Guest post by Roger C. Parker
One of the best ways you can sell more copies of your nonfiction book is to “voice” your book titles by adding action-oriented verbs.
Action is especially important when writing books intended to help readers make a change in their life, i.e., solve a problem or achieve a goal.
For example, take a look at the two examples below:
- The Civil War
- Understanding the Civil War
One is for a history book about the Civil War that will compete with the thousands of other Civil War titles.
Understanding the Civil War, however, will appeal to those who want to know more about the context of the Civil War. It will also appeal to those who are looking for an approach, or a start, to better understanding the history of the Civil War.
Using verbs to create action titles
Adding the right type of verb is the key to creating action-oriented nonfiction book titles. You can choose from two types of verbs:
- Gerunds. Gerunds are verbs ending in ing. Gerunds are verbs acting as nouns, implying that action, or a process, is taking place. An example is Michael Stelzner’s Writing White Papers.
- Imperative verbs. Imperative verbs communicate action by command attention and obedience. The verb typically begins the title. The tone implies a “you” before the verb. Examples of imperative titles include Michael Port’s, Book Yourself Solid Illustrated, C.J. Hayden’s Get Clients Now!, and Brian Tracy’s Earn What You’re Really Worth.
Add a subtitle to enhance the action in your titles
Action verbs, alone, of course, aren’t enough to create a high-impact title. Subtitles are frequently added to enhance the impact of the title.
Short snappy titles—which permit the use of a large type size on the book cover–are frequently paired with longer subtitle that builds upon the promise and provides important details: For example:
- Writing White Papers: How to Capture Readers and Keep Them Informed
- Book Yourself Solid: The Fastest, Easiest, and Most Reliable System for Getting More Clients Than You Can Handle Even if You Hate Marketing and Selling
- Get Clients Now! A 28-Day Marketing Program for Professionals, Consultants, and Coaches
- Earn What You’re Really Worth: Maximize Your Income At Any Time in Any Market
Alliteration and punctuation can also strengthen an action title. Notice the repeated w’s in Writing White Papers and the exclamation point at the end of Get Clients Now!
Tips for learning from action titles
The best way to teach yourself how to create action titles for your own nonfiction books is to create a simple, 2-column table using Microsoft Word or a 2-column spreadsheet using Microsoft Excel.
- Insert Gerund Titles over the first column.
- Add Action, or Imperative Titles over the second column.
Use the worksheet to track the many Action titles you run across as you research competing book titles at Amazon.com, at your local bookstore, or in your local library. Soon, you, too, will be an expert at building action into your nonfiction titles. What are your favorite action-oriented book titles? What other examples of action titles can you suggest? Comment, below.
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His 40+ books have been sold around the world, including the first book about choosing book titles.
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Before selecting a title, I also do a search at Amazon to see if other authors have used it. for instance, a search for “Understanding the Civil War” (without the quotes) produces 1167 results. Although not the best title, “How to Understand the Civil War” produces 73. “Making Sense of the Civil War” brings up 18.