Thursday, 18 August 2016

What's In A Novel's Title? Some Famous Alternatives

It seems that a good book title is almost as important as a good book cover.

When my first publisher and editor at PaperBooks, Keirsten Clark, changed the title of The Snowing and Greening of Tom Passmore to The Snowing and Greening of Thomas Passmore, it didn't take long to weigh up the benefits of having a more rhythmic metre to the title against the less formal use of his name. After all, my aim was to make the prose in this novel as lyrical as possible and, besides, the reader would soon find out, through reading his story, how his friends called him Tom and only officials and his estranged family called him Thomas. And so I happily went with it. 

Sometimes I've wondered whether The Grease Monkey's Tale wasn't catchy enough as a title and whether it might have reached a wider audience if it had been called something else - it certainly hasn't done as well as Snowing and Greening - but then I've never come up with an alternative title I like as much.

With these thoughts in mind, I was interested to read this item at Jonkers Rare Books on Working Titles of Famous Novels. I can't imagine feeling the same way about The Great Gatsby if it had retained its original title: Trimalchio in West Egg. As for 1984...