Checklist for Choosing a Fantastic Book Title

“This might sound like I’m critical of avid book readers … and I’m not. But, those people will read almost anything. The trick is getting it in front of them.”

I was chatting with a PR pro. She’s behind some pretty incredible success stories including a New York Times Bestseller, a paid professional speaker who is booked 172 days a year, and a book that became a movie. After working as a talent agent, a PR professional, and a talent manager, she had a lot of insights to offer.

One of the things we chatted about was this:

The best marketing plan in the world won’t help you if you have a terrible book title.

The title is what people will have to remember to find your book. It’s what people will share when they tell others about your book. And, ultimately it’s what will get readers attention (or, not).

An author with a book that isn’t selling contacted us for help. I walked him through some of the changes we’d need to make to market his book. One of those things was a title change. He refused and said he’d rather have us try to market the book as is. But, I knew that it would be a waste of his money.

There were eight other books with the same title! The title was great for his subject matter, so I understand why he chose it. The cover was well done. I liked the hook of the book. But, it’s tough to overcome a problem title.

And yes … you can have the same title as another book … I explain that right here:

So what does make a great title? A great book title will capture attention, create curiosity, and be easy to remember. So does your title check off all the boxes? Let’s make sure.

Run it through our five-point book title checklist to find out:

Number one. Is it short? Three words or less is ideal.

Now there are exceptions to this rule, of course. I am sure just as soon as I say this, you’ll think, “Well what about “How to Win Friends and Influence People” and other book titles that are long but very famous?

There are always exceptions, but the majority of best-selling books in the non-fiction categories, and even fiction tend to be three words or less. Just check out the top 20 best selling business books right now, as noted in this video:

The books we’re talking about are:

  • Outliers,
  • Start with Why,
  • Option B,and
  • Boomerang.

These books are all selling exceptionally well, and the titles are super short.

Number two. Is it easy to remember?

Tell your friends what you’re thinking of calling your book. A few hours later say, “Hey listen, do you remember my book title?”

Don’t tell them that this is a test because then they’ll make sure to remember. What you want to find out is, is your book title memorable? Because you want people to be able to tell others, and of course remember which book they want to look up when they go to Amazon or Barnes & Noble to buy your book.

Number three. Is it easy to say?

Now you might be thinking, “Why does that matter, they’re reading?”

If you’re doing a great job of selling your book, you’re going to be talking about your book all the time. And, other people will be saying the title all the time.

If it’s a tongue twister, it will get messed up. The New Brand You, which is my second book, has a title that wouldn’t check off Box 2 or 3 on this list. If I’d had people try to remember it or say it over and over and over again, I would have discovered that there’s something about this title that people just can’t seem to get it right.

I did test the title in written format and used a focus group to come up with the title. But, I should have tested it with repetition. Now you won’t make my mistake.

Say your title over and over and over again. Do you still like it? Ask a few friends to do the same thing. Do they find that it is still easy to say after repeating it several times? Great, check off this box.

Number four. Is the URL for your book title available?

You’re probably writing your book to position yourself as the authority in your marketplace, right? Now, imagine a potential reader types your book title into Google and finds four other websites and not yours. That doesn’t position you as the leader in this category.

Or, maybe you’re thinking series, or brand extensions? If you are thinking a series of books, a workshop, products or an app to monetize your book in other ways,  owning your book’s URL makes all of that much easier.

If you love your book title, and it checks off the other boxes in this book title checklist, but you can’t get the URL, then hopefully you can at least get Your Title, that’ll fill in a bit of a gap.

Number five. Does your title pop?

There’s a great book on this called Pop by Sam Horn. She talks about how to break out not blend in. The big thing is you want to make sure that your book title stands out and doesn’t sound like every other book in its category. Think about what will create curiosity. What will have people grabbing your book saying, “I need to know what’s inside?”

So, can you check off all five things? Even if you can, you should run a few tests just to be sure that your title will have people running to the store to buy your book.

So how can you test it?

If you’ve got an email newsletter, you could split it in half and send out one title to half of the list and the other title to the other half. See which one people click on more.

Ask people, “Would you wanna buy this book or this book?”, and just see which titles are making people feel like they will pull out their credit card and buy your book.

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P.S. If you’re wondering what a laughing baby seal has to do with any of this … the answer is, very little. It made me smile, and I thought I would share that. If something makes you smile and is memorable, you’re off to a great start!

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