Monday, November 19, 2007

Book Cover Coaching: Book Titles--Use Four-Letter Words

Book Title Strategy No. 4
Use Four-Letter Words (OK, Five)

By Susan Kendrick

Just as one word titles have great visual impact (Book Title Strategy No. 2), so do a few short four- or five-letter words. They possess that same authority and presence. They are the "Strong, Silent Type" of the book title world--all marketing muscle and no flab. They mean business. They make you look. They command attention and respect. You can't help but take in
these titles in at a glance and immediately want to
know more.

These titles also look good at any size

Because of the dimensions of a typical 6" x 9" book cover, short words can be used to create a vertically stacked title that works well with those cover dimensions. Even as an online "thumbnail" graphic, which is how most covers appear on websites, blogs, and Amazon, this short stack holds its power at any size to create a billboard look for your book.

Sold? Here are some examples.

To show you the visual "pop" of these short-word book titles--and maybe more importantly, to see what a major New York book PR firm looks for in the titles it promotes --take a look at the following Bestsellers on Rick Frishman's Planned Television Arts website.

__ New Ideas From Dead CEOs
__ 3-Hour Diet
__ The Birth Order Book
__ The Last Link

__ The Rule of Four
__ Evil Inc.
__ Big Bad Wolf

Will your book cover pass the PR test?

In a recent email exchange with Rick, here was his comment that came up about the importance of your cover: "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!"

Rick, president of Planned Television Arts, is also
executive vice president at Ruder Finn, and executive
publisher of Mega Book Publishing--a division of Morgan
James Publishing. Take a look at these website links to see how the marketability of your great content, starts with a great cover, AND how the title and subtitle is the foundation of that cover.

Now, imagine what could have happened to these titles

We often use and teach others to use a fill-in-the-blank exercise (several of these phrases together actually make up another one of our title strategies). One of these phrases, to get you to summarize your basic
message and think in sound bites, is:

This book is the ultimate guide to ______________________

Let's use New Ideas from Dead CEOs for this exercise as an example of how to go from a title of long words to short words. Imagine that this title started out like this:

Take 1
-- This book is the ultimate guide to ...
"Business Principles from the Corporate Legends Who Developed Them "

OK, that sums it up. But, keeping in mind that we want to find short words to say the same thing, so far we only have "from." The next round could go something like this:

Take 2 -- This book is the ultimate guide to ...
"Business Ideas from Legendary CEOs"

OK, so now we have substituted "ideas" for "principles" and "CEOs" for "Corporate." Notice how the process of tightening the message into shorter words is helped by being more specific each time as well. "Corporate" becomes "CEOs" specifically. And, if it already says "CEOs," does it really need to say "business"?

Todd Buchholz is known for his edgy take on things. So to bring his personality into the mix as well, let's move right to the edge with these words, too:

Take 3 -- this book is the ultimate guide to ...
"Ideas from Dead CEOs"

Almost there. What would really give this title some pop, make it stand out as the fresh new business book it is, and give it one final irresistible twist? Here it is--the paradox of "new" ideas from "dead" guys, getting the point across that these time-tested principles are still as relevant as ever:

Take 4 -- This book is the ultimate guide to ...
New Ideas from Dead CEOs

Now, stack each word on top of the other and see the final impact. The dark humor of the cover graphic completes the look ,without competing with the sheer word power of the title itself.

The Four-Letter-Word title strategy is one of many, and most stand-out titles represent a combination of these strategies--we use and teach at least 23. Now, look at that Bestsellers page again. There are examples of at least four other other kinds of title strategies. We'll cover these in coming articles. Now, Click Here to see what else Rick, Dan Poynter, John Kremer, Tom Antion, and seven authors have to say about the book marketing power of your book cover.

And, remember to check back here for more book title strategies over the next few weeks.

Questions? Please give us a call at 715-634-4120 or email

© Copyright 2007, Susan Kendrick, Write to Your Market, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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