers are having fun messing with their readers.

Although, there are some cases where the change in the title is necessary. The original title of the bestselling mystery of all time, And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie, included the N-word in its title. So this is the rare case where a title change is necessary in order for the book to be a success. However, when we compare the title switching that occurs between, you have to ask yourself why can’t the US publishers leave well enough alone? Does switching the titles really help sales? Or are they just a new way to baffle readers? In my opinion, this appears to be elitism. The US publishers want to have the unique book title unless they are the ones that came up with it. Some might see it as not conforming but I see it as being snobbish and ridiculous, especially the best they can come up with is 7 1/2 Deaths…

This conundrum leads to me ask this question:

Please post any comments you have below.

I got the idea for this week’s Friday Debate from this article:

A book by any other name: why does the US change so many titles?

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