Titling your book is a towering intellectual achievement. A good title informs and persuades. It communicates your core message and convinces people to invest their precious time and money in your work.
I enjoy walking into a bookstore and simply browsing titles. The best titles send a thunderbolt of clarity directly to my eyeballs.
When you write a powerful title, the demigods of Confusion, Ambiguity, and Mediocrity tremble and cower.
Here’s what I’m reading right now about writing titles.
Go for ‘PINC’
Hyatt has a lot to say on this topic. And as the former Chairman and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers he’s qualified to talk.
In this post, Hyatt suggests that great book titles do at least one of the following:
- Make a promise
- Create intrigue
- Identify a need
- Simply state the content
He offers lots of examples.
‘Find a formula and copy it’
Nancy Friedman defies conventional wisdom, arguing that creating a title need not be hard work. Here she writes that most best sellers have titles that fall into 7 categories:
- The Power of One—1-word titles, such as Trump
- X and Y—2 words linked by and, such as Nickle and Dimed
- X, Y and Z—such as Guns, Germs, and Steel
- The X of Y—such as The Joy of Sex
- Verbing—titles that start with a gerund (verb form), such as Stumbling on Happiness
- It Takes a Proverb—freely stealing a cliché, such as It Takes a Village
- By the numbers—such as The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People
- How, What, When—such as How to Be Single, What to Expect When You’re Expecting, and When You Are Engulfed in Flames
Pick a number, select a topic, add a modifier
Though this post by Roger C. Parker is about marketing writing, it also applies to book titles. Some examples of Parker’s approach:
- 7 Investment Opportunities for Self-Employed Professionals
- 10 Questions to Ask Before Writing Your Next Speech
- 10-Step Makeover Program for Underperforming Landing Pages
Note that some people roll their eyes at this because list-based blog posts and articles are clichés. Fair point. And, clichés can still work.
Test your titles—and trust your judgment
Berkun acknowledges the contradictory advice about book titling and notes that titles don’t predict sales. He also suggests that you use A/B testing and polls to pick your title.
What usually passes the test, he says, is a title that’s:
- Easy and fast to say
In addition, good titles are those that an author can still stand after repeating them 5000 times. And, they match the soul of their books. This is where your gut instinct about a title—including one that tests well—still matters.