One of the hardest things about writing a book is choosing the title. In a world where there are millions of books available and all you can see on the Amazon sales page is a thumbnail of the cover and the title, you need to find THE perfect title that’s catchy and imaginative whilst appealing to your ideal reader and conveying to them exactly what your book is all about and why they should buy it. But not only does your title need to appeal to your human reader, it also needs to be effective enough for Amazon’s algorithm to select it and deliver it when anyone searches on the site for something like your book. This means including the right keywords in the title or subtitle to tell the computer what your book is about, whilst still being appealing enough for people browsing the bookstore to take a punt on it. Phew… That’s a tough call!
Although choosing the right title is really important, you don’t need to have the title nailed down before you get the book written. In fact, writing the book may help you come up with the title because there might be a random phrase or a recurring idea that pushes its way to the front. But don’t get bogged down in choosing the title now because you might end up not actually writing the book – and what use is a title without a book to give it to?
How to choose a book title
I would suggest you start thinking about the title now, bearing in mind the points below, and let it bubble away in your mind while you’re writing the book. At some point, ideas will start to come through, so make a note of them and then come back to them at a later stage.
There are five things your book title needs to be.
The worst thing anyone could say about your title is that it’s ‘nice’, because, in this instance, nice means bland, and bland doesn’t stand out. Whether your book is in a bricks-and-mortar store or on a webpage, you want its title to grab people’s attention, even if that’s for the wrong reasons! Just like Marmite, a strong, eye-catching title is going to be loved and hated in equal measure – and that’s fine! You’re not going to appeal to everyone anyway, and an intriguing or even controversial title will at least get people talking about you.
Your book title also needs to be memorable. How many times have you heard someone speak highly about a book they’ve read but when you ask them what it’s called, they can’t remember? “Oh, I’ll look it up when I get home and send you the link,” they tell you, and that’s the last you hear about it. So make sure the title will stick in people’s minds so they can go home and search for it and, hopefully, buy it!
With non-fiction books especially, you need to make sure your title is informative; that is, it tells people what your book is about and gives some sort of indication that it’s right for them. This is often achieved through using a subtitle. For example, my latest book is called What’s Your Story? which is catchy but vague, but the subtitle Take your non-fiction book from possibility to plan to publication… and beyond! gives a much clearer picture of what the book is about and who it is for.
Easy to say and easy to spell
This speaks for itself. If your book title uses some bizarre or archaic word that people don’t know how to spell, even if they get as far as remembering it, then it’s going to be tricky for anyone to search for it. They are also less likely to recommend it if the title is unpronounceable – either through bizarre spelling or because it’s embarrassing to say!
Not too long
To achieve all the above you need your book title to be short and snappy, and no more than five words long. Longer titles can work but in most cases, shorter is better. You can, of course, use a subtitle to give more information about what the book is actually about. 3-5 words allows you to come up with something catchy and memorable, and then you can expand on what the book is about with a longer subtitle that includes useful keywords. If you do go for a longer main title, make sure it is memorable, attention-grabbing and easily trips off the tongue!
So how do you choose a title? I would suggest you mull it over for a while and see what comes to mind. it’s amazing what can pop into your head at the most unexpected moments. You could also use a title generator – there are lots online – or simply brainstorm around your topic to get a few ideas to be going on with, and then see what comes up from there.
Once you’ve found an idea, or a few ideas, put them out to the public test! Ask friends and family (or, even better, your ideal readers) what they think of the title – does it appeal to them, and, more importantly, what would they expect a book with that title to be about?
This is an abridged extract from my book What's Your Story? Take your non-fiction book from possibility to plan to publication... and beyond! - available from Amazon now.