T is for Title Changes

Some books have one title in US and another title in the UK. Wikipedia has a whole list.

I don’t know why that is or even if it makes much difference. The books are the same, aren’t they? Just with British spelling and grammar. 

But, aside from that, does it really make a difference in sales or first impressions of the book?

  • Outlander by Diana Gabaldon is Cross Stitch in England.
  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling is Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in the US.
  • His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik is Temeraire in England.
  • The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett is The Painted Man in England. (I thought they were different books at first!)

Do the title changes make any difference to the book? It’s hard to imagine.

27 thoughts on “T is for Title Changes

  1. Love the new look. I think it does change things slightly, for the better. I have the Harry Potter (US and UK versions) series. It’s nice to read and learn different local sayings that bring more color to the scene. Like a word in another language loses it’s full meaning when translated into another. Having both makes for a deeper read!

  2. I knew that there are often different covers for books in different countries, but I had no idea that the titles could also be different! I would love to know the reasoning behind it . . .

  3. Marketing is likely a big reason. Some books might change titles later on to avoid confusion with other books. I can understand adjusting titles to avoid poor translation or words with different meanings, but the Harry Potter case seems unnecessary. I guess someone thought American children wouldn’t be interested in a “Philosopher’s Stone” perhaps due to the stereotype that Americans despise science or anything intellectual sounding–I’m just guessing. Sorcerer sounds more exciting, I suppose, but the original title fits better.

    1. Yeah, the American marketing department didn’t think that anybody would know the alchemical origins of the philosopher’s stone, and thought that kids would hear philosophy and think it was boring, that’s the way I heard it. I’m proud to have a Canadian edition of “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.” 🙂

  4. I think titles are geared to each region based on what readers will be more familiar with and what will sell best. My daughter has a book called Sunny the Yellow Fairy, which was originally published in the UK as Saffron the Yellow Fairy. I would identify more with Sunny than with Saffron which isn’t as commonly used in the US. I would also have to say that the title definitely makes a difference in what book I would pick up. Outlander sounds interesting to me, while Cross Stitch does not, so I would be much less likely to pick up the latter title.

    1. Saffron is an expensive spice and sunny is someone who is cheerful, like a big bright sun. They don’t mean the same thing to me at all. Except both are yellow . . .

  5. I think some of them make a lot of sense (Cross Stitch) and others don’t (Harry Potter). But I’d guess that they’re honest mistakes if they don’t make sense. It’s hard to guess what might go viral for the oddest of reasons.
    Marlene at On Writing and Riding

  6. I see the same thing with movie titles when we travel and while I get the motives behind changing a word or two that may have a different, less appropriate meaning in a different country overall the changes don’t really seem needed to me. Perhaps that’s why I don’t work in Hollywood 🙂

  7. I can see why publishers change titles for marketing purposes, but I’m not keen on changes being made to the text. One reason why I enjoy reading books from different countries is the different terms I pick up (like “torch” for “flashlight”). As a Canadian, I get exposed to Americanisms and Britishisms and all sorts of other -isms, and I think that’s awesome. Why change anything?

  8. There are many reasons to publish an E-book and being able to name your book what you want is one of them. I know it is important, and understand the marketing decisions to consider. Still, a line from a George Herbert poem…who would have thought my heart could recover greenness became Greening of a Heart, the title of my novel. Don’t know if I would have been asked to change it going the regular publishing route, but I would have put up a big fuss to keep it. Thanks for all these good writing posts.

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