What’s in a name? or… Do you judge a book by its cover?

Blind date with a bookWith Valentine’s Day around the corner, I was recently attracted to an entrepreneurial bookshop in the USA inviting customers to have a blind date with a book. Call it a crafty way to shift slow-sellers, a genuine attempt to introduce readers to new authors, or just good book promotion, but I love this idea.

Like all great ideas it’s simple to do. Wrap books in plain paper (could be newspaper?) so that  author, title and cover design are hidden. Write brief details on the wrapping – type (thriller, biography etc), time period in which it’s set, brief plot outline etc. Presumably you also include the price –  maybe it could be discounted.

The buyer/reader then selects a book – a bit of a tombola – and, in fact, I’ve since heard of this being done as a novel way (pun intended) to increase book sales in charity shops and at fundraising events.

This is a long way from my 15 years marketing books about Latin America and the Caribbean – selling them worldwide, many by mail-order (even in the UK) so often people didn’t handle the actual book before buying it.

Working with a small not-for-private-profit research and publishing outfit in London, we agonised over book titles (although some did come straight away). Should we make it sound more exciting than it was? Should we try for a clever play on words, add a touch of humour to a serious subject, or simply say on the tin what it does? How long is too long for a title? Should we have a punchy main title and longer sub-title?

You’ll not be surprised to hear that we concluded that naming books is an art not a science. Some of the most boring, but accurate, titles sold best because with a specialist subject and a short list of books on a similar topic, it became the ‘obvious choice’ (our books were also well-priced). Some titles – ‘Promised Land’ was one I remember – were so common [there’s no copyright on book titles unless you set out to confuse people] we sometimes got sales by mistake – people thought they were buying another book with the same title.

And before I move on from books, if you don’t have a local independent bookshop, order your books online through tax-paying supplier www.hive.co.uk and you support a nominated local bookshop.

Do the same considerations apply to naming a new enterprise?

Personally, I’m a sucker for a clever name and I often like the business before I know anything more about them. And I remember them and talk about them long after – like now. (I wonder how they came up with the name Hive…)

An earlier blog post [https://enterpriseessentials.wordpress.com/2013/10/27/lesson-1-roots-wings-and-balance/] has already shared my admiration for Lofty Heights in Lowestoft www.lofty-heights.org. I fell in love with their name when I first heard it and nothing I’ve learnt since about this roofspace-clearing social enterprise can shake my affection.

I’m also seduced by jokey names – although I realise that humour is a very subjective thing. My favourites funnies are Complete Wasters – a community recycling organisation in Leicester www.completewasters.co.uk, No Fit State Circus – which is … er… a circus and social enterprise in Cardiff www.nofitstate.org and Shabitat – a furniture re-use co-operative in Brighton www.magpie.coop/shabitat.

What are your favourite company names and why?

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