What Should the Subtitle Be?

Here'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…

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?

100 thoughts on “What Should the Subtitle Be?”

  1. 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!

  2. 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.

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

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

  4. 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.

  5. How about …

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

    Enough blood, sex and money there?

  6. 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?

  7. 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?

  8. 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

  9. 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!

  10. “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.

  11. 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.

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


    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]

  13. 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.


  14. 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.


  15. “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”

  16. 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?

  17. 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.


  19. 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.



  20. 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…

  21. “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.

  22. 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?

  23. 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.

  24. 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!

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