Good Book Title Ideas and Bad Book Title Ideas
If you’re writing a book, you may have a working title in mind, something you put on the first page of your manuscript to hold the title’s place. Or maybe you have no idea what to title your book. At some point, as you start wrapping up your manuscript, you need to make a decision on what exactly you want to call this thing you’ve been working on for all this time.
Titles are important because they attract attention, they communicate what your book is about, and some experts even believe that a title can make or break a book. Whether or not that’s true, a title is the first thing that a potential reader will see. Therefore, your title needs to be good. And if possible, it should be catchy and easy to remember and repeat.
Now, if you’re writing a memoir or novel or other creative work, then I think the best place to look for title ideas is within the manuscript itself. Here the title can be more artistic than practical, perhaps drawing on a mood or theme from the book. But for a self-help, business, or other instructional book, the title should be practical. It should communicate what readers will get when they keep reading.
Here are six tips for coming up with good book title ideas and avoiding the bad ones.
1. Convey Your Book’s Topic
A good book title should communicate what the book is about. This seems obvious, but oftentimes writers get caught up in being clever or witty with their titles, and they choose something that doesn’t really communicate anything to potential readers. As a general rule, choose function over wit and pick a title that tells your reader what your book is about. If you have a witty title that you really want to use, then follow it up with a functional subtitle that clarifies what you mean.
2. Tell Potential Readers What’s In It for Them
Human beings are first and foremost interested in one thing: "What's in it for me?" Whether we realize it or not, this is the most important thing on our minds, particularly when we're thinking about buying a book. Keep in mind that you are selling a solution that your readers can use. And readers want to benefit from that solution, so focus your book title on the benefit your reader will gain.
Let's look at two examples. First, How to Avoid High-Fat Foods. That's an okay title, but now consider the second example: How to Stay Slim. If you're a person who struggles with her weight, which book are you more likely to read? Number two! Why? Because "avoiding high-fat foods" doesn’t sound like fun, but "staying slim," is something everyone wants to do—it's a benefit. How-to titles are a great way to convey your book’s benefit to readers.
3. Consider How Your Book Fits in Your Business or Brand
A good book title should work well with your publicity and marketing efforts, both what you’re currently doing and what you have planned for the future. If you can create a title that echoes what you do in your business--branding, marketing, a proprietary system, etc.--then your book and everything you do to sell and market it works double-time.
For example, No B.S. Business Success in The New Economy by Dan Kennedy. He has a whole collection of No B.S. books, he uses that for his different programs and newsletters, and if you’re familiar with Dan Kennedy, you know he’s not taking any B.S. If you don’t have a strong brand and you're creating your book as a branding tool, then now is the time to think about how your book fits with everything you want to be known for and how you plan to stand out.
4. Add Intrigue
Intrigue is a great way to make your book stand out from other books in the same category. When a potential reader has hundreds of weight-loss books to choose from, a little twist of intrigue, or something that will get attention, can interest potential readers. Here are a few examples:
The Cheater's Guide to Losing Weight, is more intriguing than, How to Lose Weight.
And How Not to Sound Pompous When Promoting Your Business, is more intriguing than, How to Promote Your Business. It just sounds more fun to read. So get creative, inject some personality, and add something to make your title stand out.
5. Identify Your Ideal Reading Audience
Another strategy you can use to help your title stand out in a crowded shelf of competitors is to identify your ideal reading audience. A potential reader with a problem will choose a solution that seems to be written just for him.
For example, Nutrition Secrets for New Moms. A new mom struggling to eat better will likely grab this title before one that targets a more general audience. The same with Publicity Strategies for Fiction Authors—a small business owner looking for publicity tips may pass this title by, but the ideal audience won’t be able to help picking it up.
6. Use a Number
If it makes sense for your book, use a number in the title. People respond to the idea that a solution is only X number of steps away. For some reason, it makes the solution your book provides seem attainable and easy. For example, 10 Steps to a Safer Home or Seven Secrets to Losing Weight. Both these titles let readers know that a better life is within reach.
Another way numbers work is by suggesting volume. For example, 101 Ways to Sell More or Seventy Success Strategies. These titles are effective because they show readers that your book has more than one answer, and increases the probability that one or (hopefully) several of your strategies will be beneficial to them.
7. Use a Title/Subtitle Combination
Think of a subtitle as extra space to sell what your book does for readers. So, for example, if you have a catchy main title that's branded really well for your business but doesn't really communicate the benefit or what your book is about, make sure your subtitle picks up the slack.
Here are a few examples:
Have a New Kid by Friday—How to Change Your Child’s Attitude, Behavior, and Character in 5 Days by Dr. Kevin Leman
The Referral Engine; Teaching Your Business to Market Itself by John Jantsch
Make 'Em Laugh & Take Their Money: A Few Thoughts On Using Humor As A Speaker or Writer or Sales Professional For Purposes of Persuasion by Dan Kennedy
Skinny Chicks Don't Eat Salads: Stop Starving, Start Eating...And Losing! by Christine Avanti
The Circle Way; A Leader in Every Chair by Christina Baldwin
8. Test Your Book Title Ideas
Make a list of several different title options, with variations on the subtitle listed as well. Then ask friends, family members, and associates for their opinions and thoughts. You want to test your title on as many people as possible. What speaks to them? What makes them want to read more? And ask if they have any better ideas.
Ideally, the people you ask will at least know something about it and what you’re trying to accomplish. Keep in mind, though, that not all feedback is good feedback. Just because your spouse or your friend says it's good, doesn't mean it's the best. And no offense to your friends and family, but if they don't work in publishing, they may not know what makes a strong title. So take all feedback into consideration and compare it with the strategies in this system for writing a strong title.
Your book’s title is always the first thing potential readers read. If your title effectively conveys the solutions contained within your book, then you can feel confident that it won’t be the only thing potential readers read. When your title works, readers will want to know more.
About the Author:
Melinda has ghostwritten fifteen books and has an MFA in creative writing. Her own work has been published in newspapers, magazines, and literary journals, online and in print. She helps her clients get their books done and into the world. For more information, visit her at www.writerssherpa.com.