At a presentation the other day, I joked that I should’ve called my book Harry Potter and the Curse of Katahdin. Harry, Ron, and Hermione go hiking in Maine but get lost in the fog-shrouded realm of the evil Pamola. It would’ve been a hit.
Actually, I did suggest the title Of Moose and Men to my publisher, but after long discussion and dozens of possibilities, we finally settled on North to Katahdin. No wizards and flying broomsticks, though the book does have Pamola howling on the mountaintop. (Pamola is Mt. Katahdin's resident Indian ghost. He likes to scare away hikers.)
It’s funny how much effort goes into picking a good title and how important those very few words can be. Just for fun, I’ve been trying the think up book titles that would be surefire bestsellers. The Harry Potter Code. The Da Vinci Cod (an exciting tale of lost treasure discovered using clues cleverly hidden in Da Vinci’s sketches of fish).
How about a legal thriller written under the penname Stefan King: The Stand. Or some lucky writer named Jay K. Rowling could publish a novel: Hairy Potter, the story of a hirsute artist. Actually, anything written with the pseudonym Jay K. Rowling would probably do well, at least until the lawyers put a stop to it. Hmm, I think I've found my new penname.
I agonized for weeks over the title for my latest book, which is about living at a remote mountaintop weather observatory for seven years. The title? Among the Clouds: Work, Wit & Wild Weather at the Mount Washington Observatory. The runner-up working title was It's All Downhill from Here. Some people still say I should have used that title instead.
The cleverest actual title I’ve seen is A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, by Dave Eggers—a book I keep meaning to read. You can’t judge a book by its cover, but you can sometimes judge how well a book will do by its title.