The question of what to title a book is often an interesting one, and it is also critically important. If the title doesn’t work, the book might not sell, especially if that book is an impulse buy, discovered by a reader browsing in a bookstore—either virtual or bricks and mortar.
A book’s title should do many things:
It should be appropriate for books in its category. You should not, for instance, make the title of a novel sound like a cookbook .
The title should be as descriptive of the book as possible. Yes, I know, so many people cite What Color is Your Parachute? or Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance neither of which described their respective books and both of which were massive bestsellers—but these were extremely unusual cases. Titles, as a rule, should not mislead consumers; they should attract and inform them.
A title should also be “catchy.” Examples include The Tipping Point, Outliers, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, People Like Us, and Napoleon’s Buttons. It should invite the consumer to pick up the book.
Titles should be original; try not to choose a title that has been used by others as this can be confusing, especially in cataloging books. By the same token, you also shouldn’t try to copy successful titles in a way that might deceive the book buyer.
The title should be something that you and your publisher mutually agree on; it is very rare that a publisher will demand that the author accept a title they don’t like. On the other hand, I have learned over the years to carefully listen to the publisher’s ideas—after all it is in their best interests (too) to sell as many books as possible. In fact, often publishers will “try out” different titles on the book buyers at the major accounts—these are important and knowledgeable people and if they feel they are part of the decision making process when it comes to selecting a title, they often are more supportive of the book when it comes to ordering and even displays.
I ran across this recent blog entry about selecting a title and hope you will find it informative and useful. It is written by a book salesman—who seems to care a lot and certain knows his subject
Of course, if you have any additional thoughts on the topic of title selection, I would very much like to hear what you have to say.