â€śDonâ€™t judge a book by its titleâ€ťâ€”but thatâ€™s what we do when weâ€™re looking at books and considering whether to buy them. A title can make or break your book. Here are three utterly mindblowing tips for titling a nonfiction book.
1. Think holistically. Your title, subtitle, and jacket work together to sell your book. Hereâ€™s a book I coauthored that got all three right. Raising a Sensory Smart Child is clearly is aimed at parents (hence â€śchildâ€ť in the title and subtitle, and “raising a … child”). The title presents an intriguing concept (what are â€śsensory smartsâ€ť?). And the jacket features a happy, active child that has emotional appeal to parents who are stressed out and worried and want their child to be joyous and full of life. Sensory kids often canâ€™t sit still so the picture puts a positive spin on that phenomenon.
2. Speak to the heart and mind. A great title will make you laugh, intrigue you, touch your heartâ€”in short, it will speak to your mind and your heart. Here are some of my favorites:
That Crumpled Paper Was Due Last Week. If you laugh and say, â€śYep, thatâ€™s my kid,â€ť you know you have to check it out, right?
Eat More, Weigh Less. My boss at HarperCollins, editor-in-chief Susan Moldow, acquired this New York Times bestseller by Dr. Dean Ornish. We used to joke about variations such as â€śWork Less, Earn More.â€ť Talk about a simple, compelling promise!
Mindblowing Sex in the Real World. The author, Sari Locker, PhD, wanted a twist on “The Real World,” which was an MTV hit at when the book was in production (I was the acquisitions editor). I thought a contrast would be good and came up with the word â€śmindblowing.â€ť One of the suits at the publisher pushed hard against it but we pushed back. The book and title were hits, and the title was mentioned as recently as this year in the New York Times. That is a title with staying power! (Pun intended.)
3. Switch It Up. Bev West, my coauthor and cousin, came up with â€ścinema therapyâ€ť and â€śmood moviesâ€ť or â€śmovies to match your mood.â€ť Our book proposalâ€™s cover sheet shows what we settled on. Someone in-house at Dell, our book publisher, suggested making â€ścinema therapyâ€ť one word, Cinematherapy, and using it as the title, relegating the â€śmood moviesâ€ť concept to the subtitle. We also wrestled with â€śgirlâ€ť vs. â€śgalâ€ť and other alternatives (â€śgirlfriendâ€™s guideâ€ť was taken). Contrast the proposal title/subtitle to the final jacket.
So as youâ€™re titling, start picturing your bookâ€™s jacket. Look at other booksâ€”not just online but in a bookstore. Look at their jackets. Which ones do you respond to, and why? What are the title and jacket trends in your genre? Do you want to match them or buck them?
Do you have a one- to three-word â€śhookâ€ť that works for your brand and your book? Cinematherapy spawned Bibliotherapy, Advanced Cinematherapy, Cinematherapy for Lovers, Cinematherapy for the Soul, Cinematherapy Goes to the Oscars, Gay Cinematherapy, TVTherapy, and Culinarytherapy. How can you use your â€śhookâ€ť within your title as in your brand to emotionally engage and intrigue readers?