What Should You Call Your Book?

  1. Make a list of all of the words that describe your book. Split the words into categories of nouns, adjectives and verbs. Then mix and match them at random to create word phrases. Don’t edit yourself. Just have fun and see what comes up.
  2. Think about this question: How is my book different? Your title should convey how your book is different from others in the category.
  3. Make most of the words in your title single syllable words. These words will be a lot easier for you to say when you are promoting your book on television. As a general rule: if you can’t quite say the title when you are relaxed, you’ll trip over it while on TV. 
  4. Keep it to four words or fewer. This makes your title easy to remember. That way, when you talk about your book on the radio, at cocktail parties, and other places, people will be able to remember it and call it up later when they are at the bookstore or shopping online.
  5. Write out your title in big block letters. Then stand far away and look at it. Is it easy to read from far away? If a title has a lot of Ls and Is, it won’t be easy to read from far away.
  6. Make the message clear. Promise-driven self-help titles sell. That’s why the Abs Diet, the Flat Belly Diet, and Wheat Belly are all huge diet books. People want flat abs. When coming up with a title, think about what your readers want. Then promise those results with your title. If it’s a self help book, your title should answer the question, “What will this book do for me?” 
  7. Make the message relevant. The 4-Hour Workweek is a huge bestseller that was rejected by every major publisher except one. Why did so many publishers turn it down? It was originally titled, “Drug Dealing for Fun and Profit.” Sure, it’s interesting and intriguing, but people don’t spend $24 because they want to be intrigued. They spend  $24 because they want to learn something that is relevant to their lives. Few people want to learn how to deal drugs for fun and profit, but nearly everyone wants to know how to make a good living while only working four hours a week, especially if they can do it without breaking the law.
  8. Take a stand. Say something that readers don’t expect and you’ll create word of mouth buzz. Some examples: Talent is Overrated, Marry Him, It’s Even Worse Than It Looks.
  9. Don’t emulate famous authors. Celebrities and famous authors like Malcolm Gladwell can give their books obtuse names. That’s because readers will buy these books based on the author’s fame and not based on the title. Just because a title worked for a famous person doesn’t mean it will work for you. The best titles to emulate are the ones that worked for unknown authors.
  10. Don’t ask your friends if they like your title. Ask them if they would buy a book with that title. There’s a big difference. People buy what they don’t like, and they like what they don’t buy. Similarly, don’t shoot down titles because you don’t like them. Liking is subjective and often completely out of sync with what sells.
  11. Don’t listen to your friends. If they are not the target audience for your book, it doesn’t matter what they think. If you want to test your title, test it on people who are the target audience, not on your friends.
  12. Break all the rules. Don’t follow any rule on this list 100 percent of the time.


Alisa Bowman is a journalist, book collaborator, and author and co-author of several books, including Project: Happily Ever After and Pitch Perfect. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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