Titles are a crucial part of a book’s appeal and selling ability. You want to have a title that grabs attention and has emotional pull, while also clearly explaining to the potential reader what the book is about. For prescriptive nonfiction, offering a promise (benefit to the reader) is also important.
You should also consider what keywords readers would use to find your book in a Google or Amazon search, since those are two of the most common ways your book will come up in a search. While there are millions of books to compete with, using the right keywords in your title can help users discover your book. You can also start with a pithy main title and leverage your sub-title for a more detailed, keyword-rich description.
Let’s look at some successful examples:
The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich by Timothy Ferriss
This title has tremendous emotional appeal because of its promise to improve life in a dramatic way. In interviews, Ferriss said he purchased ads through Google AdWords with a variety of different titles in order to best determine which title had the most appeal. He created ads for several titles and noted which got the most clicks in a week.
How much appeal do you think his book would have if he used a title like this one: How I Make a Living Selling Pills (Ferriss sells vitamins online)?
Here are some more real-life examples:
Bailout Riches! How Everyday Investors Can Make a Fortune Buying Bad Loans for Pennies on the Dollar by Bill Bartmann and Jonathan Rozek
- This title also has emotional appeal—a promise for a life improvement—and it has a good use of keywords (investor, buying bad loans, make a fortune).
Thank God It’s Monday! How to Create a Workplace that You and Your Customers Love by Roxanne Emerich
- What if she had titled this book Observations on Workplace Improvement? That would be boring, boring, boring! If the title is lackluster, readers will assume the content is too.
Cook Yourself Thin: Skinny Meals You Can Make in Minutes by Lifetime Television
This title promises weight loss and convenience—two big hot-button issues for consumers. A boring, unappealing version could have been Recipes for Healthy Eating.
If you’re feeling stuck for ideas on creating a successful book title, here are some tips:
How to Create Your Book Title
- Plan to have a main title and sub-title. The main title is typically short—just two to five words.
- The subtitle can be long, but for search purposes, the words you choose matter. Incorporate phrases and keywords that your potential readers would use to find your book.
- Expect the process to take some time. In the publishing industry, the term “working title” is used because titles are often changed—even at the last minute before publication.
- When it comes to finding the right title, you need to brainstorm, brainstorm, brainstorm. Jot down ideas as they come to you, along with words that you like or want to highlight. Scroll through books on Amazon for ideas, including books outside your genre.
- Scan through your manuscript. Sometimes a catchy phrase will jump out and become part of the perfect title.
- Use http://www.thesaurus.com to search for alternate words.
- Find inspiration everywhere. Sometimes the perfect title will come to you when you least expect it, like when you’re driving to pick up your kids, standing in line for coffee, or out taking a walk. Be patient—it will come.
- Once you’ve narrowed it down to a few titles you like, send them out to trusted family members, friends, and colleagues and take a vote. This can also be a great exercise on Facebook, where your friends will enjoy being part of the process. Or do what Tim Ferriss did and invest in Google AdWords for a week.
- Be sure to search Amazon.com and Google for the title and sub-title separately, within quotation marks, so you produce exact results. Avoid choosing a title that is already part of another book. While you won’t likely break any laws (book titles cannot be granted exclusive copyright unless part of a series, in which case they can be trademarked), you don’t want your book confused with another.
- You may also want to check to see if the title is available as a domain name via http://godaddy.com.
Remember, titles take time and yours will likely change several times before you land on your final choice. Be patient with the process. It’s not something that should be rushed.