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Thinking about Book Titles

July 24, 2009 by Kat Gautreaux, Account Manager

Over the years at Wheatmark, we've had a few titles come through that were either a mouthful that no one would be able to hold in mind long enough to order the book, confusing (careful about serial commas ... sometimes they don't read as a series), or just plain excellent.

I imagine titling a book is about as difficult as naming a child. You go through different iterations, bounce the names off of friends and family, and maybe even see how they look in print.

There are several things to think about when deciding on your book's title:
  1. Does it make sense
  2. Can buyers find it when browsing
  3. Can it be read more than one way? Will it be OK if they read it the wrong way?
  4. Can it be designed easily for a cover

Does it make sense?
This one seems fairly obvious, but let's talk about it anyway. Your title should be evocative of the content inside. If your book is about parent-child relationships and your book is entitled, "From a Great Height," that's great, but you might want to use a subtitle to help clarify what you will be talking about in the book.

Can buyers find it when browsing?
This is important. More important for independent authors because you'll be doing the bulk of your business online. OK. Here's the skinny: Unless someone knows your book title or author name and looks it up directly, you need a book title that can be found by keyword search.

If a potential reader is looking for a book, but they don't have one in particular in mind, they'll enter a search word on a site like Amazon. For example, if a reader is looking for a book on self-help, they will have a particular theme of self-help in mind. They aren't likely to enter in the term self-help. Maybe "get rich," "make money," or even "wealthy." If your book is about personal finance and has a title that includes those main words - rich, money, and wealth - you are more likely to have your book show up as an option for that search!

When titling your book, make sure the title, the subtitle, or a combination of both includes some easy to navigate key words to help potential readers find you!

Can it be read more than one way? Will it be OK if they read it the wrong way?
We have a Wheatmark title that can be read with two different inflections and results in two different meanings. Either way, it makes sense and pertains to the book.

However, that isn't always true. There are also times when a title may mean something but taken out of context is just plain wrong. This problem shows up a lot on Headlines with Jay Leno ... the unintended meanings can be a sticky problem. So have a few people read over it and make sure you aren't making an obscene joke by accident! (A memorable one from my newspaper days was "Military Gives YPG a Hummer." If you don't see the unfortunate joke, you definitely want to get someone else to check your title!

Can it be designed easily for a cover
I have been known to suggest changing a title simply because it would look better on the cover design. The look of your book cover is your most important marketing tool. The old saying goes, "You can't judge a book by its cover." However, most people do, even if it is unintentional.

Too many words, too long of words or long words that sandwich little tiny ones are all difficult to design around. Your cover needs to be easily readable on the "thumbnail" that is displayed on web pages. Either the image or the title needs to grab a potential reader's attention. If your title is too long, it will limit the size of your font and of your image.

If you are a Wheatmark author and are unsure of your title, check with your account manager and they'll help you brainstorm some ideas to help you have the strongest title from day one!

Not a Wheatmark author but want to be? Fill out our Project Assessment Form to get started! You can also enroll in our free minicourse: 7 Steps to Self-Publishing Success on our home page!

Tags: design, marketing, amazon, cover, titles
Filed Under: Publishing,


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