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Publisher-Chosen Title

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Meg: You wrote an article about me?
Brian: They wanted a story about a typical teenage girl.
Meg: [opens magazine] Is it A Fistful of Bacne: Tale of a Teenage Loser?
Brian: Yeah, they make the title.
Family Guy, "Dial Meg for Murder"

When the title of a work is chosen by the publisher or someone else who is not the author, and the author may not even like the title. See also Market-Based Title.



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     Comic Books 
  • The title of V for Vendetta supposedly came down from the publishers, and gave Moore and Lloyd a new impetus in crafting the graphic novel.
  • Archie Goodwin, a higher-up at DC Comics, came up with the title The Long Halloween for the classic Batman miniseries.

  • The title of Field of Dreams was changed from the original book's title "Shoeless Joe". Ironically, as director Phillip Alden Robinson found out, "Shoeless Joe" in itself was the publisher's title for Bill Kinsella's novel. His title: "Dream Field."
  • The title of October Sky was chosen by a producer who came up with it by making anagrams of the book's original title "Rocket Boys". Homer Hickam doesn't seem to have minded too much, as he let the book be marketed as "October Sky" after the film was released.
  • When filming the 1986 version of Thomas Harris' Red Dragon, Michael Mann changed the title to Manhunter. His reason was that because the original title might lead potential audiences to think this was a Kung Fu Movie.

  • The names of the volumes of The Lord of the Rings were not chosen by Tolkien. Tolkien never even wanted it to be a trilogy. It was originally envisioned as a six book series. Supposedly the book was broken up into three volumes because, in the early 1950s, Britain had not sufficiently recovered from World War II paper rationing to publish the whole thing at once. Thus LOTR being the Trope Maker for the whole modern idea of a "trilogy" is entirely accidental.
  • Isaac Asimov:
    • Many of Asimov's Black Widowers stories got their titles changed on their initial magazine publication. His compilations generally change them back — with the occasional Ascended Fanon.
      • "The Acquisitive Chuckle": Dr. Asimov originally titled this story simply "The Chuckle", but the magazine editors who bought the story renamed it, and Asimov liked the change enough to keep the new name when he inevitably reprinted the story.
      • "Ph as in Phony": The magazine changed the title to "The Phony Ph.D." because Dr. Asimov's title was too similar to a series of stories written by Lawrence Treat. For his own collection, however, he prefers his title and apologizes to Mr. Treat in the Tales of the Black Widowers afterword.
    • "In a Good Cause—": This story was republished with the title "Ideals Die Hard" for Authentic Science Fiction (issue #78, March 1957).
    • I, Robot: This collection's title was not a name he picked or wanted, since it belonged to a short story by a different author.
    • "Strikebreaker": His own opinion for 'worst publisher title change'. Originally published with the publisher-chosen title of "Male Strikebreaker". (Swapping random character's genders would in no way affect the story.)
    • "Buy Jupiter": The Working Title was "It Pays", but when the magazine published the story, Dr Asimov found that it had been renamed to "Buy Jupiter". The story features aliens that attempt to purchase the use of Jupiter to make a stellar billboard. Because he loved puns, this is one of the few title changes that Dr Asimov kept when adding it to his own collections.
  • Donald Wollheim of Ace Books was notorious for changing titles he didn't think were "science fictional" enough, usually into something really pulpy and juvenile. A joke usually attributed to Terry Carr was that if Ace under Wollheim were ever to put out a copy of the Bible, it would be a double-sided cover called "War God of Israel" note  and "The Thing with Three Souls."
  • Frederik Pohl, then the editor of Galaxy Science Fiction magazine, thought that most of Cordwainer Smith's original titles were bland. His solution was to take new titles from the text, e.g. "Think Blue, Count Two". The technique worked very well, and Smith didn't change any of the titles back.
  • And then, of course, there's Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, a Cultural Translation for the American market - it has the original name, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, in most of the rest of the world. Supposedly the idea was more "American children would be scared off by the term 'philosophy'" than "Americans wouldn't understand what the title meant." However, it's not like Rowling expected children to get the alchemical reference, as it's clearly spelled out in the text.
  • David Eddings wasn't thrilled with his publisher putting a Chess Motif in the titles of the Belgariad. If he'd had his way, the last book would have gotten the title In the Tomb of the One-Eyed King instead of Enchanter's Endgame.
  • When C. J. Cherryh's publisher asked her for the title of the third book in her Chanur Novels series, she jokingly replied: "The Kif Strike Back". The publisher took her seriously, and the title stuck.
  • Philip K. Dick is an odd case; for the most part, the titles of his stories remained untouched, but the names were often changed when they were adapted; for example, the short story "We Can Remember It For You Wholesale" became the film Total Recall, while "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" became Blade Runner. He admitted, though, that even he didn't think the original titles were very good.
  • The first Repairman Jack novel by F. Paul Wilson was called The Tomb by the publisher who wanted people to think it was a sequel to his earlier horror book, The Keep. No actual tomb appears in the story. (Ironically, Wilson later decided to retrospectively link the two books as sharing a continuity.)
  • Stephen King's The Shining should have been The Shine, but the publisher told him that "shine" was also a slang term for a Negro ("shoeshine boy"), and that, since a moderately important secondary character in the book was an African American, it could have had some Unfortunate Implications.
  • Stephenie Meyer's original name for Twilight was Forks. Her agent made her change it, and most people would probably agree with her that Forks is not a great name for a paranormal romance.
  • The sixth book in the Warrior Cats subseries Power of Three was originally going to be called Cruel Season, but the publishers thought it was too depressing and changed it to Sunrise. They never seem to complain about the actual content of any of the books, though...
  • Animorphs titles were all publisher chosen.
  • Barry Eisler found himself stuck with various rain-pun titles in his series about hitman John Rain. Then the books had titles based around the word 'assassin' whether or not they fit what was in the book. He's now had them re-released with his own titles.
  • Justified with Toni L.P. Kelner's Where Are They Now? mystery series. The original book was released in hardcover by one publishing company under the title Without Mercy, but when Kelner switched publishers to Berkley Prime Crime for the paperback reprint and sequels, they'd recently published a different book under that name and, to avoid confusion, retitled Kelner's book to Curse of the Kissing Cousins. (Which actually makes sense as in-universe, it's also the title of an article the main character wrote, referring to how two of the stars of the long-ended show "Kissing Cousins" have suffered fatal accidents recently.)

     Tabletop Games 
  • The Dark Eye was supposed to be called Aventuria, after the world it is set in. The publisher Schmidt Spiele changed the title to The Dark Eye and Palantir like artifacts were quickly added to account for the title.


  • Russian classical music example: At the beginning of the 19th century, composer Mikhail Glinka wrote his famous opera "Ivan Susanin", about the eponymous Russian hero who sacrificed his life to save Russia from Polish invasion. But censors forced Glinka to change the opera's name to "Life for the Tsar". In the Soviet times, the originally intended name was restored.
  • The albums Paranoid and Vol 4 by Black Sabbath were originally called War Pigs and Snowblind respectively. The record company changed the name of both before releasing them, the first to avoid offending people involved in the Vietnam War and to capitalise on the single's popularity, and the second because of the drug reference.
  • Megadeth's The System Has Failed was intended as a Dave Mustaine solo album but the label put the name Megadeth on there instead of his name because they thought it would sell more copies. They were right.
  • Singer-songwriter Vanessa Carlton faced this with her debut single. She wanted to name the song "Interlude," as it had appeared on her demo tape. However, the president of her record label at the time, who also produced the song, refused to release it under that name due to its Non-Appearing Title. His nephew suggested a new title: "A Thousand Miles." The result? A #1 hit on the pop and adult contemporary charts, a platinum-certified debut album, and the single becoming of the biggest radio hits of the 2000s.
  • "Weird Al" Yankovic was forced by lawyers to name his The Beverly Hillbillies-themed "Money for Nothing" parody "Money for Nothing/Beverly Hillbillies*", exactly as written (slash and asterisk included), a decision Al has expressed his extreme displeasure with. (For that matter, this also applies to the movie the parody was written for, UHF, which had the title The Vidiot from UHF forced on it for certain international markets. Al wasn't happy about that one, either.)
  • Tenement Symphony, the title of Marc Almond's 1991 album, was chosen by his then current record company, who also chose the overall look of the album. At the time, Marc was physically and emotionally exhausted following difficulties during the recording of his previous album, Enchanted, and did not raise any objections, though he did later say he felt like "a guest on his own record".
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers have two examples from their early career. "Blowjob Park" and "Party On Your Pussy" were retitled "Battleship" and "Special Secret Song Inside" respectively.

     Newspaper Comics 
  • Peanuts was named by the syndicate. Charles M. Schulz hated the name. Given that his choice was Li'l Folks, the Syndicate clearly did him a favor, even if he didn't appreciate it. "Peanuts" is a Word Salad Title (despite being only one word). Someone at the syndicate was under the impression that it was another word for "kids", because of the term "peanut gallery".
  • The Far Side was descended from a similarly warped gag comic called Nature's Way. Gary Larson didn't mind the change at all - "They could have called it Revenge of the Zucchini People for all I cared".
  • Newspaper publisher Joseph Patterson was famous for his "hands-on" management of comic strips, including choosing the titles such as Dick Tracy and Terry and the Pirates. One story is that Milton Caniff was a bit baffled when Patterson chose this latter for the title of his new comic strip, because initially, he hadn't planned to include any character named "Terry", and also hadn't planned to include any pirates.


     Video Games 


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