"Look to Your Book"
By Susan Kendrick
For his book, "Swim With the Sharks (Without Being Eaten Alive)" Harvey Mackay reports that he hired a creative team to hold focus groups to generate possible titles. They included “Swim With the Sharks” among the 800 titles voted on in the final ballot!
Yes, many great book titles are painstakingly developed, and some just happen. But most are usually a combination of both--strategy and serendipity, science and art, logic and (dare I say it?) pure luck. For the strategy part of the equation, having a systematic process in place saves you time, money, and the aggravation of pages and pages of ideas that are going nowhere. Here, then, is the first of many title strategies you can confidently use to come up with a book title that has bestseller written all over it.
How to "Look To Your Book"
Manuscripts are one of the most overlooked sources for a great title. Either on your own or with help from someone else who can bring new eyes to your text, read through your Table of Contents, Introduction, Chapters, even a Foreword if you have one. You are not reading for content, but for individual words and phrases that capture the essence of your book in some compelling way.
For example, sometimes you can find in your own writing an especially bold, concise, or even poetic way of saying something. It may be a phrase that speaks to a need for your book. It may relate to a benefit of reading your book. It may not encompass your entire message, but it points to it in such a powerful or offbeat way that it suddenly jumps out at you. Again, having someone else look through your manuscript is helpful because they are seeing and hearing the language you use for the first time.
Next, look for words, phrases, or expressions that are uniquely yours. Without noticing, you may have coined a new term that will set you apart from everyone else writing on your topic. Look, for example, at bestselling books like "Freakonomics." A great chapter title or heading can also translate into a powerful book title. You have no doubt already spent time coming up with these. And, while no one by itself will summarize your entire book, one chapter title or heading can express a key point that becomes an anchor for your overall idea or approach.
Finally, look for vivid images in your text. "Swim with the sharks" is a great example. An image that like might come from your picturesque way of talking in your book. If you see an image, grab it and see if it can be used as a title. Again, it may not sum up your entire message, but it does give people a strong visual that they then associate with you and your book--a great first step toward creating a powerful brand.
One more place to look for words and phrases is in the testimonials you are collecting for your manuscript, or in advance reviews you are getting for your book, which may only be circulating under an adaquate working title for now. Like the Foreword, testimonials and reviews are written by other people who talk about you and your book differently than you do. They may see things that you don't or describe your message or approach in sharp, colorful ways. Look through their comments for words and phrases that could make a great title.
As a friend of mine used to say, and what I find to be true in most situations: "The solution is always close at hand." So, "Look to Your Book" for the title you need to bring your message to life. It's true, sometime people simply miss the obvious. To learn 13 ways you can sell your book using the one powerhouse book marketing tool most authors don't even consider, click here: http://www.writetoyourmarket.com/action2.html
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NEXT: The Title Strategy used by Bill Clinton's new book and other bestsellers.
© Copyright 2007, Susan Kendrick, Write to Your Market, Inc.