Thank you Rhobin for another excellent topic!
I believe the title of your book is–by far–the most important book marketing decision you’ll make.
There’s little good guidance out there on the right way to think about titling your book. The few blogs that address this decision offer advice that is:
Trite – “Go with your gut!”
Superficial – “Browse bookstores for ideas!”
Actively harmful information – “Don’t spend too much time on it.”
They’re all wrong.
Just like companies spend millions on naming new products, and blogs spend hours testing different titles for their posts, you should spend serious time and energy finding the right book title.
This is a very important decision, one you need to think about and get right to ensure your book has the best possible chance of success.
Debbie Macomber, New York Times Bestselling Author, has spoken a number of times at The Orange County Chapter of Romance Writers meetings (I am a long time member). When Debbie was writing serial romances for Harlequin/Silhouette she came up with her book titles by reading the names of race horses in the Sunday Newspaper.
Janet Daily, 1944 - 2013, began her writing career also writing for Harlequin Romance. She set each one of her novels in an U.S.A. state. Each title was often the state's motto.
Why Do Book Titles Matter?
The title is the first piece of information someone gets about your book, and it often forms the reader’s judgment about your book.
Let’s be clear about this: A good title won’t make your book do well. But a bad title will almost certainly prevent it from doing well.
Based on loads of empirical research and our decades of experience in the book business, we have a pretty clear picture of what happens in the mind of a potential reader when evaluating a book. They consider these pieces of information about a book, in this order (assuming they come across it randomly in a bookstore or browsing on the internet):
The title of the book
The cover of the book
The back cover copy (the book description copy, if it’s online)
The flap copy (or the reviews, if it’s online)
The author bio (depending on where it is)
The book text itself (or they use the “see inside” function to read a few paragraphs)
The title is the first thing the reader sees or hears about your book–even before the cover in most cases–and getting your title right is possibly the most important single book marketing decision you’ll make (even though most people don’t think about it as marketing).
The 5 Attributes Of Good Book Titles
A good title should have all of these attributes:
Informative (gives idea of what book is about)
Easy to say
Not embarrassing or problematic for someone to say aloud to their friends
This should be pretty obvious. There are a million things pulling on people’s attention, and you need a title that stands out. A bad title is one that’s boring, or seems boring.
There are many ways to grab attention; you can be provocative, controversial, exciting, you can make a promise, etc. The point is your title should make people stop and pay attention to it.
Remember, a book title is not only the first thing a reader hears about your book, it’s the one piece of information that a reader has that leads them back to the book itself. If your book is recommended to them by a friend, and they can’t remember the title, then they can’t go find it in a bookstore or on Amazon.
A good test is to ask yourself this question:
If you were to tell someone the title of your book at a party, would they have to ask what it’s about?
If so, that’s probably a bad title.
Also, don’t out-think yourself on your title.
By using a word or phrase that is either not immediately understandable by your desired audience, or doesn’t convey the point of the book, you are putting a huge obstacle in front of your success.
Easy To Say
Tongue twisters and hard to say phrases reduce the likelihood that people will engage the book or say it out loud to other people.
This is a concept called cognitive fluency–to make it simple, it means that people are more likely to remember and respond favorably to words and phrases they can immediately understand and pronounce. We don’t want to go too far into the psychological explanations here, but the point is this: Don’t try to be too sophisticated at the risk of becoming obscure. It will only hurt your book.
Step 2: Brainstorm
This step is simple.
Spend at least a few days writing down every single title idea you can think of.
Telling someone to brainstorm is like telling someone to “be creative,” meaning that it’s not an easy thing to describe. That being said, we will will list every possible way we know of to find a good book title, complete with examples (remember, these techniques are not just for your main title, they will be the basis for your subtitles as well).
Use clever or noteworthy phrases from the book: This is very common in fiction, and can work well with novels. It also works well with non-fiction books, where the concept of the book can be summed up quickly or with one phrase.
The Black Swan
Lecturing Birds On Flying
I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell
Use both short and long phrases: We usually start with a really long title and work our way down to much shorter phrases. The goal is to have the main title be as short as possible–no more than 5 words (genre fiction varies)–and have the subtitle offer the context and put in important keywords.
Use relevant keywords: For non-fiction especially, searchability matters. You want to make sure that when someone searches for the subject or topic of your book, it will come up on Google and Amazon.
If you are unsure of this, go look on Amazon and see how often subtitles and titles are use additional keywords to attract more search engine traffic.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons In Personal Change
Mindset: The New Psychology of Success
Use Amazon/Goodreads/Wikipedia for inspiration:
Wikipedia’s list of the best-selling books of all time
Goodreads list of best book titles
Amazon’s current best-selling books
Try Random Title Generators: I’m not going to tell you these are great ways to find book titles. But sometimes people get desperate, and this is something you could try if you ran out of other options:
Finally: Make Sure The Title Is Not Already Popular
No, you cannot copyright titles. Technically, you can call your book “To Kill A Mockingbird” or “Lord Of The Rings” or even “The Lion,The Witch, and the Wardrobe.”
That being said, copying a popular book’s makes it VERY hard for your book to stand out, and pretty much guarantees a lot of negative reviews from people who are not getting the book they expected to get.
Happy Reading & Writing,
Please visit the writers who are participating in this month's Round Rhobin!
Marci Baun http://www.marcibaun.com/blog/
A.J. Maguire http://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/
Victoria Chatham http://victoriachatham.blogspot.ca
Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Judith Copek http://lynx-sis.blogspot.com/
Helena Fairfax http://www.helenafairfax.com
Heather Haven http://heatherhavenstories.com/blog/
Dr. Bob Rich http://wp.me/p3Xihq-MI
Margaret Fieland http://margaretfieland.wordpress.com
Rachael Kosinski http://rachaelkosinski.weebly.com/
Rhobin Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com