Sometimes an author selects a title that simply doesn't work for his or her genre (e.g. titling a romance Guns and Bros and Explosions). Occasionally an author unwittingly (or worse, wittingly) gives his or her book a title that's uncomfortably similar to the title of a very different, much more widely known work (e.g. naming a memoir about directing a summer camp for disabled youth in Germany Mein Kamp). Once in awhile the name of the book is just straight-up terrible (My Summer Running with the Werewolves and My Bitchin' Winter with the Vampires Also There are Zombies) and needs to be changed in order for the book to sell.
Editorial changes are often a thorny subject with writers, and changes to a title can be especially hard to take. Remember, though: this is your novel, not your child. And if you can't remember that, remember this: if you name your son Boonswoggle, he's going to get beat up in school. (Editors will make fun of your terrible title in meetings. Trust me.) So: don't give your children or your books awful names.
What makes a good title? Well, I'm glad you asked. The following (in tried-and-true Bullet-O-Vision™) may be of help:
· Give your book a title appropriate to its genre. Read widely and do a lot of research in that genre to ensure this.
· Unless you're trying to capitalize on a trend (which I discourage you from doing), try to pick a title that stands out a bit from the crowd. If your book is about the albino philanthropist daughter of a fighter pilot, I'd rather see The Albino Philanthropist than The Fighter Pilot's Daughter.
· Don't try to riff on the title of another book unless you're writing a parody/satire (or some other comic work).
· Google your title (or run it through Amazon) to be sure no one else has used it (or something uncomfortably similar). If someone used your title for an obscure book written forty years ago, it's probably safe to use.
· Pick something that will stick in readers' heads. To borrow from the above example, The Philanthropist might not stick very well. The Albino Philanthropist will.
Whatever you end up choosing for a title, mes auteurs, try not to be offended if the publisher suggests you change it; if they make such a recommendation, they're doing it for a good reason, and you'd do well to seriously consider anything they (or your agent) recommends.