Changing Book Titles

US cover

UK cover

In my recent review of The Officer’s Lover I mentioned that in America The Officer’s Lover has the title Almost Home. I also briefly said that I believed the American name was better. I certainly think it reflects the story better. Whilst The Officer’s Lover does have a slight baring on the story I feel it doesn’t reflect the main content of the story at all. However I an see Almost Home working. The main character, Jordan, had been floating since the death of her boyfriend. Making few connections, moving frequently, but never returning to England where she dated, and lost, him. I can see that her search for closure could make her ready to settle and get ‘home’.

So why was the novel name changed? Well I can see a little that it may have been changed to fit with other books by Pam Jenoff. It fits with the pattern of Kommandant’s Girl, The Ambassador’s Daughter, and The Diplomat’s Wife.

That’s what it often comes down to, marketing. It’s similar to changing book covers to film covers. Generally speaking I don’t like film covers- and them often being cheaper suggests to me that many people feel the same. However I can understand why the covers are changed- to make a link for people who have seen, or want to see, the film.

UK cover

US cover

Another notable time that a book title has been changed is the changing of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in America. Apparently because American’s won’t understand the word philosopher. If I was American I think I would be offended at the assertion that I wouldn’t be able to understand a word- or even have the sense to look up a word I didn’t understand in the dictionary. I’ve heard of a few books being ‘dumbed down’ in this way for America.


UK cover

US cover

There are times when it works of course, when a word is something which is not used internationally. I did think that Angus, Thongs and Full Frontal Snogging had been changed to take out snogging in America, but apparently not. Some of the others have been changed however (USA list, UK list) I had heard it was due to the UK titles being too racy, although someone in America will have to tell me if they actually appear to be racy!

Generally speaking I think authors chose to title books by a certain name for a reason. And whilst other titles may work well on a marketing point of view I think really the author’s title should be stuck with. What do you all think?



Filed under general, Musings

9 responses to “Changing Book Titles

  1. Sometimes it seems inexplicable why a title would be changed doesn’t it? One change that I thought was a real dumbing down was a middle readers novel that I love, by Chris Westwood, called The Ministry of Pandemonium in the UK and Australia…great evocative name, hey? They changed it to Graveyard Shift in the US….how boring. I agree with you about Harry though – if I was an American I would be pretty miffed that the publishers thought I was too dumb to figure out what a philosopher’s stone was…especially when it’s clearly explained in the novel!

  2. I think as long as the title change is a good one, it’s not so bad. But sometimes people just get to sensitive about cultural differences and are keen to change every little thing!

  3. That’s true, Sarah. I can’t think of a book off the top of my head, but it makes me think of our city council deciding to call Christmas Winterval so as not to offend none-christians, surely the better thing to do would be to celebrate lots of religious festivals?

  4. Yeah, the graveyard shift sounds like it would be a really slow novel, but The Ministry of Pandemonium sounds quite exciting, I wonder why they changed that one?

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  6. Isi

    I had no idea that the publishing houses change the titles of the books depending on the country. I mean, it’s normal with the translations, because sometimes you can’t translate word by word so that the title has any sense in the other language, but if it’s the same language…
    I can’t believe the reason for changing Harry Potter’s title! I would also feel offended!

  7. Another book that had its title changed to something nonsensical for the US market was Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights, which was re-named “The Golden Compass”. I simply can’t get my head around that one – for a start, what could the cultural clash be with “The Northern Lights”?! Have Americans never seen them? I haven’t either, but I know what they are. And the book refers to them – the mysterious light that could be key to understanding our souls! Also, the new title refers to the Alethiometer…but it’s not a compass!

  8. Hi Mike. How did I not think of The Northern Lights?! It’s one of my favourite books. I can kind of see the sense of trying to link the titles together, but you’re right, the Alethiometer isn’t a compass, and I think the Northern Lights themselves play more of a central role in the first book.

  9. Apparently it’s not unusual for that to happen in America, Isi. When I used to visit a Harry Potter forum there was a whole thread devoted to Americans wanting to call the first Harry Potter book by its original name.

    I can understand with translations that it’s not always possible to translate a word directly, but surely English to English works?!

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