(above) Every baby needs a name and every book needs a title. Many book titles are cliché phrases which seem to be absolutely perfect for a particular book. Unfortunately, many cliché phrases are absolutely perfect for lots of books, and a title can’t be copyrighted. More than a dozen different books are titled Caught in the Middle. I met Deborah Burggraaf, the author of a very good one, on a plane trip a few years ago. If you like her title, you can use it, too—but please don’t.
Both Danielle Steel and Queen Noor of Jordan wrote books called Leap of Faith. At least five books are titled Fatal Voyage. At least four books, two songs and a movie are named Continental Drift. At least 24 books are titled Unfinished Business. You can write books with those titles, too—but please don’t.
Try multiple variations of your favored titles with minor differences, just changing or dropping a word. Sometimes substituting a shorter word will mean that your title can take up two lines instead of three, so you can use bigger type or a bigger cover photo or both. “Club” and “group” take up less space than “organization.” “Pasta” is shorter than “macaroni.” It's OK to use a single-character ampersand instead of a three-character "and" in a title.
When you get down to two or three "finalists," make dummy book covers with appropriate type and artwork. Print them out and wrap them around real books (even if you plan to publish e-only). Hold them at different angles. Carry them around with you. Ask typical purchasers (if you know some) what the titles mean to them. In 2008 I was shocked to learn that people completely misinterpreted my favored title for a future book. I changed it and the book has sold very well.
(below) The ebook version has an even stronger title, How to not get Screwed by a Self-Publishing Company. I could have made it "Don't Get Screwed . . ." Maybe I'll change it.
(below) Try this handy Title Generator Table to get started. Pick one item from each column:
(below) Search engines can help you choose words to go in your nonfiction book’s title and subtitle to improve online “searchability.” In the examples below for a book about “vitamin deficiency,” Bing and Google revealed popular related search terms that will help you choose words to appeal to potential book buyers.
(above) F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is a great short title. So is I, Claudius by Robert Graves. Tom Wolfe’s The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby, Zac Bissonnette’s How to Be Richer, Smarter, and Better-Looking Than Your Parents and Erma Bombeck’s The Grass Is Always Greener over the Septic Tank are great long titles.
(above) You can also have a 'fake' subtitle loaded with keywords that would be ugly on a cover, but are very effective for capturing searchers on Amazon.com. Publishing expert Aaron Shepard is a wizard with long subtitles. He has a lot to teach you. Pay attention.
I once modified a subtitle on Amazon long before I changed what was printed on the book. No one complained.
The subtitle printed on the cover of Fundamentals of Public Administration is “A Blueprint for Nigeria Innovative Public Sector: Understanding the dynamics and concepts of Public Policy Administration, Local Government Administration in developing countries, Servant Leadership in Public Sector, Leadership, Budgeting and Financial Fiscal Responsibility in the Public Sector.” I think that’s a bit too much.
Want more book tips? Buy my 1001 Powerful Pieces of Author Advice: