Some book titles just write themselves; they are so obvious that there could be no other title which would mean as much.
My novella was about a spy named Blue. Super easy title: Spy Blue
My first novel was titled after the translated meaning of one of the main characters, plus served as a symbolic backdrop for the unfolding life of Martin. Title: Beauty Rising
My second novel is about a recluse storyteller. Title: The Recluse Storyteller
My third novel ….. I don’t know what to title it. I have one possible title I’m toying with, but it has certain connotations which I’m not sure would be attractive to all readers. Another title was suggested, but I’ve discovered at least three other novels with the same title. I don’t want to do that. My third and fourth ideas aren’t very appealing either.
Honestly, the cover and title must sell it to the reader immediately no matter how unfair that might seem. I always thought Hemingway chose the best titles for his books – To Have and Have Not; For Whom the Bell Tolls (quote from John Donne); The Sun Also Rises (from Ecclesiastes); etc … always memorable, quotable with a literary quality about them.
Traditional publishers typically have the final say of what a title will be based on what they think will connect with the audience. Here’s an interesting anecdote concerning the novel Shoeless Joe which was turned into the film Field of Dreams. (BTW, you can learn more about the naming of the movie by getting the 10th Anniversary DVD which has a wonderful from script to film special about the movie.) When the movie was getting close to being released, the focus groups told the producers that they didn’t like the name. They thought it was confusing and was about a homeless guy or something like that. They had no idea it was about Shoeless Joe Jackson, the famous baseball player who helped throw the 1919 World Series. So the producer approached novelist W.P. Kinsella and told him that he was sorry but they needed to change the name of the movie. The novelist said in surprise that it was OK, because the publisher was actually the one that gave it the name Shoeless Joe. Then the producer asked him what the original name was. He said “Dream Field.” A match made in heaven – Field of Dreams was born. (This also shows that you shouldn’t mess with writers)
So here’s hoping as I put the finishing touches on the novel and try to distill the themes and plot into a quotable phrase that something perfect will jump out at me.