Guest article by Joan Stewart

Ask anyone writing a book to name the most perplexing decision they have to make—the one thing that can propel the book to the bestseller’s list, or send it on a quick trip to the remainder table. Many will tell you it’s the title.

OK then. Assuming the title is a grabber and prompts someone to pick up the book, what’s the next most important element that determines whether people buy, browse or bolt? Interesting chapter headings, of course.

In Internet discussion groups and during workshops for authors, many writers throw out dull, limp, convoluted book titles for critique, only to be advised that there’s a better one right around the corner.

Here are several techniques for coming up with enticing titles.

* The next time you’re waiting in line at the supermarket, or you’re visiting your favorite bookstore, scan the covers of magazines. Compile a list of clever titles that capture your attention, even if the articles have nothing to do with your book. Sometimes you can substitute one or two words to come up with a title that’s a perfect fit for your topic.
* Name the three biggest problems your book helps readers solve. You’ve just come up with three more possible titles or chapter headings.
* Write them down and let them ferment, then experiment with an unusual play on words.
* Brainstorm ideas with your friends. Give them three possibilities and ask them to choose their favorite.
* Scan titles and chapter headings in other books. Borrow a word here, a clever turn of phrase there. Keep massaging the title until you come up with something you like-and most importantly, something that others like.
* Some of the most successful titles are those that answer the reader’s question “What’s in it for me?” or “Why should I care?” People want books that will inspire, educate, calm, enlighten, humor and entertain. Choose a title that answers those two questions, and you’re well on your way.
* If you’re writing an advice book, the title can explain outcomes and the timetable for achieving them. Example: “25 things you can do this week to save thousands next year.”

Here are some ideas to get you started. All of the following titles, by the way, were “borrowed” from the covers of popular magazines.

A Part-Timer’s ______________ for a Full-Timer’s ______________
Bouncing Back from _____________
Cash in on _______________ Trends
Cool Tools for Today’s ______________
Common Errors That Kill ______________
Discover the 7 Essential Elements That Guarantee ______________
Finding the ______________That is Uniquely You
How to Get Other People to ______________
How to Handle ______________
How to Make ______________ Work for You
How to Make Your ______________ Dreams Come True
How to Turn ______________ into ______________
Mastering the Art of ______________
No More ______________
Part-Time ______________, Full-Time Success
Secrets of a ___________________
Straight Talk from a ______________
The Great _____________ Dilemma
The Most Beginner-Friendly ______________
The Best and Worst Ideas for ______________
The Complete Guide to ______________
The Worst Mistakes You Can Make When_____________ ______________
Time-Tested Tips for Becoming a ______________
Top 10 ______________ Do’s and Don’ts
What ________________ Doesn’t Want You to Know
When to ________ and When Not to ______________
Your Must-Know Guide to ______________
_________________ with Pizzazz!
_________________and Grow Rich
______________ on the Cheap
15 Ways to Get More from Your ______________
18 No-Fail Strategies for ______________
21 Secrets to Successful ______________
27 Ways to Keep Your ______________ Dreams Alive
32 Ways to Avoid the Worst ______________ Mistakes
41 Formulas for Fantastic ______________
10 User-Friendly Facts for ______________
11 Questions You Must Ask When You’re ______________
12 Tactics to Open Up ______________
13 Tips That Will Make a _______________ Smile

About Joan Stewart

Joan Stewart, a consultant and professional speaker, works with companies, nonprofits and government agencies that want to capitalize on free publicity. She also publishes the print newsletter The Publicity Hound, featuring tips, tricks and tools for free (or really cheap) publicity. For a free sample, send a check for $6 payable to The Publicity Hound to 3930 Highway O, Saukville, WI 53080. More tips are at her Web site at

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