There is no science for choosing a “good” title; even the definition of a “good” title is questionable. Many titles break the guidelines for being “good,” yet go on to be bestsellers (really, what does To Kill a Mockingbird say about the book?). Likewise, there is no magic to creating a title that sells books. But there is a place to start: research and brainstorm.
Research titles of books in your genre or on your topic. Do this by visiting a bookstore or searching on Amazon. Keep a list of titles that inspire you and why. Make sure your final title does not replicate any existing titles too closely, especially bestsellers.
Also, search for “worst book titles” on the Internet. Think about why each one made the “worst” list and avoid at all costs.
Then, brainstorm. Jot down words that reflect your book and its message, genre and audience. Try to brainstorm without self-editing. Next, create titles from these words. Keep a thesaurus handy to help generate further ideas. If you’re stuck, consider hiring a professional copywriter.
You should now have a shortlist of possibilities. Keep titles that:
- Are intriguing and provocative
- Will resonate with your audience
- Are memorable
- Hint as to your market/audience and topic
- Roll off the tongue
- Include a “promise”
- Avoid clichés
- Include Internet keywords applicable to your topic and audience
- Reflect your book’s tone
Shorter is better, but don’t sacrifice clarity for brevity. Subtitles are fine, especially if they help explain what the book is about.
When you have a shortlist, imagine the functions that your book title might play and where, in addition to the book cover, it might appear (e.g., book reviews, Facebook posts, domain name, promotional materials). Should it tie in with your business? Will you create a workshop with the same title? Imagine saying the title out loud in an interview and avoid tongue twisters!
Finally, test your shortlist on as many people as you can, but not just your friends and family who might tell you what you want to hear rather than the truth. Some authors use social media by posting a shortlist of titles on their Facebook page for people to vote on. Which titles intrigue them enough to buy the book?
Ultimately, feel free to ignore their advice (and mine) if your instincts are telling you otherwise. Many great titles originate from gut feelings!
In a future guest post by a title expert, we’ll explore this subject in greater detail. Stay tuned.