Some people say “never judge a book by its cover.” But, almost everyone agrees that people will judge a book by its title. A great title helps drive book sales. A lousy title can hinder book sales.
A captivating title achieves several important marketing goals at the same time. It captures people’s attention, even when they’re distracted. It implies a promise of something good or interesting the reader will receive. It makes people feel cool or trendy to discuss the book among friends. Most importantly, it helps overcome skepticism and leads people to make a purchase.
As a book marketing consultant who’s coached over 800 authors, I’m frequently asked, “What’s the secret to a captivating title?” My answer is that there is no secret. But, you can usually develop a great title by asking yourself these five questions:
Book Title Question 1 – Is the title easy to remember?
Great titles allow the human brain to embed a phrase in memory for easy recall. Try this exercise: Write down several title ideas for your book and then walk away for 7 days. Come back a week later and identify which options you immediately remembered. If it’s easy for you to remember, it will probably be easy for readers to recollect.
In addition, use this rule of thumb: Shorter titles aid the memory process. That’s why one, two, or three-word titles are so common. Here are some effective examples: Boundaries; Love Wise; Made to Crave; The Help.
Book Title Question 2 – Does the title arouse curiosity?
Captivating titles help stoke the reader’s interest to know more. Ideally, you want a title to make someone think, “I have to read that right now!” Notice how the following titles generate a sense of curiosity: 90 Minutes in Heaven, Safe People, The World is Flat.
Book Title Question 3 – Does the title imply value for the reader?
An effective title can also do more than stimulate curiosity. It can imply the benefits that the readers will receive and help answer the customer’s ultimate question, “What’s in it for me?” Don’t be shy to construct a title based on the primary result that your book offers. Good examples include: Love Smart, What to Expect When You’re Expecting, and The Power of a Positive No.
Book Title Question 4 – Would readers feel cool if they tell someone else the title?
People have egos and they like to be the first one to tell others about something cool. A captivating title enables readers to feel comfortable sharing word-of-mouth. In contrast, many people might be hesitant to tell others about a book if the title makes them look bad or feel inferior, such as How to Control Your Undisciplined Kids, Get a Girlfriend in Seven Days or Less, or The Low Self-Esteem Handbook.
Book Title Question 5 – Does the title help build a business?
A great title enables an author to generate more products beyond just the book, such as spin-off resources, speaking events, or a multi-book series for novelists. It’s difficult to make a living off of books by themselves. But, a book can be a powerful tool to build a thriving business.
Some of the best examples include The 5 Love Languages; The Purpose-Driven Life; The Lord of the Rings; Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Each of those original books spawned numerous products that generated a long-lasting career for the author.
Before you decide upon a title for your next book, include my five questions in your creative process. But, if you still find yourself stuck, try these three steps to help overcome the problem of “Title Block”:
Step 1 – If your manuscript is close to completion, go through the content and make a list of any sentence or phrase that is contrarian, counterintuitive, confrontational, or provocative.
Step 2 – Review your list and examine if any of those phrases spark ideas for a great title.
Step 3 – As you narrow down the possibilities, apply the following techniques to make your title stand out from the crowd:
- Employ the power of alliteration, which is the occurrence of the same letter at the beginning of adjacent or closely connected words.” For example, “Money Maker” or “The Secret to Changing Your Spouse” are easy to say out loud. Notice how using M and M or S and S help give the title a smooth flow.
- Start your title with a number, such as “5 Easy Steps to Create a Captivating Book Title” or “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”
- Try taking a famous adage and giving it a twist. Notice how the following titles turn popular sayings upside-down, such as “Beggars Can Be Choosers,” or “A Penny Saved Won’t Make You Rich.” You could take the well-known phrase, “follow the leader,” and turn it into the attention-grabbing title, “Lead Like a Follower.”
Never settle for a bland title. Otherwise, you could cause a lot of people to disregard your book or avoid spreading word of mouth.
Use the five questions above to guide your creative process. By doing so, you can ensure that people judge your book as one they desire to read next.