Throughout the ages books have been renamed, given a new copyright date as a result, and found new life and success.
There are several reasons to rename a book such as adding a subtitle to be friendlier to search engines. Another important reason is to get a new copyright date because many book critics will not review an old book and reviewers often define an “old” book as one with a copyright of more than a year old.
Margaret Mitchell first gave the title “Pansy,” the original name for Scarlett O’Hara, to her epic novel. That title was dropped as soon as MacMillan convinced Mitchell to rename her main character. She then considered the titles of “Tote the Weary Load” and “Tomorrow is Another Day,” the latter being taken from the last line in her novel. When MacMillan objected to these two titles, Mitchell reconsidered and suggested “Gone With The Wind.”
Sometimes just a minor tweak in the title will pay off big, such as “Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone” being renamed “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.” “Philosopher’s Stone” was the first novel in the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling when it was first published in London in 1997. The next year it was republished in America with the “Sorcerer’s Stone” change made in the title and it reached the New York Time’s best-selling fiction list in August 1999.
Other examples of books that were re-titled include:
• “The Last Man in Europe” to “1984”
• “The Dead Un-Dead” to “Dracula”
• “Catch 18” and “Catch 11” to “Catch 22”
• “Atticus” to “To Kill a Mockingbird”
• “First Impressions” to “Pride and Prejudice”
• “Fiesta” to “The Sun Also Rises”
• “Strike” to “Atlas Shrugged”
• “Mistress Mary” to “The Secret Garden”
I think you get the point. Tanya Hall of Greenleaf Book Group (www.greenleafbookgroup.com) tells of the renaming of a book that made a big difference for Greenleaf: “Gregg Crawford approached us seeking distribution services for his book, ‘Execute or Be Executed’, originally published in 2006,” says Tanya. “We saw potential in the book but it definitely needed to be repackaged and re-titled to stand out in the crowded business genre. Gregg agreed to our suggestions, and the end result was ‘The Last Link: Closing the Gap That is Sabotaging Your Business’ which was published in March, 2007 by Greenleaf Book Group Press and became our first New York Times bestseller.”
Many of the authors with whom I work do not subtitle their book which is a big mistake. A subtitle allows for a book title to contain more searchable terms which, in this day of search engine optimization, is a major consideration. Remember that people use Google, Bing and Yahoo! to search for information they need immediately – help that fills their needs, wants and desires. You want to be their Answer.
Authors should always be open to suggestions made by editors and publishers. You may love your title but the publishing company that makes millions of dollars each year selling books knows a lot more about titles that sell than you do.
So be ready to rename your book if that new title will attract more readers and sell more books. If in doubt, ask Margaret Mitchell, or J.K. Rowling, or Ernest Hemingway, or George Orwell or ….. Want to rename your book? Bounce an idea off me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.