Originally Posted by Daffodil
Yeah, I've wondered that, too. "The Golden Compass" matches the other titles better - they're all "The [adjective] [tool]." But it bugs me because the alethiometer isn't
This explanation is incorrect.
I worked for Random House children's books when this manuscript came in and (lucky me!) got to read it early on.
It can take several weeks to work out contracts with agents or foreign publishers (not sure who held the rights to sell the book in the US in this case). I sincerely doubt that Pullman waited months to hear back, as he was a high-profile writer at RH, and the manuscript had everyone completely excited there. (His original editor did leave partway through the process, and he began working with a new one, though.)
However, it takes many months (if not years) more to actually PUBLISH a book, so the idea that cover art could not be changed at that point in the process is, simply, ludicrous. As is the claim that the company was already in the process of publishing the book before Pullman heard from them. So I don't know where this info came from, but it is highly suspect--and indicates that whoever said it knows nothing about publishing whatsoever. Just goes to show, it may be online, but that doesn't mean it's accurate.
I'm not sure where the title discrepancy originated. It does happen sometimes, whether because an author wanted a different title, a publisher did, or there was already a book with the same title in the particular market. It may well be that RH (actually, Knopf) wanted to have The Golden Compass as the title rather than the original, but it would not be possible to publish it that way without the author's acquiescence.