While most of us agree with the adage “You can’t judge a book by its cover,” we can also agree that a nice cover still helps the book’s overall appeal. When we walk into a library or bookstore — physical or digital — our eyes feast on the colorful covers and tantalizing titles authors hope will entice readers into buying their work. Yet, many books are passed over because the first impression of the work didn’t entice us. There is only one opportunity to make a first impression, so it’s important to make it count. The best way to do this is to feed readers’ curiosity and interest with an attractive title for your work. Below are some guidelines to help with the process of creating such a title.

The best book titles are concise and high-concept, yet still give the reader a taste of the content and intent of the work. Things to consider include:

  • Use a subtitle if the title doesn’t fully encompass the book’s content. For example, President Obama’s book is called “The Audacity of Hope,” but that title is closely followed by “Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream.” The first part of the title is catchy, and the second part better explains the book’s content.
  • Choose the theme or most significant moment of your work and use that to title your book, like the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series encompasses the type of work you’ll find in its pages. However, the title should not mislead people about the content contained in the book.
  • Don’t title your work with something you can’t back up with your content. If you are not positive that what you are saying is the best information on the subject, or the most radical or new, then don’t give your readers false hope.
  • Check to see if there are multiple works that already bear the title you want to use. If so, don’t use that title; you don’t want your work to get lost in the mix.
  • Quirky is okay! A weird title that still relates to the content makes readers pause and think, “Did I read that right? Let me look again.” That second glance could be the key to readers buying the material.
  • Make sure your title is memorable. If you can’t remember what the title is, neither will anyone else.
  • Pick a search phrase. If your potential customers are surfing the Internet for “proven managerial success techniques” and that is what your book is about, then title your book with that phrase so it pops up in the search engine listings.

Get your title right before publishing it (in whatever format you chose), and you’ll keep everyone involved in the publishing process from adding their opinion into the mix. If you’ve narrowed the options down, but are still agonizing between two titles, consider A/B testing to finalize your decision. Visit this blog post on A/B testing for more information.

About the author

Rachel Rachel Brownlow is founder and CEO of Your Written Word LLC, a ghostwriting company that helps successful and aspiring business leaders take their ideas from conception to publication. She has written, edited, proofread, consulted and/or created publishing proposals for more than a dozen nonfiction books. She also contributes to a variety of magazines and publications, including the Austin Business Journal, Austin Monthly, NSIDE Magazine and Georgetown View Magazine. You can find more of her work at rachelbrownlow.com/portfolio.