When I wrote and published short stories, the titles were my own business, I think largely because there is little to no folding green stuff involved with short stories. So unless a title is really offensive to a literary magazine or plagiarized, I think the tendency is to let the author’s title stay.
It’s a different game with novels attached to a publisher who has the hope of good sales and has invested in the project. In a word, there are marketing considerations and it just doesn’t work for the writer to get too huffy and “I’m the artiste” in the project. If you want it 100% your way you need to be Stephen King (who probably listens to marketers anyway) or self-publish. Right now I’m working with Courtney and Amanda, agent and editor, respectively, on the title of my next historical novel. Everybody is working with good will but it sure is hard. The ideal title will:
- Represent the novel w/o giving away key plot elements
- Speak to the theme
- Address the whole of the novel, not just a few chapters
- Be easy to understand, spell and say aloud accurately
- Be memorable
- Be intriguing
- Not too long
- Ideally, suggest the genre (or at least a fiction title shouldn’t sound like a self-help title)
- Original, but not too weird (i.e. shouldn’t produce a “huh?” response)
- Appeal to the whole of the intended audience
- Not offend or put off potential readers
- The editor and marketing director love it
- Someone hearing it says, “Wow, that sounds interesting.”
- Probably there are other considerations.
So, the search goes on. This title business is yet another of the “who knew?” aspects of publishing I’m discovering. Meanwhile, I press on to chapter 15 of 18.