You want your book’s title to stand toe-to-toe with the great works of literature you see on the Amazon bestseller lists.
How to Win Friends and Influence People.
Start With Why.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
…these titles just seem perfect.
How can you craft a similarly perfect title for your book?
Did these bestselling authors stumble onto these great titles through sheer luck?
The answer catches most soon-to-be authors completely off guard.
Great book titles–especially in nonfiction–all follow the same formula.
And you can follow the same proven formula to create a book title that:
- Ranks well in Amazon
- Attracts your target readers
- Is downright catchy
I know this because this formula worked not only for my bestselling book, but it works on a daily basis for the authors we help at Best Seller Publishing.
And I’m going to reveal this behind-the-scenes formula to you in this post.
Why a Great Book Title Matters (Much More Than You Think It Does)
You already know people judge your book by its cover.
Heck, you probably even know people judge your book by its title.
But most aspiring authors aren’t aware that the title plays the biggest role out of ANYTHING ELSE in the buying process.
It directly communicates the value readers will receive by buying and reading your book.
And that alone has the power to make your book a failure or a massive success.
Just ask Naura Hayden.
Her 1982 book Astrological Love flopped. But when she changed the title to How to Satisfy a Woman Every Time–And Have Her Beg for More!, the same book became a bestseller.
Your title is the most important component of your book.
A great cover can go a long way, but countless bestsellers have unbelievably basic covers with GREAT titles.
And, of course, the content in your book needs to be great. But no one will read it if the title doesn’t grab their attention.
That’s why it’s important to do the research and spend the time it takes to craft a truly great title for your book.
The Bestseller Book Title Formula: 3 Attributes ALL Great Book Titles Have
Great book titles always communicate some sort of benefit.
Good to Great.
Rich Dad Poor Dad.
Think and Grow Rich.
They quickly give the reader a picture of how the book will impact them.
This often comes in the form of a before and after (like some of the examples above) or a “how-to”.
But there’s a subtle nuance to this rule that many authors don’t realize.
Your subtitle, not your title, is actually one of the best places to market your book’s key benefits.
Because if you just take a casual glance at the bestsellers right now for business books, for example, some actually have somewhat vague titles.
Never Split the Difference.
Dare to Lead.
These may not conjure up any sort of emotion or clear benefit for a prospective reader on the surface.
But that comes in their subtitles.
Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones
Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It
Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts.
Take away the subtitles and the respective authors’ huge brands and there’s no way these books become bestsellers even with the exact same content.
And the same principles apply to your book’s title and subtitle.
Creating a Benefit-Focused Title or Subtitle
To create a benefit-focused title or subtitle, think of the ONE thing you want your readers to get out of your book.
I recommend doing 3 things to help you isolate the best benefits to consider from your book:
- List as many benefits of your book as possible
- Identify the most striking three to four benefits
- Ask what significant result these benefits tie into
There are a few other key strategies I recommend employing after these 3 steps that I discuss more in the “How to Come Up with Book Title Ideas” section below.
If a potential reader can’t figure out what your nonfiction book is about within about 5 seconds, your sales will suffer.
This means it can’t be:
- Too clever
- Incredibly long
- Or include more than one main idea
Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers is the perfect example of this principle.
The key concept of the book is condensed into a single word. And he uses his subtitle, The Story of Success, to drive home the benefit.
The best book titles aren’t complicated.
They communicate what the book is about in the most efficient way possible.
Making Your Book Title Simple
A helpful practice here is trying to summarize your book in as few words as possible. Start with a sentence, then try to distill the “big idea” into just a few words.
Continually cut unnecessary words until you’re left with only the essentials.
Think of your book title as your elevator pitch. But instead of an elevator ride, you only have about 5 seconds to communicate your idea.
People should be able to read your title and subtitle and understand the big idea and benefit almost immediately.
This principle is obvious on the surface, but worth diving deeper into because it’s connected to the first two principles on this list.
If you succeed in 1) communicating a benefit readers deeply desire and 2) doing so simply then your title is likely to be memorable.
Of course, there’s more to the equation than that, but that’s 80% of the battle.
The other 20% is leaning into elements of human psychology to make your title even more “sticky”.
Making Your Title “Sticky”
There are entire books on the subject–like Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath (great title by the way), but here are a few powerful strategies to consider:
- Use Alliteration – people are more likely to remember titles with alliteration (examples: The Great Gatsby, Pride and Prejudice).
- Make It Unexpected – ideas that “go against the grain” or catch people off guard tend to be remembered (example: The 4-Hour Work Week).
- Make a Claim – you and I tend to remember outrageous claims in commercials or that we overhear in public – you can leverage this in your book title if your claim is true. This works especially well if you’re making a claim against a popular ideology (example: Willpower Doesn’t Work: Discover the Hidden Keys to Success).
How to Come Up with Book Title Ideas: 4 Highly Effective Tips
1. Talk to your target readers.
Your target readers are your North Star. They’ll not only help you come up with a great book title, but also help you validate your book idea, help you know what your book should cover, and more.
And one of the most overlooked brainstorming techniques for book titles is researching other books your target readers read.
This means talking with a few people who fit your target avatar–asking them what other books they read.
Make a list of every book they say. Note any patterns in the benefits, memorability, and more for each title.
You’re looking for the types of titles that attract their attention.
And there’s no better way to figure this out than to actually talk to some of your target readers.
2. Research bestsellers in your genre.
Bestsellers are bestsellers for a reason.
And a huge part of that reason tends to be the title (remember Naura Hayden).
So, take the information you learn from Tip #1 and research the bestsellers in your category.
Look for trends with their titles and subtitles to see if certain angles seem to resonate best with your target readers.
There’s not a hard and fast rule for how many titles you should study–you’re mainly on the hunt for patterns.
So, start with the top 25-50 books in your target category. You can even expand to secondary categories as needed.
Try to find trends with the:
- Words used
- Benefits promoted
- Positioning of the books as a whole
This will give you incredible insight into what people in your genre respond to so you can incorporate that into your title.
3. Keyword research.
Your nonfiction book needs to be “searchable”.
And that means you need to think of what keywords people might use to find your book in search engines like Amazon and Google.
While finding some of the most searched keywords in your genre, you’ll no doubt get some great ideas for different angles you can use in your book title.
For example, if you’re writing a book about productivity, you may find some of the most popular keywords to be things like:
- How to be more productive
- How to be more efficient
- Productivity tips
These can be words you try to incorporate into your title.
But don’t go overboard here.
The goal isn’t to “stuff” keywords so you can show up better in search engines.
Keywords should be an enhancement–they aren’t the goal themselves.
Ultimately, your book title should be 100% focused on grabbing your target audience’s attention.
4. Brainstorm problems and solutions.
Taking Tip #1 further, another helpful exercise is brainstorming all of the possible problems your target readers have that your book will solve.
For example, let’s say you’re writing a book that helps real estate agents grow their businesses.
There are tons of problems–big and small–your book addresses.
- Lead generation
- Client retention
…the list could go on and on.
Pulling all of these categories out of your book can help you think through all the different benefits you could use in your title or subtitle.
What’s Next After Finding a Great Title?
Nailing down a powerful book title is only the beginning–even if you’ve already written your book.
Now you have to publish and sell it.
And for many authors, this is where things fall apart.
There are so many different book promotion tactics you can use and very little information available on which will actually work for your specific situation.
And the last thing you want after all this work is a book launch that completely flops.
That’s one of the reasons I decided to write my book, Publish. Promote. Profit.
Over the years of helping authors become bestsellers (including myself), I’ve realized there is a repeatable framework authors can use to see incredible results.
And I reveal that framework in my book.