Saturday, December 6, 2008

What's an Author Like You Doing with a Book Title Like That?!

What's an Author Like You Doing with a Book Title Like That?!

5 Ways to Fix Your Book-Title Blind Spots

By Susan Kendrick

Book cover projects seem to come in waves here. This was the week for otherwise highly intelligent consultants who are putting their expertise into new books ... to have landed on some really poor book titles.

Again, the reason this is frustrating to see is that these individuals and their manuscripts are vigorous, sharp, focused, informative, and downright fascinating. This is in complete contrast to their proposed book titles, which were either dull, confusing, misleading, meaningless, jargon-filled, or all of the above. In other words, there was a complete disconnect between the books and the book titles. Not only are their books at risk, but also their businesses, reputations, and future prospects, not to mention the money spent on publishing a book with a go-nowhere book title.

Of course, showing up with poor book title is not a big deal, unless ...

... you are sold on that title, like these authors were. In fact, they were contacting us because they were ready to move onto their back cover copy and then book cover design. Great move. They understand that your back cover copy is the foundation of your book branding and marketing efforts. But, they had definite blind spots about their book titles.

Fortunately, these authors are now rethinking their book titles. I would tell you their original titles, except that they are now going through a makeover, and because these authors deserve to have their new book titles be the first thing the world knows about them -- not what almost happened.

So, what went wrong and how can you avoid blind spots when it comes to your book title?

The following five tips will help you evaluate your book title. These tips aren't about how to come up with a great title, but how to at least avoid settling on a bad one, which is a good place to start. Remember that ideally your book cover will pave the way to book sales, new business, attracting your ideal client, getting the media attention you want, and more. Here's what New York publicist, Rick Frishman says: "The way your book is packaged tells us a lot about you and your message. Bring us something we can sell. Give us a book cover that can help make that happen! "

You can be the expert on your topic and still not be ready to boil that down into the few words that will make people get and want what you have to offer. And, that's OK. Your job inside the book is to expand on your topic; the job on the cover is to condense that into a few words that sell.

Try the following tips for getting a reality check on your book title ideas:

- Walk through a bookstore and browse Amazon
Find the section for books in your category. Look around. You know what catches your eye, especially those book titles that have such great billboard effect. See what draws you in. Does your book title have that same power? If you saw your title on the shelf next to these other titles, would you be drawn to it? Now, analyze the book titles you like best. Is there a certain kind of action word, the word "your," or some twist on a phrase that make them so appealing? Raise the bar on your own book and start brainstorming better titles.

- Test your book title on Google AdWords
This is proven way for getting a completely unbiased, real-time response to your book title, from people who are interested in and looking for resources on your topic. You can even set up two book-title variations and test them against each other to see which one generates more clicks. You can easily turn your ad on and off to learn what you need to know while you monitor and control costs. Used correctly, this pay-per-click service is an invaluable tool for testing book titles, subtitles, taglines, headlines, and more.

- Check out the New York Times Bestseller List
The New York Times Bestseller list is primarily based on bookstore sales at hundreds of independent booksellers nationwide. In other words, people had to hear about and care enough about a book to go to a book store and put their money on the counter to buy it. Would your book title achieve this same effect? Of course, a lot of marketing goes into most of the books that make it big, but that usually starts with the process of deciding on the title--a process anyone can master. For example, a recent New York Times bestseller with a title that was tested on Google AdWords is Tim Ferriss's The 4-Hour Work Week. Enough said.

- Listen to NPR and watch TV talk shows
Morning TV talk shows include interviews with book authors. National Public Radio, NPR, also does many features on new books. Listen to these hosts and the authors discuss these books on the air, or listen to these broadcasts online. Can you imagine your book getting this kind of attention or sounding this good in an interview? Just like with New York Times bestsellers, books do not rise to the top by their book titles alone. But, a poor title can kill your chances of even getting in the door. Listen to what books are being talked about and ask yourself if your title would help your book make the cut.

- Trust your gut ... really
When it comes to your book title, do NOT ignore those feelings of self-doubt, worry, or uncertainty. If you think you can do better, you probably can.

If you think your book title may be at risk or want an evaluation to help you identify your potential book-title blind spots, email us at or call us at 1-888-634-4120.

Happy Publishing!

© Copyright 2008, Susan Kendrick, Write to Your Market, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 1-715-634-4120.