How To Write An Unforgettable Book Title That Screams “Buy Me!”
The old adage is to never judge a book by its cover.
If you’re an author, there couldn’t be a more useless piece of advice.
Not only do readers judge a book by its cover, but they pay particular attention to the title. Your book title can make or break the success of your book.
According to research conducted by author, blogger, and speaker Michael Hyatt, consumers check out a book in the following order:
- Back cover
- Table of contents
- First few paragraphs of the book’s content
This means the title is your first impression with potential readers, and it’s your first opportunity to make a mark. A great title will catch a reader’s attention and draw them in. This makes it your most important marketing tool.
Remember that kid from grade school with the weird name? Maybe the teachers could never pronounce it. Maybe it rhymed with something profane. Maybe later on in life job applications were discarded because of it.
Like an unfortunate name, a bad book title can have negative repercussions. Even if your book has amazing content, consumers won’t pick it up if it doesn’t have an effective title.
In the case of non-fiction, we at Authority.Pub recommend using both a title and subtitle. A great title will act as the initial hook to capture the consumer’s attention.
The subtitle simply explains what the book is about. For example, in Steve and Barrie’s book, 10-Minute Declutter: The Stress-Free Habit for Simplifying Your Home, the subtitle clearly states that the book shows you how to simply your home with a habit that won’t stress you out.
The subtitle is also the place where you can explain who the book is for (ie: List-Building Mastery: The Author’s Guide to Attracting Thousands of Raving Fans). Also including one or two strong keywords related to your topic in the subtitle will help people find your book when searching online or on Amazon. But try to avoid jargon, fluff, and clichés so you don’t lose your reader before the get past your title.
Michael Hyatt has created an acronym to help you remember the aspects of good titles: PINC (pronounced “pink”). According to Hyatt, good titles should “do at least one of the following: make a promise, create intrigue, identify a need, or simply state the content.”
Between the title and the subtitle, you should include some combination of:
- what the book is about;
- who it is for;
- why someone would want to read it;
- how it will benefit them.
Beyond that, your title needs a hook — a combination of words that really grab the reader and compels them to learn more. Finding the right hook requires spending some time with various word combinations and expressions that can make the difference between a boring title and one that really pops. Don’t just settle for the first possible title you land on.
Author and blogger Jeff Goins says, “Words lose their meaning when we use them carelessly. Take your time, carefully considering how you will utilize the best words possible.”
Speaking of the best words possible, using power words to grab the reader’s attention is an important method for creating a good book title that sells.
Your title should have a balance of common and power words. It needs to be easily readable and yet also captivating. Emotional words, especially positive ones, are attractive to consumers as long as they also make sense with the topic.
Here is a list of 32 power words you can incorporate in your book title.
Because your book title is so important, we recommend you spend a lot of time crafting it. Don’t rush through the process or settle for something you’re not quite happy with.
Before you title your next book, set aside a few hours to really focus on it.
If you want a checklist for self-publishing your bestseller then click here to check out our 46-point guide.
Here are the 10 steps to creating good book titles:
1. Brainstorm and write down all the words and phrases you can think of that relate to your book’s message.
2. Start grouping these word and phrases together into potential titles.
3. Say them out loud while paying attention to the rhythm and sound. Make sure it’s not hard to pronounce because then it will be hard to remember or tell others about.
4. Use the same three steps to craft your subtitle. Ensure that you are not repeating any information from the title. Have you included a keyword or two? How about power words?
5. Consider who your audience is. Is this book for beginners or people with prior knowledge of the topic? Make this clear in your phrasing. For example, it’s obvious that the For Dummies books are intended for beginners.
6. Remember the PINC acronym from above. Are you making a promise, creating intrigue, identifying a need, simply stating the content, or incorporating some combination of these?
7. Cut away any excess. A concise title is easier for the consumer to remember and also recommend to others. Are there any unnecessary words you can eliminate?
8. Get feedback. Test possible titles with your fans and readers. You can ask for input on your blog, create a survey with a service such as SurveyMonkey, and run a poll on your Facebook or Twitter social media pages. There are even websites like PickFu in which you pay them to provide unbiased feedback from strangers within the demographic you are targeting.
9. Look through titles on the same topic on Amazon or in a bookstore to ensure you have set yourself apart from the competition. Titles that begin with something generic like “Introduction to” can get lost within the huge volume of “Introduction to” books.
10. Ask yourself, “Would this make me want to keep reading?” The most important factor is that the title prompts curiosity and interest so that consumers will want to read the rest of the book.
Bonus: Choose something that you won’t get tired of saying hundreds of times and for years to come.
To get some inspiration for crafting good book titles, let’s take a look at 10 books currently on the non-fiction bestsellers list to determine why each of these titles is effective.
1. New England Soup Factory Cookbook: More Than 100 Recipes from the Nation’s Best Purveyor of Fine Soup by Marjorie Druker
Going back to Michale Hyatt’s PINC strategy, this title simply states the content. It uses the power word “best” to inspire trust and confidence in the author, as well as promote the quality of the content. It is also full of keywords.
2. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg
By promising to answer a “why” question, this title creates intrigue.
It also simply states the content in a straightforward way so the consumer clearly understands what the book is about.
The title alone is short and easy to remember, and “power” is itself a power word.
3. The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown
This title states the content, but leaves some room for intrigue. Who are these boys and why are they in a boat? Is the boat part of their quest for gold?
The title sounds inviting and inspiring to those who may not know this story. “Epic” and “quest” are both unique power words to instill the excitement and anticipation of a thrilling journey.
4. Miracles from Heaven: A Little Girl, Her Journey to Heaven, and Her Amazing Story of Healing by Christy Wilson Beam
Intrigue is created in this title because the story sounds so unbelievable and out-of-this-world. It plays into our love of remarkable stories that are inspirational and touching.
It also simply summarizes the content of the book, and “miracles” and “amazing” are power words.
5. Healthy Cooking: Quick, Easy and Delicious Singapore Recipes by Jeff Chiang
This title makes the promise that the recipes within the book will be healthy, quick, easy, and delicious.
For those who enjoy ethnic cuisine or experimenting with different types of cuisine, the words “Singapore recipes” speaks directly to these readers.
Many of these adjectives are keywords and power words as well. The entire title and subtitle are clear and succinct.
6. 31 Days to Radically Reduce Your Expenses: Less Stress. More Savings. by Kalyn Brooke
This title promises to help the reader reduce their expenses, feel less stress, and save more all on a short and specific timeline. It addresses the need to save money for those who may have financial struggles or want to get ahead.
A title that utilizes numbers can frame the format that the book and give the reader a sense of accomplishment before they even begin reading it.
“Radically” is a power word that suggests the reader will make substantial change in a short amount of time.
7. Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel by Rolf Potts
This title identifies a need by answering the questions that aspiring vagabonds want to know about long-term world travel.
“Vagabonding” isn’t a real word but rather a neologism (turning a noun into a verb) that instantly becomes memorable and interesting.
Intrigue is created by calling itself an uncommon guide and describing long-term world travel as an art.
What does he have to say that is so different from what others have said already?
8. The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life (Before 8AM) by Hal Elrod
Steve’s friend and future co-author, Hal Elrod, has created a bestselling series of books using “The Miracle Morning” title.
The title refers both to what the reader will achieve during a morning routine, as well as a personal life-changing tragedy that Hal experienced that has led to his success.
The subtitle creates intrigue by alluding to a not-so-obvious secret that will be exposed. It promises results with the word “guaranteed.”
The title and subtitle are packed with power words such as “miracle,” “secret,” “transform,” “your,” and “life.”
9. Elle & Coach: Diabetes, the Fight for My Daughter’s Life, and the Dog Who Changed Everything by Stefany Shaheen
This title refers to a girl and her dog (which a reader can infer by looking at the image on the book cover). Like the book Mircacles From Heaven, this books tells a story (we all love stories, remember?) about two heartwarming topics — a child and her dog.
It also creates intrigue with compelling topics to be grouped together: a life-threatening illness, a daughter, and a dog. What could these all have to do with each other? How could a dog change everything?
10. I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai
Intrigue is created in this title with a shocking and dramatic synopsis of a girl standing up for education and being shot by the Taliban. It makes the reader want to know more about this incredible story while simply stating the content.
Again, this is a compelling story told by a young girl who survived a horrendous event. The words “shot by the Taliban” are timely and hard to ignore.
Now that we’ve reviewed many successful titles, it’s time for you to take all these principles and apply them to your own work-in-progress. We have gone through why titles are important, what to include in an effective title, power words to include, and even a step-by-step process to follow.
Keep these tips and strategies in mind and challenge yourself to take the time to craft your own title without rushing or settling.
Your title is the most important marketing tool for your book. A weak title will sentence your book to self-publishing obscurity, regardless of how amazing the content is.
A compelling title will grab your readers by the lapels, pull them into the computer (or book shelf), and force them to click the “buy now” button.
Spending just a little bit longer crafting your title could make the difference in hundreds or thousands of dollars over time.