How to Choose Your Book Title
So, there you are, at your local independent bookstore and you’re browsing the books on the table in the front of the store. They aren’t discounted books, they’re new releases. At this moment, you’re just looking for … something interesting.
If you saw a book with the title above, would you pick it up? Would you turn it over to see why the author is declaring that it’s “The one book your mother does not want you to read?” What would you expect to find? If you found a boring, two paragraph note saying the book was about “Why making your bed isn’t really all that important, in the greater scheme of things,” would you put it down and walk away? What if the book was about the sex life of snails? What if it was about how to leave home at 16 and become a star on reality television?
The point is, the title is catchy and would probably get you to pick up the book. But, the reality is, while a title is one of the most important parts of your book, good titles are hard to come by. They merely open the door to the reader’s interest level. After that, you’d better have some decent back cover copy and great interior content.
Catchy titles (like the one above) do work, Small is the New Big, by Seth Godin, Stop Screaming at the Microwave, by Mary LoVerde, How Executives Fail: 25 Recipes to Sabotage Your Career, by Lee Thayer, are guaranteed to grab a reader’s attention. But catchy does not sell the book. Once a reader has looked at the title, you want that reader to turn the book over and review your custom back cover. A custom back cover carries the front cover design around to the back and adds details about the book and the author and generally include testimonials—the “real” stuff of the book.
In the POD (Print On Demand) world, we allow authors more control over this. After all, you’re paying for services to create your book. You should be able to choose the title and back cover copy. However, remember that most POD firms want the book to sell. If you choose something totally outrageous and crazy, along with cover content that doesn’t match the message in the book, they’ll guide you on the correct title and back cover copy. If you insist on a title and cover copy that is inappropriate, a good POD firm will shake your hand and send you away. After all, they have a reputation to uphold, exactly like publishers in New York.
Initial title creation can be frustrating, especially when you involve several other people, including your editor, your agent, and your publisher. You may want something catchy and clever, while your traditional publishing editor wants something informative, a “this-is-what-the-book-is-about” kind of title. Don’t be disappointed if this happens. Those titles work, too. For instance, A Woman’s Guide to the Language of Success by Phyllis Mindell, The Wealthy Speaker by Jane Atkinson, Complete Publicity Plans by Sandra Beckwith, all tell you what you’re getting at first glance.
If you prefer the catchy, creative title and your editor nudges you towards the more informative title, maybe you can compromise. In the end, both of you should be able to decide what’s best for the book and the audience because, in the end, it’s not about you and the publisher, it’s about the readers.
Once you have your title, the back cover copy will be key in grabbing reader attention. The elements of the back cover include a blurb about the book, two or three sentences; a blurb about the author, even less sentences – let them read your full bio inside the book; testimonials, which you get by sending pre-publication galleys to folks you’d like testimonials from; and the author’s picture. Hard cover books that come with a book jacket usually have the author’s picture on the inside back flap.
With all of this in place, you have the possibility of a sale. If your reader liked the title enough to turn the book over, and if she liked what she saw on the back cover, she probably opened the book to read some of the content. By then, she is in a good mood. You’ve won her over by creating a great title and opening the door to the book’s message with a peek about the content on the back cover.
To create the title that works for you and your book, experiment, brainstorm, and be flexible. Sometimes, that great title you thought up at the beginning of the project turns out to be a really bad title, in the end. It’s okay to try and stand out from the crowd, but choose your words wisely, according to the needs and wants of your audience. Be one with your readers, and your title will call them from across the room.