books


 

Nonfiction authors typically start writing chapter titles that are as vanilla as can be, but ultimately, you want to consider chapter titles that are engaging for the reader. At the same time, you don’t want your chapter titles to be so creative that someone looking at the list of contents (also known as the table of contents or just “Contents”) to have no clue what’s in your book!

Here’s a solution: You can use a clever chapter title followed by a subtitle that explains the concept a little more clearly.

In Cinematherapy, my coauthor Bev West and I had a chapter called: “I Hate My Life and I’m Moving to Bora Bora: Seeking Greener Pastures Movies.” True, you might not know what Seeking Greener Pastures Movies are, but when you look at all the chapter titles, you can see that each is around a particular theme: Mother Issues Movies, Martyr Syndrome Movies, and so on.

You can use the same trick for headers within the book. In Raising a Sensory Smart Child, one of the headers in the chapter on improving speech skills and picky eating reads “You Say Potato and I Say Topahhhhhhuuuduh”: Problems with Motor Planning”

Using an intriguing quotation within a chapter title or a header is a great way to be provocative and intriguing, but don’t sacrifice clarity. 

Writing a memoir? Often, memoir chapters don’t have titles and sections within chapters don’t have headers, but here’s your chance to get creative. You never know what title or header might grab someone’s attention. Think about taking an interesting image from a story you tell, such as “The Purple Rabbit” or “Twelve Pretzels.” Set up a dilemma or intrigue: “The Purple Rabbit’s Whereabouts” or “Twelve Pretzels and a Warning.” 

You might also use a quotation—I always loved the sound of “Bora Bora” and think that was the perfect word to use in our funny quote related to movies about seeking greener pastures and getting away from frustrating situations. Think about things you’ve said or a client has said that sum up a concept in an interesting way. Think of things you typically say to your followers and clients. 

chapter one chapter titles engaging nonfiction headers titles photo typewriter

 

You can also do a spin on a common saying or cliche. How about: “You Got This (Unless You Need to Freak Out First, In Which Case, Read This Chapter NOW)”?

Or, “Plays Shockingly Well with Others: Five Keys to Improve Your Collaboration Skills.” 

Which comes first, the clever section header or the section itself? You decide. But I think you’ll find it’s a good exercise to at least consider jazzing up your chapter and header titles.

Need some help with your book as you write it and set up your plan to get it published? Contact me about my services as a developmental editor, ghostwriter, and book publishing consultant.

 

guide to writing engaging chapter titles header titles

books


 

If you want to be seen as an expert on the topic of your book, you need to start thinking about how you will build your author platform with speaking engagements that help brand you even as you’re working out your ideas publicly and getting known.

 

Which came first, the speaking engagement or the book? Either, depending on what your expertise is. What are you an expert on, and how would you pitch yourself to someone who books speakers at a local public library, your community’s recreation department, a wellness center, a church, a school, a store, a YMCA or similar community center, or elsewhere? You might speak about how to effectively parent middle schoolers—maybe you are a therapist who specializes in treating kids of this age. You might speak about being a survivor of a particular type of trauma and what helped you to move past that experience. Begin to tell your story or give your presentation locally, and ask a good friend or two to attend and give you feedback. Criticism can be very tough when you’re starting out, so be sure to ask your friend to offer you three positive observations, even if it’s just comments like, “I liked the outfit you wore” or “Your PowerPoint presentation had some nice slides” or “You clearly are passionate about your topic.” Then ask for one piece of constructive criticism—and after that, be brave and ask for one more! Keep working at building your presentation skills and soliciting feedback. You can also ask your attendees to voluntarily fill out a form telling you what two things they found most enjoyable, valuable, or beneficial and one or two pieces of advice that might help you in the future. John Gray, author of the mega-bestseller Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, said that when he spoke about his topic (men and women’s different behaviors and perceptions within relationships), he paid attention to his audience members’ body language. If they leaned forward with interest, he knew that what he was saying was intriguing them and resonating for them. If they crossed their arms or sat back or frowned, something wasn’t working. All that valuable feedback helped him work out his ideas that ended up in his book.

 

Put yourself in the shoes of someone in your audience.  What would make them take time out of their busy lives to see you speak—and what title for your speech would make them think, “Oh, I should check that out!”? Think about what urgent problem they might have that you could help solve (middle schoolers and their moodiness, for example!). Think about how you can inspire them with practical ideas for what allowed you to overcome trauma and create a better life for yourself.

Next, imagine you could speak on three specific topics related to your expertise. What would they be? How would you describe them in a paragraph? For example, I can speaking on Parenting with Sensory Smarts, Sensory Smarts at School, and Practical Tips for Helping Kids with Sensory Issues at Home, at School, and Away. The first and third topics are appropriate for an audience of parents, while the second would appeal to parents, educators, and school administrators. If I wanted to speak to parents, I would start looking for where parents gather and listen to lectures or attend short workshops. Is there a series through a Y or a church, for example?

Identifying what you can speak about, writing your speech, and planning to present it to an audience at a specific venue can help you start identifying your core areas of expertise that you want to get across in the book you will write. Then aim to book a speaking engagement, just one, to get started. And be sure to get out the word about your speaking engagement using social media.

 

Questions? Comments? Let me know, because I hope my advice helps you to build your author platform and brand yourself with a book.

 

 

book speaking engagements branding

Build your author platform with speaking engagements.