Flipping titles

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I had a bit of a bust-up with Palgrave regarding the cover. I thought it was beautiful and that they had done a great job coming up with an illustration, but I also thought the title was far to long. It looked ugly and was difficult for casual book-browsers to catch. I wanted to break up the title and put “Liberal Barbarism” above the picture and the rest below. This, apparently, is against Palgrave in-house style.

The Palgrave people then suggested that we break up with title in a main title “Liberal Barbarism” and a subtitle — and they provided various suggestions for subtitles. That way “Liberal Barbarism” could be in a large font and the sub-title in a smaller font. I then suggested that we’d go back to my original idea with “The European destruction … ” as the subtitle. Which Palgrave, very reluctantly and after serious arm-twisting, accepted.

There is a publisher’s lore that the main title has to be packed with key words and that it therefore can’t be catchy or too abstract. For that reason publishers always flip titles around. They thus originally wanted the book to be called “The European Destruction of the Palace of the Emperor of China: Liberal Barbarism.” To me, a title like this just screams of “academic book, hardback only, 87 dollars.” Or worse, “you are desperate to get your book in print so we can treat you whichever way you like and get away with it.”¬†The original compromise was to run the main and the subtitles together into one and that’s what created the problem of the exceptionally long, and ugly, title.

The idea that titles have to be flipped goes back some 10 years and refers to the way search engines used to pick up key words back in the 1990s. Now it’s not a concern. ¬†Google searches everything, all the time.

I won this one in the end, but I’m amazed at the stubbornness of the publisher and their lack of respect for my work and my efforts.


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