What Makes A Good Book Title?

what makes a good book title

You can create your book title at any time during the writing process: before the introduction, when you’re at your book’s midpoint, or after it’s completed.

The only advantage of coming up with your title sooner than later is you can start marketing your book earlier, since it’s obviously harder to promote a book without a title.

But you may come up with a better title if you wait until you’re finished writing and have more context. So it all depends what timing is right for you.

However, I do know that it’s less important when you make your book title and more important that you pick a good one.

In the context of sales, your title is the most important element. Yes, title matters more to customers than book cover, author name (unless you’re Stephen King or a very famous self published author), price, back cover, and table of contents.

And when people like the title, they will browse more information about the book through the book description or the first few paragraphs. Even more powerful, when the consumer loves the title they will buy the book on the spot without needing more information because they’re so convinced it’s a going to be a great read.

As you see, maybe you should spend a couple of more hours on your title before you mark that task complete and call it day. It could mean the difference in how much money you make self publishing.

So what makes a good book title? Let’s find out.

The Ingredients For A Quality Book Title

In my experience, the books that sell the best have one of these four qualities (and sometimes more than one): unique/memorable, promising benefits, intriguing, and content summary.

1) Unique/memorable

There’s a lot of exhausted book subjects out there (and here’s what you should do when there’s already a book that seems the same). So when you have a unique book title, it breaks through the clouds and shines like the sun. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams is one that stands out to me. And Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom sold millions of copies partly because of its successful title.

Usually unique and memorable book titles are short and pack a quick punch. The easier it is for you, the media, bloggers, and offline people to say, the more publicity your book can pick up.

And if your book is controversial, don’t shy away from coming up with a provocative title that lets people know from the start. You’ll definitely get buyers from the people who agree with your position, and you may get more sales from the haters on the other side.

2) Promising benefits

Especially true in non-fiction books, an excellent title will get a consumer sucked into its crystal clear message of what they gain by reading this book. Since consumers don’t think of you—the author—or anyone besides themselves when buying, these benefits better be desirable and address a need in their life.

Use the right words in your title to address how the consumer might feel, and they’ll want to read the entire book on the spot.

Some books that hit the nail on the head when it comes to promising benefits include I Will Teach You To Be Rich by Ramit Sethi and Eat Fat, Get Thin by Mark Hyman. In each of these titles, you know what you’re getting: financial tips to become rich or diet tips to become thin.

By the way, money and health are two of the most popular book categories. And I bet it’s because each category is highly benefits driven.

3) Intriguing

With virtually unlimited options to choose from, the consumer looks through book titles until they find one that truly makes them curious about what’s inside.

To test your title’s intrigue, does it make people who read it say: “How could you do that?” or “That seems impossible, I want to know how.” If it doesn’t accomplish this and you’re going for an intriguing title, rework it until it does or go for a different quality on this list.

And don’t worry if your title doesn’t express your entire book content, because that’s ok. If it’s interesting enough to get the potential customer to desire more info, then your cover has done its job. Because the longer time a consumer scans your book, the more likely their interaction will translate into a book sale.

4) Content summary

Sometimes your best marketing tactic is for the title to express the exact content of the book—assuming your content is appealing.

For example, Dale Carnegie’s famous book How To Win Friends and Influence People concisely summarizes what the book is about to a tee. And this strategy worked beautifully as he published the book in 1936 and it’s still a bestseller today.

And another strategy, although this can be hard to pull off, is having the title play out somewhere near the conclusion of the book. When you pull the title from an important phrase or sentence in the book itself, your audience will feel special that they received the “secret” message.

Book Title Bonus Points

You have the necessities above, but if you want to attract more eyes to your book title, then there are two more things you can do.

I like to call these bonus points because they may or may not be able to work for you. But, you can optimize your title by adding:

1) A favorable keyword or phrase for search engines

If you can find a phrase that gets heavy search engine traffic per month and also fits in your subtitle, or possibly your main title, then it’s likely that you will get more eyeballs on your book. And more eyeballs means more sales.

This is the most efficient way to market your book because it requires no extra work after you add the keyword in your title. You can find data for search terms through Google’s Keyword Planner Tool.

It’s safe to roughly assume that people search on Amazon in a similar way they do on Google. So when you find a phrase that generates high traffic, it could help your book reach strangers who would have never found your work.

Be cautious though, because you certainly don’t want to sacrifice your well-thought out title so you can fit a better search engine keyword. Choose clarity over search engine keywords.

2) A humorous or clever play on words

Some people judge a book by its cover, others judge a book by how funny or clever the title is. If your title doesn’t engage them, then you probably lost them among the thousands of other options for them to read.

This goes back to the idea that you truly need to think with your audience in mind to deliver that catchy title.

Otherwise, you could be serving them the meat menu when they’re vegetarians.

So, what are some catchy titles that work? Here are a few of my favorites:

  • You’re Only Old Once, by Dr. Seuss
  • How To Succeed In Business Without A Penis, by Karen Salmansohn
  • Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator, by Ryan Holliday
  • Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea, by Chelsea Handler
  • Lies You Wanted To Hear, by James Whitfield Thomson
  • Rich Dad, Poor Dad, by Robert T. Kiyosaki

I haven’t read all of the books listed and don’t vouch for their quality, but from a titles perspective they are clever and you’ll notice most of them are short.

Lastly, remember that your title depends on the genre of your writing. It doesn’t make sense to have a funny title if you’re writing a non-fiction book where the audience wants you to be a trusted authority.

And if you’ve accomplished this step, here’s how to write a book, how to edit a book, and how to self publish a book.

Do you now have a better understanding of what makes a good book title? What do you think of the titles for my two books—The Golden Resume and Freedom Money?

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