Untitled book title post
I have nearly finished the first draft of my book about polls and democracy: As of today, the only things left to do are to clean up the final chapter and rewrite a fair bit of my short introduction. However, I have been unable to settle on a final title for the draft manuscript — a puzzle that is occupying a lot of space in my brain and preventing some much-needed productivity.
When I first sold the book to WW Norton, we settled on tentatively calling it “No Margin For Error: Why We Must Save Political Polling.” Closer to actually doing marketing and publicity for the thing, I have reevaluated and come to the conclusion that this is not a good title. First and foremost, it’s not an accurate description of the book! The book is a history of polling and an explainer of how they actually work in practice, not only a case for why they are normatively valuable (eg to the press, the government, and the people). It’s also trying too hard to be clever.
A shorter and more descriptive title would probably be better. And, from a sales perspective, a good book title would evoke a sort of competitiveness or a feeling that you’re missing out if you don’t read the book. You want to play on peoples’ psychological drive to feel smarter than others, or to get a leg up on the competition. I think this potential title does a bit of all of that:
How Polls Work and Why We Need Them (no subtitle)
I like this one a lot. It’s simple, easy to remember, and does what it says on the tin. However, it’s not very creative. But it could potentially work rather well as a subtitle, with something pithier before it, like so
Strength In Numbers: How Polls Work and Why We Need Them
I like this a lot. It’s is clever enough without trying too hard, and has a title that connects well to the subtitle: both are improved by the other part. Plus, when you study polls, one tends to adopt a pretty populist pro-democracy worldview. “Strength In Numbers” is nothing if not pro-democracy. But it suffers a bit from not being novel enough and might turn off people who think it’s about math instead.
I might also call the book:
POLLS: How They Work and Why We Need Them
The Will of The People: Why Polls Matter, Why Some Go Wrong, and Why They’re Useful Even When They Fail
Polling the People
Margin of Error: How Polling Saved Democracy
How The People Rule: Polls and American Democracy in the 21st Century
Polls and Democracy
The Will of the People: How Polls Work and Why We Need Them
The Case for Polling: How Polls Actually Work, and Why They Make Democracy Smarter
What do you think? What makes a good title?
"Sounding Smart: How Polling Makes Democracy Better". Playing on the idea of a poll as a "sounding" of the public pulse. OK, maybe I am trying too hard to be clever.
When I think about a title like "Data-Driven Democracy", I think of statistics. Will that make it less likely for an average reader who may not know about statistics to read the book?
"POLLS: How They Work and Why We Need Them" is to the point and informs the reader about the subject of the book.
"The Will of The People: Why Polls Matter, Why Some Go Wrong, and Why They’re Useful Even When They Fail" also informs the reader about the subject of the book, but adds more detail on the subject, but it may be too long.
Option Two: "POLLS: How They Work and Why We Need Them" may be the best one.
I'm looking forward to reading your book!