Your Book Title: The Basics - article

Your book’s title is, in the simplest terms, how your reference your written work. You’ll use it on the cover, on your web page, in interviews, blog postings, marketing materials, book catalogs, agent submissions, and more. But the title is more than a reference tool. It has a distinct purpose and should not be overlooked as one of the most important aspects of your writing efforts.

Your book’s title is its first marketing and selling tool. It’s what captures a reader’s attention and helps them decide if they want to learn more about it… and these things ultimately lead to the buy decision. The title is also part of what captures the attention of an agent, editor, publisher, the media, book clubs, and book buyers at bookstores and libraries and more!

The title also helps your target audience find your book. There are so many books on the shelves (virtual and real shelves). Most potential readers scan the vast selections… rather than evaluating every book one at a time for several minutes. They might give your book a few seconds, less than 10, to capture their attention. Potential readers can tell from the title if it’s meant for them or if it’s something they should pass over when scanning the shelves. They have a logical and an emotional reaction to it. Logically, they surmise from the title if the book’s content is interesting to them – does it solve a problem, speak to a hobby of theirs, feed their love of mystery, fill a need to escape reality for a few hours? Emotionally, the title helps them connect with the content at a deeper, often sub-conscious level. Do they read the title and become outraged, amused, intrigued? Does it make them nostalgic? Will reading it make them feel important, smarter, happier, or hipper? Emotional and logical responses help drive purchasing decisions. It’s true of every product in the world, including your book.

Some authors define the book’s title before they even begin writing, some wait until the manuscript is complete, and some fall in the middle. A good rule of thumb is to develop a strong working title as soon as you can so that you have a way to reference your “forthcoming book”. The working title should meet all the same criteria as the final title, no skimping. To that point, regardless of when you define the title, you should be prepared to research it, edit it, and even discard it completely. Don’t get emotionally attached to it. It has a purpose and it should be refined or replaced repeatedly until it fulfills that purpose… to attract and keep a reader’s interest. There are distinct techniques for creating an effective title that fulfills its purpose. Read other articles here on the Author Learning Center for more details on applying those techniques.

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  • I would like to know from experts if the title: "The Angel with Burnt Wings" conjures up images of sin, hardship, struggle and downfall. Victory is the miraculous outcome of the story. An angel face down for the fall and an angel face up for victory, can depict the necessary content. Am I correct?
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    Very helpful information. Thanks
  • My title is "when no birds sing". How to stop struggling with depression and anxiety and live your real life. What do you think. Or should I change it to "When No Birds Sing: Increase Your self-esteem and lower your misery. I could substitute "When No Birds Sing with "Neglected essence" or "Begger in My Rich". The book incorporates a new approach to low depression and anxiety. Please anyone feel free to comment. Thanks. Ingrid
  • Former Member
    Former Member
    I think it's wonderful that you've put so much thought into your title. It isn't something to take lightly for sure. And you my very well hit an emotional cord. Perhaps not with any one of those words, but with a concept behind them. You note how the title touches on HOPE and the NOVELTY of something new. Hope in particular is often a very emotional thing for people and I would think that's especially true of people in the field of international development. Also, the newness of something often connects with people who are into personal growth, constant improvement, self help, and potential solutions. That last one, solutions, also being particularly interesting to people in the ID field. If you want to really know whether it sticks, consider doing some testing of the title. Ask people in the ID field what they think of when they hear that title and if they would purchase it and WHY they would purchase it. If their answer to #1 it's NOT in alignment with what is in your book, then you might want to tweak the title. If it is in alignment, then you've at least accurately reflected the contents and set people's expectations of the contents. Question 2 is a transition to question 3... so if their answer to question 3 is stuff like "always looking for new solutions", then you know you hit the right emotional cord with your target audience. If you get answers that don't show that connection then it's a sign you might want to rethink the title somehow. Some authors these days are even doing such testing via social media, asking their existing audience for feedback like this. You can also search for books in this same space (your competition) and see what emotions and expectations those titles evoke in YOU and compare that to your own title.
  • My book title is 'The Way Forward: The New Psychological Approach to International Development'. It's got the word 'new' in there and people generally, I think, fall for almost anything that is new (and the idea of this book is litrally new so I'm not lying about it). Second, it's got 'The Way Forward' which indicates progression or a movement to a better stage/place so 'hope' for a new way is there too. Thirdly, included in the title the key words (psychology and international development) that should help target audience when they search in library catalogues etc. And in addition to what you say above, I was watching a video the other day on this website and the speaker was saying ''find an emotional word that is already in people's minds and then repurpose it and you'll own their minds'. He adds that this is precisely one of the reasons that makes a movie title such as 'Pirates of the Caribbean' successful because it got the word 'pirates' in it which is one of those words that captures people's imagination with a sense of wonder and amusement. I'm not sure if I got any of those words in my title above but perhaps 'the way forward' & 'new' again fit this criterion as well. What do you think GypsySpirit?