Tuesday, June 16, 2009


An article in today's New York Times on "Titlenomics":

The release of “womenomics” (by Claire Shipman and Katty Kay) this month is just the latest example of publishers trying to knock off the title of “Freakonomics,” the best-selling 2005 book by Steven D. Levitt, an economist, and Stephen J. Dubner, a journalist.

Although some critics initially complained about that book’s “annoying title,” “Freakonomics” was an instant success, generating, among other things, a column in The New York Times Magazine, a blog on the Times Web site (freakonomics.blogs.nytimes.com), and a planned documentary.

So it’s no surprise that other authors hope to benefit from the reflected glory. Last summer “Obamanomics” and “Slackonomics” appeared. This year “Invent-onomics 101” made its debut. And in the fall “Scroogenomics: Why You Shouldn’t Buy Presents for the Holidays” will hit bookstores.

They mentioned every 'onomics title in existence but Parentonomics. It is hardly a route to getting a best seller if you can't even score the reflected glory of a rip-off story!

Actually, I think there is actually little commercial value to choosing titles these ways and in retrospect I'm surprised that no publisher questioned it for Parentonomics and suggested something else. It was always a natural title as I wrote the book but perhaps there is something that might have given a more accurate indication of the book's content. From the 42 Amazon.com reviewers, it seems that the title did some harm as many of them were expecting something like Freakonomics which is a very different book. For starters, it is about things away from the norm whereas Parentonomics is all about the norm. Ironically, Freakonomics stands for something serious in those reviewers' eyes which I guess to many academic economists it is a title of whimsy -- not that there is anything wrong with that.

Then again, the NYT piece suggests that there is something wrong with similarity between titles. I'm not sure. If used correctly, it can surely convey how a book stands relative to others. The variants of 'e'conomics often do that and I hope they keep coming.