Words to Profit

How to Choose a Best-Selling Title

5 Characteristics of Great Book Titles

by Diane Eble

The publisher of one of my books wanted to call it this: "So, What Do You Do for a Living?"


Appalled, I contacted them immediately. "I have concerns about my title," I said as calmly as possible. "I'm thinking that maybe it sounds more like back cover copy than a title. It is not something that says what the book is or will do for people...."


I went through my list of further objections, trying not to hyperventilate.


Fortunately, the publisher listened. I know now that the title we ended up with is still not stellar—Men in Search of Work, subtitle: And the Women Who Love Them But at least it said what the book was about.


Back in the beginning of the 20th century, Emmanuel Halderman-Julius sold more than 100 million "little blue books"—and he advertised by title alone, no sales copy. That should be your goal—to have a title so compelling that the title itself sells the book.


What would that entail? Measure your title or potential title against these 5 criteria.


5 Characteristics of a Best-Selling Title


1. It arouses curiosity or emotion or engages the imagination. This is why The Secret or "The Secret to ..." or "Secrets of ..." are so popular—it does both. It arouses curiosity, and also makes us want to be included in. We don't like to feel left out (or left behind—another very popular title of a book and series). Doesn't Chicken Soup for the Soul just reek comfort? What about The Dangerous Book for Boys—doesn't it make your brain itch with curiosity? (It has no subtitle, by the way, to alleviate the curiosity. Very clever.)


 For fiction, a provocative title is often the best. A recent study  found that figurative or abstract titles, such as Sleeping Murder, or Presumed Innocent, produce more top-sellers than literal ones, such as The DaVinci Code.


2. It states or at least hints at a benefit or promise (if it's nonfiction). People read fiction to be entertained. They read nonfiction books, by and large, to solve problem. If your nonfiction book also entertains, and your fiction informs in some way, all the better. Your title and/or subtitle must promise at least one or the other. (By the way, the book itself must deliver on its promise or it won't generate the word of mouth necessary to build a book to best-sellerdom.)


3. It calls out to a specific audience.Even if a book has nearly universal appeal, the title should speak to a specific benefit "everyone" wants. You: On a Diet is clearly for people who want to lose weight. (Which is just about everyone, of course.)


Or consider The 4-Hour Work Week: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich by Tim Ferriss. It's an irresistible promise that calls out to the laziness in all of us. Who wouldn't want to work only 4 hours a week and still be rich? Yet, even though it appeals to just about everyone, that appeal is very specific.


4. The title is memorable in some way. This is where strong nouns and verbs come in, or alliteration, rhyming, or some way of tapping into the collective consciousness comes in. Consider these titles:

·         Rich Dad, Poor Dad

·         What to Expect When You're Expecting

·         The Glass Castle

·         90 Minutes in Heaven

·         Blink

·         The World is Flat


5. It uses keywords/phrases people search on the Internet. This is not absolutely necessary for a print book, but nowadays it doesn't hurt. If however your product is  an ebook or other information product you're selling and delivering digitally, keywords are a must for your title.  This of course applies to nonfiction, since people don't generally use search engines to find fiction, unless they already know the title.


No title can have all of the above characteristics. But if it's strong in at least three of them, you probably have a winner of a title.


Want more help on choosing your best-selling title? Here's how to learn more ...

1. Ask your question about choosing a best-selling title. I will be answering them in articles (this was sparked by a question), on the blog, and/or in my upcoming course, "Choosing Your Bestselling Title" Telecourse. When you ask your question, you will also get access to the replay of the teleseminar in which I answered nearly 20 questions about choosing a great title.

2. Get the Special Report, "How to Choose Your Bestselling Title." This report builds on the above article, but includes so much more! For only $14.95, you will learn:

  • How to use your research to create templates of best-selling titles you can use over again, not just for your title, but for marketing as well
  • 7 criteria for choosing your best title (and the minimum number you should shoot for)
  • The different "jobs" your title and subtitle must do. Miss even one, and your book is likely doomed.
  • 7 ways to test your titles and come up with the winner that you can be sure will sell your book—including one that will actually net you income before your book is even published
  • The killer criteria that trumps all others when you test your title
  • How to create a "swipe file" of bestselling titles from which to brainstorm your own
  • 12 places to go for great title ideas
  • 7 action steps for choosing your bestselling title

Simply click the button below to instantly get this Special Report for only $14.95

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"Frame-of-Mind Marketing: How to Convert Your Online Prospects into Customers"

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