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Book Title Resources

Linda Reeder

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I asked: "What resources (like books) have helped you; what people would you recommend or what brainstorming techniques have worked to create a killer book title? This is something I have struggled with and still haven't found 'the one.'"

"Sam Horn is the best"

"If you have a chance to hear her or get her SNN teleseminar tape "That's Original!: Create Clever, Proprietary Titles and Content" -- it may be just what the doctor ordered."

Multiple people suggested Sam Horn (www.samhorn.com):

  • Robert Jordan
  • Doug Bench
  • Allen Klein
  • Ron Knaus
  • Dottie Burman
  • Abby Marks-Beale
  • Sandra Schrift
  • John Putzier
  • Patrick Lee

-- Judy Cullins

A clever title is great if it is clear, but a clear title is always preferable. The best? A clear and clever title. A shorter title is better than a longer one. Your reader will spend only four seconds on the cover. While some long titles have succeeded, usually the shorter, the better.

Start with a working title before you write your chapters. Include your topic, your subject and use the book's benefits in your sub title if possible. Here're some tips for titles that sell:

  1. Create impact for your title -- check out print and radio ad headlines. Check out other authors' titles on the bookstore shelves. Your title must compel the reader to buy now. Which title grabs you: Elder Rage or Caregiving for Dad?
  2. Include your solution in your title. Does your title sell your solution? Make sure it answers the question rather than asks one. For instance, Got Minerals? or Minerals: The Essential Link to Health. Use positive language instead of negative. For instance, Without Minerals You'll Die can be Minerals: The Essential Link to Health.
  3. Make it easy for readers to buy. Readers want a magic pill. They want to follow directions and enjoy the benefits the title promises. For example, 1001 Ways to Market Your Books by John Kremer gives at least 1001 ways for authors and publishers to market their books.
  4. Expand your title to other books, products, seminars, and services. Make sure that your title will work well with the title of your presentations, articles and press releases you'll need to promote the book.
  5. Use original expressions -- a way of expressing one idea for your book--yours alone. Sam Horn, author of Tongue Fu!, puts her special twist on defusing verbal conflict.
  6. Include benefits in your subtitle if your title doesn't have any. Specific benefits invite sales. For instance, Marilyn and Tom Ross' Jump Start Your Book Sales: A Money-Making Guide for Authors, Independent Publishers and Small Presses.
  7. Be outrageous with your book title. People do judge a book by its title. Your reader will spend only four seconds on the front cover and eight seconds on the back cover. It must be so outstanding and catchy that it compels the reader to either buy on the spot or look further to the back cover. Take a risk. Be a bit crazy, even outlandish.
  8. Be your strongest salesperson self. Choose the strongest words, benefits, and metaphors to move your audience to buy. Titles do sell books.
  9. Include your audience in your title. This gives your book a slant. When your title isn't targeted, other famous authors' titles win out. Always make your title clear and make it easy for your audience to recognize they need your book.

Your title and front cover is your book's number one sales tool. Short titles are best, say three to six words. John Gray didn't get much attention with his book What Your Mother Couldn't Tell You and What Your Father Didn't Know. He shortened it to the now famous, Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus.

An outstanding title sells books. Make sure to give this part of your book, the number one essential "Hot-Selling Point," some time and effort.

Do a small marketing survey: List 5 or so titles. Ask you associates to vote from 1-5 on which is best. Ask they if they can contribute even better words, phrases or ideas.

-- Rita Risser

The best thing I can recommend is going to the Maui Writer's Conference. Yes it's expensive, but wow, the feedback you will get from agents and editors is awesome. But a second idea, that came out of the MWC -- when I was there last year, after every meeting with an editor or agent, I would go back to the business center to revise my one-sheet, including the title. The same guy would take my one sheet and make a few copies. The last time I went in and handed it to him, he said, "Wow! I need this book!" That's when I knew I had the right title. From that I learned to show/say the title to as many people as possible in my target market (which in this case was employees).

-- Curtis Skene

You may want to tell people what your book is about and ask them for suggestions.

-- Nanette Miner

I don't have the *exact* response you're looking for, but I will advise you that titles that begin with numbers show up first on Amazon! And since that's the only outlet (other than myself) that sells my books -- I title ALL my books with numbers -- 101 Tips, 7 Steps, etc.

-- Shel Horowitz

I got invaluable help for the title of my newest book from the members of independent publisher discussion lists such as Pub-Forum, www.pub-forum.net. The acknowledgments lists about 30 people who helped with the title and/or the cover. I would think discussion lists on the books topic would be another great resource.

-- Greg Godek

  • There's no such thing as "the one."
  • There are no books specifically on developing book titles. The topic is way too narrow.
  • Your best bet will be to utilize classic brainstorming techniques: Playing with words; puns; reviewing other books; playing with titles AND subtitles; getting ideas from friends and colleagues ... on and on and on.
  • You may want to reference these books on creativity: Roger von Oech's A Whack on the Side of the Head and A Kick in the Seat of the Pants.
  • Write BAD titles on purpose.
  • Generate hundreds of titles.
  • It's helpful to know some of the title guidelines:
    - Shorter titles are better (I'm OK, You're OK)
    - Find a powerful metaphor (Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus)
    - Describe the book (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People)
  • But ALSO know that there are exceptions to ALL of those rules.
  • The only thing that is really true when it comes to book titles is this: "Whatever works, works." I'm not joking.
  • When someone proposes a clever idea for developing book titles, try their idea -- but don't be wedded to it. In fact, try their idea, and then play with its OPPOSITE, too.

-- Suzy Allegra

I used two different strategies when coming up with my book title. The first was to have a brainstorming "party" where I invited 7-8 of my most creative friends and acquaintances. I took a few minutes to describe my book, table of contents, intended audience, etc. and away we went. The ideas that came from this were fabulous.

The second strategy I used was to take my five or six best ideas and go up to strangers who fit my target audience (boomer women) and introduce myself and explain that I wanted them to pick their favorite of the titles.

Even though both strategies didn't produce "the" title (which ended up coming from an ex-student of mine and tweaked by a family member), they were very valuable and I will do them again with my next book title!

-- Resli Costabell

I suggest a peek at Joe Vitale's Web site: www.MrFire.com.

-- Victor Gonzalez


Also, try the tabloids, if for nothing else, a good laugh.

-- Joanne Fritz

Check out Bob Bly's Web site at www.bly.com. His book Getting Started in Speaking, Training, or Seminar Consulting is excellent and covers a chapter on writing a book.

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