Thursday, June 18, 2009

Knock-Off Titles

In yet another creative attempt to sell books, there’s a new trend in the publishing world: knock-off titles. If Freakonomics was such a huge success, why not Womenomics, Obamanomics, Slackonomics, Invent-onomics 101, and (in the fall) Scroogenomics? As noted in Patricia Cohen’s recent essay in the New York Times, all of these are real examples.

It’s more accurate to label this mimicry as a reawakening of an established practice rather than an altogether new trend. As Cohen points out, Edward Gibbon’s History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, first published in 1776, “has inspired variants for more than two centuries.” And there are plenty of other examples. A knock-off title can be an effective way to sell new books by trading on past successes, but it’s critical to recognize when to stop. Eamon Dolan, vice president and editor in chief of the Penguin Press, explains: “Essentially it works until it doesn’t work, and you hope you’re on the right side of that line.”

1 comment:

An Anonymous Child said...

Yes, but the same can be said about knock-off books. Whenever a book makes it big, immediately afterward there's a jump in publications of similar books. And then the fad starts to lose momentum as readers get bored of it. Perhaps someone should write a book about it: "The Decline and Fall of Knock-Offomics".