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The Design Constraint That Gave Dale Carnegie’s Classic Self-Help Book Its Catchy Title

The Design Constraint That Gave Dale Carnegie’s Classic Self-Help Book Its Catchy Title

It’s one of the best-selling self-help books of all time. And because of a design constraint, it was nearly called something else.

Dale Carnegie had originally planned to title his 1936 advice book How to Make Friends and Influence People, according to a recent biography of the famed self-help guru. But the book’s designers “were having difficulty placing it artistically on the dust jacket,” Steven Watts writes in Self-Help Messiah: Dale Carnegie and Success in Modern America. “They concluded it was one letter too long.”

So Carnegie suggested the pithier How to Win Friends and Influence People, and the book went on to sell 30 million copies (and counting).

Flickr user Ryan McFarland

Carnegie didn’t exactly pull the title out of the ether. Before writing How to Win Friends, Carnegie had been giving lectures to students, business groups, and other organizations, using the name “How to Get the Welcoming-In Response,” which he then changed to “How to Win Friends and Influence People.”

Carnegie’s publisher wasn’t happy with the new book title, but “said it would have to do,” Watts quotes Carnegie as saying. “There was no time to fuss around with it.”

[h/t: New York Review of Books, Self-Help Messiah: Dale Carnegie and Success in Modern America]SF