Why do US publishers change so many book titles?
When JK Rowling’s debut novel Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was released in the United States a year after it was published in the UK, many fans reacted with horror and dismay. The quickly popularising book, which went on to become one of the most successful franchises of all time, had been renamed The Sorcerer’s Stone!
The reason? American children would struggle to distinguish that the subject matter was wizardry not philosophy and that the title read better literarily. Interestingly, this is not the first time that a book’s name has been altered for a US audience; the below list details other books that have undergone a naming makeover and some of the reasons why.
Dumb Witness becomes Poirot Loses a Client
In this famous Agatha Christie novel, a rich elderly woman suspects a family member to be attempting her murder in order to receive an early inheritance. Step forward one of the world’s most iconic literary characters Hercule Poirot to crack the case. However, a bigger twist than the plot was the change in name upon publishing in America. When probed, publishers said that the term dumb may be misunderstood entirely by a US audience or be perceived as a double entendre.
The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle becomes The Seven and A Half Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle
This Stuart Turton novel got a rebranding upon US publication. When initially asked why, US publishers joked that they wanted to supersize the book in true American style. However, the real reason emerged later, Americans die more frequently than Brits, so the name was altered to make it more appropriate for the audience.
The Floating Theatre becomes The Underground River
The story follows two American abolitionists who smuggle slaves to freedom through a secret network. Exciting right? Apparently, more thrills and spills were needed for US readers who had the name changed before reading by publishers, who simply thought the name wasn’t exhilarating enough to bely the interesting plot line.
The Iron Man becomes The Iron Giant
No not the Marvel comic, but the Ted Hughes novel. For obvious reasons, the book title was altered to avoid a very expensive lawsuit filed by Marvel in American courts. Instead, the equally exciting Iron Giant was chosen to replace the title and has since gone on to enjoy huge success.
Cider with Rose becomes Edge of Day: A Boyhood in the West of England
One of the most iconic works of modern times, Cider with Rose is a renowned literary name in most British households. However, even this did not stop publishers from swapping the name entirely to Edge of Day: Boyhood in the West England. There has never been official word as to why this occurred, but many readers speculate that it is because the title is quite specific to England and may provide little context or interest to an American audience who can’t pick up on the nuances of Somerset life.
Maybe include some kind of conclusion here as to the main reason why American publishers change book names so to answer the question of the title.