Before Titling Your Book, Clear Your Head of 4 Misconceptions about Book Titles

Woman reading a book surrounded by stacks of books

By Marcia Yudkin

Whether someone is browsing for something to read online or in a bricks-and-mortar bookstore, they usually notice three things about a book: the cover design, the title and the description of the book.

Clearly all three are vital marketing tools.

When it comes to the book title, I have run across a whole lot of wrong-headed and harmful advice. Some of it is nonsense imported from other areas of marketing, and much of it makes universal recommendations with only one type of book in mind. If you’re trying to come up with an effective title for a book, start by clearing your head of these four common misconceptions.

1. A book title should help sell as many books as possible.

No, not exactly.

Given the importance of social media and online reviews today, you want to sell as many books as possible to the right readers for your book. A title that oversells or misleads people about what’s in the book leads to complaints and negativity that can hurt your success.

Start your brainstorming for a title with a clear idea of your intended readers, and finish your title selection by checking to make sure you’re giving the right impression to those who will most appreciate what you’ve written.

2. A book title consists of only a title.

First-time authors often forget—or didn’t know to begin with—that a title can have three components:

  • First is the main title, what gets biggest billing in design and selling.
  • Second is the subtitle, which usually shows up in smaller letters on the cover and after a colon when the book is written out in text.
  • Third is a series title, where the book is part of a branded grouping, like “411 Traveler’s Guides” for your travel reference books. Not every book is part of a series, so the third component is optional.

However, most books should have a subtitle as well as a title, taking advantage of an opportunity to zero in on the focus, purpose or intended readers for the work. Even for fiction, the subtitle “A Novel” after the main title usefully clarifies what kind of a book it is.

3. A title should offer a unique selling proposition.

Many marketing gurus advise racking your brains to define something that is true about your product and not true about competing products. This often helps, but it’s not necessary.

If I look for a beginner’s book on backyard grilling and find three candidates, I don’t care in the slightest whether these three are unique or meaningfully distinct from one another. I’ll simply choose one (or buy all three).

 

backyard BBQ 1-2-3 version 2

 

With fiction, the notion of a unique selling proposition is even less applicable. Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, for instance, doesn’t promise anything unique in its title. It’s always better if a title is unique, but that too isn’t necessary. There are at least four novels titled Suspicion, including one out just this year by Joseph Finder, and no one considers this a form of marketing malpractice.

4. A nonfiction book should include the book’s benefits in the subtitle.

Sometimes we see this in nonfiction books, as in Mindful Eating: A Guide to Rediscovering a Healthy and Joyful Relationship with Food. However, it’s equally effective and much more common to use the subtitle to explain the book’s topic more fully, as in Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t, a classic business book, or Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, a bestselling adventure memoir.

An effective book title helps draw attention to your book, motivate people to open it, investigate further and buy it. It also helps keep inappropriate readers from thinking yours is the book they’re looking for. Make sure your title contains enough signals for the right people to become interested and have an idea of what your book offers.

 

Where to Learn More

Brainstorming a better book titleThrough Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015, receive $10 off Marcia’s online course (normally $37) on better book titles by using this link.

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The Best of The Publicity Hound’s Tips of the Week of 2014: Yours to regift

Ebook--Best of 2014 coverHere’s a gift that’s perfect for small business owners, a nonprofit that needs publicity, authors who want to sell more books, or anyone who wants to self-promote on a shoestring budget and without an expensive publicist.

It’s “The Best of The Publicity Hound’s Tips of the Week of 2014,” an ebook that includes 26 tips from my popular email newsletter. I’ve been offering this ebook as a holiday gift for the last several years, and my subscribers love it because almost all the tips, tricks and tools are free, and the ebook is a helpful reminder of promotion they might have put off earlier this year.

Download the ebook, or use the handy app we created, by clicking on the links in red, below.

When sharing it, use this link which will lead people right over to this blog post: http://PublicityHound.com/bestof2014 (you can’t download the book from this link, which leads right back to this blog post. Look for the download instructions in large type, below.)

This year’s ebook has a special emphasis on book publishing, marketing and publicity. The ease of publishing means more authors will be facing stiffer competition online and offline to sell print books and ebooks. Read my pointers on how to sell a truckload.

Here’s what you’ll find in my free ebook:

Book Publishing, Marketing and Publicity

—Where to find a helpful list of 39 places to promote your books for free, including erotica and books for kids.

—The three most important groups of people to send requests to review your book.

—5 ways to use animated GIFs for publicity on Pinterest.

—Where to find 15 tips for marketing your book for less than a dollar.

—A fun, free idea for promoting your ebook and attracting attention galore on your Facebook page.

—Where to find 12 digital publishing tools the experts, including me, recommend.

—How to find book reviewers on LinkedIn.

—What to do, and not do, if someone gives your book a one-star review.

 

Ebook--Best of 2014 coverClick on the book to download the free ebook

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Click on the phone to add the app!

The “Best of” Mobile App

This is “The Best of the Publicity Hound’s Tips of the Week of 2014″, delivered to your mobile device. This is an app you can download to your smartphone or tablet so you can keep the ebook at your fingertips!

Problems accessing the book? Email my assistant, Christine Buffaloe, at Chris@SerenityVA.com

 

Make Money While Self-promoting

—9 reasons you should use crowdfunding, a way to get financial help from friends and strangers, to fund marketing your book or any other project.

—How you can make money from your blog by using the same simple tool used by a blogger and freelance writer for prestigious publications like Wired UK, The Atlantic and the New York Times.

—Why lots of website visitors aren’t completing your annoying “Contact” form and, instead, doing business with one of your competitors.

—How to take better product photos for your website and press releases, and drive more sales.

Radio Publicity

—The one word you should never use if you’re being interviewed on a radio talk show.

—What you need to know before you pitch multiple shows on National Public Radio.

—A directory of paid listings that radio show hosts, TV talks shows and newspaper and magazine journalists use to find expert sources and guests.

 

Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn

—Where to find almost three dozen killer Facebook tips, most of which are free.

—How Pinterest can pull traffic and give you excellent search ranking, even if your topic is dull, academic, yucky or difficult to illustrate.

 

Free Tools

—The free online tool that will analyze your press releases, blog posts, articles and any other type of writing and tell you how to improve it. It’s a digital editor, and the closest I’ve seen to a human editor.

Pitching an Idea

—One of the very best ways to pitch top-tier media when they won’t take your phone calls. (No, it isn’t email.)

—How to make a journalist to say “yes” to your pitch by doing what 9 out of 10 other people who are pitching don’t do.

—The one thing magazine editors say you must have if you want publicity for a new product (they are begging for this).

—5 reasons you should follow up pitches to journalists and bloggers, even if they tell you they don’t want follow-ups.

—How to use “before and after photos” in a publicity campaign, a super idea for nonprofits and small business owners.

 

Ebook--Best of 2014 coverClick on the book to download the free ebook

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MobileAppPhone

Click on the phone to add the app!

The “Best of” Mobile App

This is “The Best of the Publicity Hound’s Tips of the Week of 2014″, delivered to your mobile device. This is an app you can download to your smartphone or tablet so you can keep the ebook at your fingertips!

 

Problems accessing the book? Email my assistant, Christine Buffaloe, at Chris@SerenityVA.com

 

Blogging

—6 reasons why blogs won’t die, and the most important reason you should be blogging.

Finding Your Target Market

—3 places where your target market hangs out online and can use someone with your expertise.

—A brain-teaser that will show you exactly how well you know your target market.

Let me know if you like the ebook and have used any of the tips. The Comments section awaits….

And if you don’t subscribe to these twice-a-week tips, you can do so in the white box at the top left side of this page.

 

Ebook--Best of 2014 coverClick on the book to download the free ebook

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MobileAppPhone

Click on the phone to add the app!

The “Best of” Mobile App

This is “The Best of the Publicity Hound’s Tips of the Week of 2014″, delivered to your mobile device. This is an app you can download to your smartphone or tablet so you can keep the ebook at your fingertips!

 

Problems accessing the book? Email my assistant, Christine Buffaloe, at Chris@SerenityVA.com