Does Your Book Have the Right Title?

UPDATED 10/31/2014

Which collection of keywords can you put together to attract your the attention of your readers while giving a realistic expectation of what they can expect from the message contained by the book’s pages? Answering this question is one of the hardest parts about writing a book.

After scouring the web for practical tips from seasoned literary professionals, I finally found three independent blogs that produce a very clever book titling strategy when they are combined together.

Strategies to Help You Create a List of Title Options

Literary consultant Stephanie J. Hale shared the following book title tips in a two-part blog post entitled “How to Choose a Bestselling Book Title-Part 1 and “Part 2.”

  • Include “How-to” in your title
  • Make a big promise (but your book’s contents better deliver on the promise)
  • Command your readers (but only command them to do something they’ll most likely want to do like “Think and Grow Rich.”)
  • Offer your top benefit in the book title (the top benefit of reading the book that is)
  • Ask a question
  • Be provocative
  • Be outrageous
  • Use words that arouse intrigue or curiosity
  • Use pictures or strong visual images to provoke your audience
  • Use alliteration, rhyme or repetition

I appreciate her tips almost as much as I love her examples. If you want to learn more about how to put any of the tips above into action for your book title, click on the links above to read her original posts.

Incorporate Options with Bestselling Book Title Trends

Lucinda Literary’s blog takes a different approach towards helping authors choose a great book title. Lucinda studied the New York Time’s bestseller’s list and tracked which phrases the bestsellers had in common. I will warn you that it may not be what you expect.

Beside each bestselling phrase you will notice the number of bestselling titles that tend to include that phrase:

  • Guide to, Ways to, How to1,579,015 / 195,516 / 645,521
  • Perfect: 745,141
  • You/Your438,059 / 472,518
  • Paris: 159,857
  • Lives/Life1,481,047 / 1,480,996 
  • Choice/Choose68,347 /9,376
  • Start/Start-Up48,093 / 335,574
  • Happiness:32,686

The post was last updated in January 2013, but the insight is still worth considering as you try to narrow down your book title options. If you follow the link above and visit the original post you will also find a listing of the most popular book categories that these titles compete in.

Narrow Your List Down to the Titles with These Key Characteristics

After sharing her story about how her publisher almost killed her book by giving it a horrible title, Diane Eble shares the following five characteristics of a bestselling title: 

  1. It arouses curiosity or emotion or engages the imagination.
  2. It states or at least hints at a benefit or promise.
  3. It calls out a specific audience.
  4. The title is memorable in some way.
  5. It uses keywords/phrases people search on the Internet.

Diane concludes by saying that no title will include all five of these characteristics, but that if you hit at any three of them you will have a great title.

A couple of the characteristics echo the strategies provided in the first blog, but I don’t consider it a bad thing when different sources give you similar information. If you click on the link above for this post you will see an invitation to ask the post author questions about choosing a great title and an opportunity to buy a special report on “How to Choose Your Bestselling Title.”

Final Thoughts:

There is no guarantee that if you use the tips above that you will produce a bestselling book title. In fact, there is no guarantee that by using the tips above that you will think of any book titles that you like.

My goal is to help you generate a list of possible titles that you love and narrow them down. The thesis-or the single sentence that concisely describes your book’s message-and your knowledge of what your audience wants, needs, and expects from your message will help you filter out the title candidates that either do not match your message or that do not match your audience.

After you get your list of book title candidates, the best way to choose a bestselling book title is actually to ask your target audience-or your potential buyers-which title they like best. If you are clever about it, you may actually turn it into a voting competition that you host on your social media accounts that helps you get exposure for your book before it is ever published. How do you like that for a practical marketing tip?

What strategy do you use to help you think of great titles?


Image by: DMahalko at en.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned.

Danielle Fetherson

Danielle helps aspiring authors become published authors. She believes that everyone has at least one book on the inside of them that can make a positive impact on someone else's life. If you have been thinking about writing a book, learn how to start your book today with the free resources at

One Comment:

  1. Thanks SO much for reading and picking up our post, Danielle! I hope writers find our experimental approach to picking titles helpful.