This month my friend, client and colleague Joe Sabah graciously contributed this article on how to create book titles. Sometimes independent and self-publishers struggle with this process, and Joe has offered some helpful tips. Even though this article was written in 2006, it is very applicable today.
Why does one book become a best seller while another flops?
Consider this title: Inside the Ropes. A coffee table book priced at $40 with hardly any sales.
Before we go on, what do you think Inside the Ropes is about? First answer from many people would be Boxing.
When the author was asked “What’s it about?” she answered “Of course, everyone knows that Inside the Ropes refers to the ropes which block off the gallery of the golf course at the LPGA, the Ladies Professional Golf Association.”
Only when she put a sticker on the cover “All about the LPGA” was she able to salvage this book. Of course my friend, John Hammond, asked kidding, “Does LPGA stand for Liquid Petroleum Gas Association?”
Here’s the Joe Sabah rule of a good (or better yet a GREAT) book title. If the prospective buyer/reader has to ask “What’s it about?” you’ve got the wrong title.
Your title should have them saying “I want to buy/read this book.” or “Where can I buy this book?”
We’ve all heard the expression “You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.” This applies to book titles as well as appearance.
I came out of the Dale Carnegie era. In the middle 1950s I enrolled in both his courses (The Dale Course and the Dale Carnegie Sales Course). The textbook for his most popular course is How to Win Friends and Influence People. Think about this. Dale wrote this book in 1937. It outsold every book except the Bible. In Denver, CO at the Tattered Cover Book Store, one of the largest in the nation, How to Win Friends and Influence People was recently listed in the top 5. Not bad for a book written nearly 70 years ago.
Key #1 on How to Create Book Titles: Include Benefits in the Title
In addition to perfect timing (right after the depression), the title has TWO BENEFITS, winning friends and influencing people. That is key #1 to creating a title that sizzles and sells. You must offer the buyer/reader benefits on why he/she should buy your book.
What benefit does your book offer your reader? Will it help them grow hair, lose weight, improve their love life, make more money?
Here’s a homework assignment for you. On your next trip to the grocery store buy a copy of the National Enquirer, Reader’s Digest, Cosmo, O, Redbook and Quick and Simple. (Yes, they are tax deductible for business research purposes). These publications are outstanding examples, each with dozens of titles that SELL. Study them well.
Carnegie followed with book #2 How to Stop Worrying and Start Living. Another bestseller. Again you will notice the formula. It starts out with “How To” and includes two benefits.
When my son Joe was about 10 he commented to my adult friends “My dad will buy any book the title that begins with ‘How to’.” You know he’s right. By the way what do your own bookshelves reveal about you?
Key #2 on How to Create Book Titles: Consider a “How to” Title for Your Book
I searched our local library via the Internet and found more than 5,700 books in print whose titles begin with How to. Key #2 is to consider a “How to” title for your book or else the subtitle for your book. In Amazon and Google the numbers are even higher.
So it was a natural that my first seminar was titled How to Get the Job You Want. Later I decided I could do better than that and changed it to How to Get the Job You REALLY Want. Attendance increased.
The seminar (and subsequent book) really took off when I added . . . and Get Employers to Call You.
This new title How to Get the Job You Really Want and Get Employers to Call You has sold more than $357,000 in book sales ALL at full retail.
I was on a roll. Book #2 came out How to Get On Radio Talk Shows All Across America Without Leaving Your Home or Office. Followed by #3 Have Fun * Make Money * Stay Home: Building Your Successful Home based Business.
Again, Benefits, Benefits, Benefits. This is the key to a GREAT book title. Offer your buyer/reader lots of benefits.
Do Your Own Market Research
Now let’s get to work. Here’s the formula to help YOU create YOUR book title that sizzles and sells. It’s called market research.
First ask six to eight friends over for dinner and a brainstorming session. Yes, you feed them first. It would be best to invite an impartial person to moderate the event because you are too close to your title.
Next without any explanation, read your title to your friends, repeat it a second time. Then ask them to vote (with a show of hands) “How many of you would give this a 10, 9, 8, 7 etc.” This will give you the pulse of your audience.
Ask for feedback “Why did you give this an 8?” “Why did you give this a 2?” Remember people love to give their opinions. There are companies who charge big money for surveying what people want.
Next step is to ask your audience for ideas to strengthen your title. By this time you will have come up with 5-10 titles.
Last step type these 5-10 titles out on a sheet of paper and fax them to 12 other friends. Ask these people to circle the ONE BEST TITLE that they would consider buying. Then ask them to fax the result back to you.
You will always want to survey your local bookstore manager or owner and ask for their opinions. Also check Books in Print for titles that may be close to what you are considering.
This formula will work . . if you do. Get started today. Create the title of your next best seller.
© 2006, Joe Sabah, Pacesetter Publications
Joe Sabah has appeared as a guest on 720 radio talk shows. He sold more than $376,500 worth of books. For a free report on How to Get On Radio Talk Shows All Across America Without Leaving Your Home or Office, call Joe at 303-722-7200, or email Joe@JoeSabah.com
I just designed the cover and interior of the 5th printing of Joe’s book. Click on the image to go to Joe’s website where you can order a copy for yourself.