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Titles Sell Books

by Judy Collins
© 2001


Don't be a sissy with your book title. People do judge a book by its title. It must be so outstanding and catchy it compels the reader to look further on the back cover. It must be easy to say, easy to remember, and clear in meaning.

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. Depending on the source, your reader will spend only four seconds on the cover and eight seconds on the back cover. While some long titles have succeeded, the shorter, the better.

A title is part of your book's front cover. Busy buyers including book store buyers, wholesalers, distributors and your audiences buy mainly because of the cover. Dan Poynter, author of Write and Grow Rich, says "The package outside sells the product inside." Make your cover sizzle.

It's a good idea to start searching for your best title before you write chapter one. Start with a working title. Include your topic, your subject and use the book's benefits in your sub title if possible.

List ten or so titles and distribute them among friends and associates. Have them vote on the three they like best. Keep the list in your computer. Revise your title many times unless it's just right. Be open to brainstorming. Leave your judgment at home. Write down even what you think are losers, because later they may trigger some good ideas.

Go to your local bookstore with five colored felt tips pens. Browse the section your book would be shelved on. Choose five books that attract you. Photo copy or sketch those, noting the colors, design, and fonts and add colors you like.

Seven Criteria for An Effective Title
  1. Does it have an impact like the headline of an ad that compels people to read the copy that follows?
  2. Does your title sell your solution? It doesn't give a question, but answers. It is positive and empowering?
  3. Readers want a magic pill. They want to follow directions and enjoy the benefits the title promises.
  4. Does the title work well with the title of your presentations, articles and press releases you'll need to promote the book?
  5. Use proprietary nomenclature--a way of expressing one idea for your book--yours alone. Sam Horn's Tongue Fu! puts her special twist on defusing verbal conflict.
  6. Can you use a variation of your title for other books and related products?
  7. Does the title broadcast a benefit your book offers so well, it creates an unstoppable urge to buy the book?
  8. How will your title look on the spine of the book? Dan Poynter suggests you put it vertically, in a bold, sanserif font that's easier to read. I use arial font for most titles and subtitles.

This is the time to be your strongest salesperson self. Choose the strongest words, benefits, and metaphors to move your audience to buy.


Judy Cullins: 20-year author, publisher, book coach
Helps entrepreneurs manifest their book and web dreams
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