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What Should the Subtitle Be?

By - January 14, 2005

BookHere’s something to do instead of working on a Friday afternoon – help me come up with a good subtitle for my book!

Up till now, the book I’ve been laboring over has had this title/subtitle combo:

The Search: Business and Culture in the Age of Google

A week or so ago the marketing team at my publisher came to life and informed me that this subtitle, while not exactly terrible, didn’t really say much – it didn’t *sell* the book, it didn’t declare how big a deal this search thing really is. Not to mention, it didn’t say anything about money, or inside access, or any of the other things which seem to sell books these days.

Now, I’ve been on this planet too long to throw a tantrum and declare that it’s my way or the highway when it comes to subtitles. Long ago, for example, I stopped expecting that the headlines on a magazine’s cover were really about the stories inside – no, they are about selling the stories inside, and that is an important distinction.

OK, so in the book, there’s a lot of stuff that has not been reported anywhere else (so far anyway). This is, in the main, because no one else was insane enough to care as much as I have, nor to interview the hundreds of people I interviewed over the past 18 months. And it’s also true that there is a fair bit of narrative about how big a deal search is in terms of economic impact – from the Google IPO to the entire Search Economy in general.

In any case, from what I can divine, there are a few words or concepts that any normal publisher might want included in the subhead of The Search.

1. Google. Most publishers would probably want the book to be called “Google: Google Google Google Money Sex Google” – but thankfully my Editor is more enlightened than most.

2. Money. As in, lots of it at risk, being made, exchanging hands.

3. Inside Access. As in – this book tells a story no one else has.

But when I saw the marketing team’s first try at a new subhead – “The Quest for Perfect Knowledge and Infinite Wealth in the Age of Google” – I thought to myself – surely we can do better. I mean – Infinite Wealth? (“Big Bucks” was also tossed around….) So I asked if I could turn it over to you guys (understand that when it comes to titles and covers, publishers tend to get pretty territorial). And proving that even New York publishers can swing with the times, they said “Why not?”

So what do you think a good subtitle would be?

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100 thoughts on “What Should the Subtitle Be?

  1. Cole says:

    The Search: How Google became the world’s biggest lemonade stand

    Cheesy, but it will sell books. You don’t sell the most books by being the best writer ever, you sell them by being the worst writer ever:

    http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/000844.html

    most people not only understand cliches, but also, feel they are descriptive, useful, and correct. It’s their market, we just happen to write books in it :/

  2. The Search: Gooliath Conquers Wall Street

  3. Mike says:

    The Search: Googling Google

  4. A few ideas:

    The Search: How Finding Things Online Became a Business

    Search: A Doorway to the Web

    The Search: How We Find Our Way Online

    Finding It: How Search Became A Business

    The Search: Exploring the Web in the Age of Google

    Boy, you’re gonna have a hard time finding a subtitle!

  5. Mahlon says:

    The Search: How Google’s enlightened thinking created billions in wealth, rewrote the rules of business, and changed the world.

  6. Boris Mann says:

    The Search: What Happens When URLs die?
    The Search: Finding is Money
    The Search: Just Google It

  7. ste3ve says:

    The Search: The Web’s Killer App

    The Search: Looking for Information and Finding Money

  8. Whenever I think about titles as a sales tool, I’m reminded of the old story about Bob Gottlieb doing an informal poll of his colleagues to determine what would be the *least* selling title/subtitle combination. The winner? Canada: Friendly Giant To The North.

  9. geniass says:

    The Search (can we rethink the title, too?):

    Inside Google’s quest for universal knowledge and unlimited wealth.

  10. josh says:

    The Search: Billions of results, billions of dollars, the inside story of Google

    The Search: Keywords, money, and the rise of Google

    Good luck with this.

  11. geniass says:

    How about …

    I’M FEELING LUCKY: Risk and reward in the battle for Google’s crown

    Enough blood, sex and money there?

  12. David says:

    The Search: How Google Found the Answers to Everyone’s Problems

  13. Nick W says:

    The Search: How the worlds largest porn database came to rule the world

    well it is friday…

  14. geniass says:

    Better still …

    I’M FEELING LUCKY: Knowledge and Wealth in the Age of Google

  15. hostyle says:

    The Search: How to find what YOU are looking for?
    The Search: What are YOU looking for?

    The Search: the story behind the results

    or the corny

    The Search: Still have found what you’re looking for?

  16. The Search: Cache Value

  17. bart says:

    My contribution:

    The Search: Deciphering the googleplex

  18. Brian says:

    Does it have to have Google in the title? Understand your point that the name will help sales but is that what the book is mainly about or is it about the search space in general? Why not something more broad?

  19. Rick Mason says:

    The Search – What makes Google tick?

    The Search – The inside story of the Google empire

    The Search – The true story behind the gold rush Google helped launch

    The Search – How Google outwitted Microsoft and made untold billions

  20. MikeM says:

    The Business of Search

    By John Battelle

    I know they need the “Google” reference up front and the subtitle looks good on the bookstore racks but this sounds more dignified to me. Good luck and congratulations on hitting the home stretch!

  21. Stephen says:

    The Search: secrets of Google and Wealth

  22. t says:

    The Search: Google-bling

  23. pc says:

    The Wrath of Khan

  24. Peg says:

    First, any writer having trouble with any aspect of their book should consult Michael O’Donoghue:
    http://www.nationallampoon.com/flashbacks/writegood/writegood.html

    (Scroll to Lesson 3: “Choosing a title”)

    That said, my submission:

    The Search: How Google made Dot-com Dollars

    The “how” gives the inside. And alliteration sells. So does cheese. Mmmm. Cheese.

  25. Tom Norian says:

    “How Profit Driven Google and other search engines will decide what we see and hear.”

    I think more books that create a sense of urgency get picked up more. There needs to be a hook for good-morning america too….a corralary thought that would naturally arise “do we really want those guys shaping us?”

    You could put even more subtitles like the old silent movie “will our hero survive” stuff on the back cover.

    (how your buisness will need to respond or not be seen)

    (who will manipulate this world to their advantage )

    (who are these guys anyway?)

    (do we want this and what can we do about it?)

    (Trouble that starts with T, that rhymes with G which stands for Google?)

    If you really want to sell books you can put a picture of some irracible guy like O’reily and call him a liar, then get him to sue you, and get publicity and sell millions….no…thats already been done. A girls bust in the middle of the oo’s for google seems to be what the car companies do.

  26. Aaron B. says:

    Google and the new new internet Goooooooooooold rush. How vision, fearlessness and search index technology turned everyday people into multi-millionaires and the toast of Playboy magazine. The inside story on today’s hottest business trend.

  27. Marvin says:

    The Search: How Google Made Us Forget How Little We Really Know

  28. brian says:

    The Search: How Google Ventured onto the Holy Grail of Marketing and Paved the Road to the Future of Media.

  29. The Search: Why Google Got Lucky and How it Plans to Get Good

    or

    The Search: Was Google Lucky, or Good?

    [of course there is more to this than Google, right? still... Google in the subtitle for marketing purposes makes sense]

  30. Keith says:

    In Search of Google: How the web’s most unlikely company made billions without being evil.

    Results: How Google made billions by giving everything away.

    BTW, I’ll want an advance copy for this. OK?

    If you don’t deliver, I promise I’ll find you. I have my methods. Well, just one method actually. You’ve probably heard of it.

    :)

  31. Richard Lusk says:

    Google: A peek into the mind of God-or pulling the devils tail?

  32. Rod Lever says:

    why must american nonfiction books have these
    long over-explanatory subtitles that insult
    a reader’s intelligency? why not just pick
    a short and stylish title? a good one should
    be able to intrigue enough of your target audience.

    -rl

  33. Results 1-10 of about 17,300,000

  34. Anson Lau says:

    Search, Money and Power: Inside Google

  35. Nicholas says:

    The Search: Google, Money, and the Rest of the Story

  36. Jim says:

    The Search: How Google Cannot Help But Be Evil

  37. Matt says:

    “The Search: Inside the Quest for The Next Big Thing in The Google Age”

    I think “Next Big Thing” works in place of “wealth”, it implies wealth but say a little more. I also think “Google Age” just sounds better than “Age of Google”

  38. Timboy says:

    Not to make the job of coming up with a subtitle too easy, but … what’s your book about? E.G. is it about Google or about search more broadly?

  39. Slava says:

    Search
    How Google Found What Everyone Was Looking For.

  40. Search: Making the Engines that Find Our Dreams

    Search: Googling our Future

    Search: The Drivers of an Economy of Words

    BTW, mention of Google in the subtitle implies money these days.

  41. TONY SAMBRANO says:

    THE SEARCH: HOW GOOGLE CHANGED THE WORLD, TODAY.
    THE SEARCH: GOOGLE MAKING MEMORIES LAST A LIFE TIME.
    THE SEARCH: JUST GOOGLE IT, A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A GOOGLER.
    THE SEARCH: AND HOW GOOGLE FOUND ITSELF.

  42. SP says:

    John,

    Here is what I have so far:

    The Search: How Google Turned Cache into Cash

    The Search: How Google Googled Profit

    The Search: Google’s Prophets of Profit

    The Search: Googling Profits, Boggling Minds

    The Search: How Google Googled Profits and Gobbled Market Share

    The Search: Googling Profits, Boggling the Mind

    The Search: How Google Googled while Microsoft Goggled

    The Search: Googling the Internet’s Holy Grail and The Prophets of Profit (needs fine tuning but there’s something there)

    The Search: Googling the Holy Grail and the Prophets of Profit

    The Search: The Untold Story Inside the Googleplex

    The Search: How Google Googled Cache into Cash (off to the side ‘The Untold Inside Story’)

    The Search: The Untold Story of How Google Turned Cache into Cash

    The Search: How Google Googled Gold

    The Search: A Golden Ticket Inside The Knowledge Factory

    The Search: A Golden Ticket Inside the Googleplex

    (a play on Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factoy)

    Remember, to keep the subtitle shorter and simpler the publishers can always put “The Untold Inside Story” or “The Untold Story Inside the Googleplex” off to the side in a circle (like those book award stickers)or highlight at an angle/slanted on the side of the cover.

    Good luck.

    Cheers,

    SP

  43. I actually think the current subtitle can work fine if you add one word you used in this posting to the primary title:

    The Search Economy: Business and Culture in the Age of Google

    Some alternatives:

    The Search Economy: Business, Culture and Society in the Age of Google

    The Google Effect: How the Search Economy is Changing Business and Culture

    The Search: Google and the Changing Shape of Business and Culture

    I’ll keep thinking…

  44. Brad says:

    Google Trek III: The Search for Stock

  45. dan says:

    “Searching for billions inside Google’s sex machine”

    Sorry, I got search, sex and money in but no reference to food, our other obssesion there.

  46. Tom Norian says:

    By the way, I guess you and your publishers like ” the age of Google” (and you should like your ideas if you are a writer)

    So, ….(for fun here you know I like word games and I’m sure your’re relieved about the smaller comitee that you’ve got there ; ) )

    ..if to “win” the project (sort of like the New Yorker cartoon contest?) has a big bias towards working with the “Age of Google” (are you getting at the “age of aquarious” or “the iron age” or both)…

    You’re probably doomed in the argument over “perfect knowlege” (you sucked me in with that “perfect search” thing a few months back so its a pretty powerful subject that I imagine you adress.

    As for “search vs knowledge” I know its an entirely different thing, having a libary to answer any question at your disposal and knowing the information is an entirely different thing.

    But you’ll never explain that to them and they won’t care. You understand that being able to answer a question isn’t the same as being able to draw upon previous personal experience to notice a correlation to unlock a puzzle…basically to think of what to ask or outside the box solutions…but I don’t think you’ll sell them…you’re doomed there ;-).

    They’re smart enough to understand but they just want to sell books…unless you go an entirely different way (like the polemic route I suggested earlier) I don’t think we’re going to find the double meaining that they’ve achieved gracefully being vague if the “quest” was one already completed that you’re telling the story of (which some people want to hear) of if it alludes to a quest thats just starting that we can join to get us some of that infinite wealth ourselves along with all that book learning we don’t need to read anymore but is just there at our fingtips waiting for us in the computer room should we have the need for it.

    Access to Knowledge and Knowledge are very very different things but heck you got to be nerd to care.

    You might (maybe) find another analgous phrase for “infinite wealth”.

    Maybe the Fountain of Wealth? Streaming Wealth?

    You could go mystic and attract the fantasy reader audience….

    The Search: The Quest for the Tree of Knowledge and the Fountain of Wealth…?er??? nah

    Maybe if they’re ridiculed enough they’ll think of something else themselves which they will of course like better because they decided so.

    Unlimited Knowledge and Perfect Wealth might be more attainable and truthful (there is always more knowledge and if you’ve got your health and after a certain point additional wealth probably brings more problems than it solves). But its too qualified.

    If a person needs to use the same words but mix up the order, how about:

    “Perfect Search: The Quest for Infinite Knowledge and Emperious Wealth in the age of Google.”

    (something like empire which might suggest the wideness of searches reach as well as material wealth? it also throws in that alarming shadow of power games that *I* think is an important aspect of any look at media)Rosebud. The way its frased also casts some shadows in an Eve and the apple, promethean sort of way.

    It will be fun to see what you and they pick out?

  47. Adam says:

    The Search:
    What happens when one company has got all the answers?

  48. Forest L says:

    Google:

    The Search economy: How hypocritical self centered intellectuals fooled the world, got lucky and made big money. Watch the hilarity as Google claims “Do no Evil” while squating on variations of pre-existing name trademarks and getting high powered legal teams to wrongly sue little childrens websites for copyright violation——and lose! Observe as they take credit for revolutionizing advertising in spite of settling and paying a $350 million patent infringment agreement suit with a competing company that was in fact first to the game. Watch with intrigue, as they look down their nose when discussing the number of PHD’s on the payroll and further claim the high road by demonizing competitors in sniffling whiffs of purity of intention over profit–all the while looking the other way and taking hundreds of millions in porno advertising. Be fascinated with stories of a “uniquely disciplined hiring process that demands excellence”, yet marvel as members of this “excellent team” violates pedestrian rules in the IPO process that bush league middle-of-the road corporate lawyers easily do in daily practice. Learn as Google management brainwashs’ workers and uses lame television evening news journalists to fool the public into thinking they are Gods deserving of the title of teflon kings of new media. Then enjoy watching it unravel as competitor’s eventually catch up and rich employee’s quite—realizing it sounds much cooler to be a Google employee outside of the office than the reality of living in the cube of hypocrisy for 12 hours a day.

    In the end giggle with Howard Stern about how it is really not that cool to be Google.

  49. The Inside Story of How Google Taps the Global Brain (and Our Wallets, Too)

    Or, why don’t you ask at Google Answers? If a Google Researcher can provide you with a fitting subtitle, you could include the anecdote of finding it via Google in the book itself!

  50. Joe says:

    The Search: Googling Wealth From The Inside

  51. Larry Gage says:

    If Google is the answer, what is the question? How online searching is changing our quest for knowledge and wealth.

  52. Perry says:

    My two cents:

    The Google Effect: $earch and Ye $hall Find

    The Search: Geeks, Guts, and Glory

    The Search: Life After Google

    and, of course…

    Search: The New Battelle Ground

  53. Ven says:

    Here is a title for you:

    How Bill Gates lost the search war.

  54. alex says:

    The Search: Intellectual Capitalism in the Age of Google

  55. David says:

    How about…

    The Search: Millions of websites. Millions of dollars. Milliseconds to Google it all.

    Or…

    The Search: You want it. Google can find it. In between is a billion dollar industry.

    Or maybe just…

    The Search: Great Googly Moogly

  56. Kevin Kelly says:

    GETTING EVERYTHING
    Search in the Age of Google

  57. DDF says:

    The Search: Google Empire before the fall

  58. It’s amazing to me some of the almost supernatural, god-like qualities people here ascribe to Google; it’s as if folks want to find something more in Google than is there.

    Whether or not Google had come along, we’d all be searching on search engines, and in my opinion paid search as a business model would be roughly at the same place it is today.

  59. Richard Joyce says:

    THE SEARCH: Google and the “Wealth” of Knowledge…

  60. Abe says:

    Search, Money and Power seems like obvious bad pun to emerge from this all..

  61. kokonutguy says:

    The Search: Era of Google-opoly

  62. kokonutguy says:

    The Search: New Era of Google-opoly.

    The Search: Navigating Google

  63. JC says:

    The Search: The View from Within the Google Zeigeist and its Moneyed Meme

    Ahah.

  64. "-" says:

    Keep it simple, elegant, and please have a great success. I suggest –

    SEARCH: Inside Google by John Battelle

  65. nellie lide says:

    how about:

    The Search: How Google took their hundred zeros to the bank

    The Search: Google’s Gold

  66. Heydre says:

    Google: Inside the Dataminer’s Rush to Wealth

  67. Mike says:

    Search: The Verbing of Google

  68. The Search: How Google became a verb

  69. John Girard says:

    I have to agree with those who suggest that “the search” might be off as well. It is just slightly off the mark.

    I’d move towards something like

    The search for gold: inside Google and the birth of a new industry

    It does three things:
    (1) has a much more appropriate play on “search”
    (2) is loaded with key terms (are we search optimizing this??) and ideas
    (3) introduces a concept I don’t think you have but that I find most interesting: the birth of a new industry. Search has literally gone from zero to billions in just a few short years. How did that happen? I find this to be the really compelling question/story.

  70. Linda Rigel says:

    Search: “Money Sex Magic Goodle”

  71. Linda Rigel says:

    “did you mean google?”

  72. > How Google Found What Everyone Was Looking For

    is really poetic. But my suggestion is an homage to Abbie Hoffman:

    “Google This Book!”

  73. Mark Harwood says:

    The Search industry: Front-line dispatches from the War of the Words

  74. Sarah says:

    The Search Economy: Everything you need to know about doing business in the age of Google.

    That might not be “exclusive bleeding edge secrets!” enough. Perhaps, “The Google Economy: Doing business on the front lines of search.”

    Alternately, I can’t believe no one is voting for “Google: Google Google Google Money Sex Google.”

  75. Seun Osewa says:

    GoogleWorld 1.0: billion dollar business of the new economy.

  76. Dave Fortino says:

    How about:

    The Search – The Untold Story of What’s Behind Google.

    or

    The Search – An insiders account on all things Google

    or

    The Search – The inside scoop turned out.

    or

    The Search – The story of Google from the inside looking out.

    good luck

  77. mneptok says:

    The Search: The Story Of Humanity’s Killer App

  78. mike says:

    Search: Found Money in the Internet Age

  79. SP says:

    John,

    I just read your post on the Database of Intentions. If that is a central thesis of the book then I have added some new titles:

    The Search: Mining Human Intentions and the Rise of Google

    The Search: Googling Humanity

    The Search: Googling The Collective Human Mind

    The Search: Googling The Global Brain

    The Search: Googling the Human Mind

    The Search: Googling Human Consciousness

    The Search: The Rise Google and the Collective Mind

    The Search: The Database of Intentions and Rise of Google

    cheers,

    SP

  80. ID:entity says:

    The Search: How Google massaged the web with a backrub worth $37billion.

  81. Anonymous says:

    Depending on your state of mind:-

    Google@work: The bottomless pit of useless information

    So little time, so much to find

    Fuel for the informationsociety / knowledge economy

    To finally know what you know you don’t know.

  82. “Search Me: how Google made the web about us”

  83. giovanni says:

    The Search: Finding your way on the Web produces Google Gold.
    The Search: Google’s Web Gold Rush!
    The Search: How Google lit your way and won the web.
    The Search: How Google lit the web!
    The Search: How Google Tamed the Wild Vast Web!
    The Search: The Google Engine that could.
    The Search: Googles Weapon of Mass Findings. ;-)
    The Search: It’s not over ’till the Google Engine Sings!

  84. ian says:

    http://www.suck.com/daily/99/06/08/

    I’ve always liked Joey Anuff’s flippant use of the phrase ‘tall dollars.’

    How about:

    “Tall Dollars: How Google Won the Search Wars”

  85. mcavill says:

    The Search: The Battle

  86. mcavill says:

    or maybe,

    The Search: and Battelle :)

  87. Goldplumb says:

    getting old Googling for gold

  88. srh says:

    The Internet Baby: Googling and GawGawing
    Gawgaw = The Hype that has been generated from google

  89. Glenn says:

    The Search: The inside story of how billions were made and lost overnight in the new Google era.

    The Search: Billions of searches, billions of dollars.

  90. Lance Housley says:

    Googling the Web: the Search for Nirvana

  91. Yann says:

    The Search:
    - be linked or die!
    - transcending hypertext
    - the rise of digital grey matter
    - links, Google and the hegemon

  92. Duane Gran says:

    I just wanted to say, as a likely purchaser of the book, that your suggested subtitle speaks to me. It doesn’t over sell, which is a plus in my book. I like modest books from authors who don’t boast. Take this as ammunition for your publisher if you like.

  93. Dore says:

    Ah, the magnetic title must only hint at the contents, so as to make a prospective reader click through / pick up the tome.
    “Search” is a great word to get into the buzzstream as a new part of our lexicon.

    Search: Gems, Geegaws and Googling Immortality

    Search: Business, Culture and Googling Immortality

    Search: Wealth, Culture and Googling Immortality

    Thanks! That was fun!

  94. How about:

    -SEARCH: THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GOOGLE

    -THE SEARCH: HOW GOOGLE’S FOOT IN THE DOOR IS TRANSFORMING OUR LIVES

    Good luck!

    Mario.

  95. sac says:

    Search: How Google Found What It Was Looking For

  96. Harry says:

    Electric Googleoo

    Also, to have a book on search but be unable to find a title seems a little ironic. Or perhaps it’s a self-commentary on the state of search.

  97. The Unwired Nomad says:

    Google, the company that would be king.

    Google: gagging on dot-com dollars

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