whats a good title for my book


 

Back when I was an in-house editor at Perigee Books and later, HarperCollins, I made a point of checking the bestseller lists not just to see what books were selling but to get title ideas. There are some tricks to coming up with titles that will grab people’s attention and make them stay focused long enough to read the subtitle of your nonfiction book. Here are some examples I pulled from a bestselling business books list:

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. A classic, this book uses a number in the title to help readers feel they’ll get clear, useable information that won’t overwhelm them. You’ve probably also seen titles like The 7 Spiritual Laws of Success and The 5 Love Languages. In addition to using a number in your title, you want to use positive words that inspire people. Don’t we all want to be “highly effective,” achieve success, and be adept not just at speaking the language of love but all five of them?

Dare to Lead and Girl, Stop Apologizing! Strong verbs (dare! stop!) that are calls to action help engage readers’ interest right away.

How to Win Friends and Influence People. One of my favorite classic self-help books, Dale Carnegie’s “how to” guide reminds us that the words “how to” continue to be strong in titles. On YouTube, Amazon, or a search engine, do you type in or dictate “how to” plus “cook a perfect omelet,” “write a business plan”? I’ll bet you’ve done it. You can use “how to” in your title or your subtitle. You’ll be in good company!

The Happiness Advantage, Atomic Habits, and Unlimited Memory. Intriguing promises using strong nouns and adjectives can get a potential book buyer to read further. “Habit” is a terrific noun: People love developing, changing, and adopting habits, replacing the old ones with new ones. Who doesn’t want an advantage? Intrigue your reader with a promise of what they can achieve if they read your book: new habits, advantages, not just improved memory but unlimited memory. A thesaurus can help you strengthen your nouns and adjectives, helping you create an intriguing, enticing title.

Of course, you want a title no one else is using, so here’s a trick. Turn verbs into their -ing forms: use  “daring” instead of “dare,” and “stopping” instead of “stop.” You can do the opposite, too: “winning” could be turned into “win,” “discovering” can become “discover,” and so on.

What should you avoid? Negativity in a title. Sometimes, people will find a negative title appealing: Stop Being a Jerk: How You Can Be Nicer to the People in Your Life is a book many people need, but are they going to buy it? Or are they more like to to buy How to Win Friends and Influence People? I’d buy The Happiness Advantage before I’d buy The Disadvantages of Unhappiness, wouldn’t you?

Also, avoid words people are unfamiliar with and find hard to pronounce. I regret years ago agreeing to a book title called Running to Maputo. It was a marvelous, uplifting memoir by a South African activist who chronicled a year of his life recovering from being nearly killed by a car bomb. (He was on his way to do his daily run at a place called Maputo.) The concept was great—it was the tale of how a man slowed down, was fully present in the healing process, and then a year later was able to meet that simple goal he had the day he nearly died. But the word “Maputo” and the confusing title caused too many people to scratch their head. Now, you might be thinking, “Don’t people like new words?” Sometimes, yes. If the subtitle explains the word, it can be intriguing without being off-putting.

Strong title ideas book titles words

 

If you’re working on titles for your book, I hope you will play with these ideas and see if you can’t come up with a terrific title that’s an improvement on the one you have. The next step, of course, is to see if anyone has a book title too close to yours or if someone else has already snapped up the .com address for that combination of words. (If they have, don’t get a .net. If MyAwesomeTitle.com is taken, it would be better to own MyAwesomeTitleBook.com than MyAwesomeTitle.net)

Need some help with titling, conceptualizing, and writing your book? You might want to book a one-hour consultation call with me or some coaching sessions. Contact me and let me know where you’re stuck on your journey from an idea to a published book.

whats a good title for my book


 

During the process of beginning to write your nonfiction book, you’ll want to start thinking about titles. I find that at least having a working title will allow you to stay focused on what you want in the book and what you can skip. If you have a general title such as “Surviving the Worst,” “Living Fully,” or “My Memoir of Being a Child Prodigy,” it will be easy to become lost in the writing process. You’ll write and write until you say, “Oh boy. I have no idea where I’m going with this!” Sure, start writing. See how it feels. But soon you’ll wonder, “What belongs in this book? What’s my focus?” That’s when you need to consider titling your nonfiction book with help from the Internet. It will focus and motivate you!

Once you have started writing and shaping key scenes or sections of the book, you need to improve on any working title that is too general, like the ones above. Think about word combinations that capture the heart and soul of your mind-body-spirit nonfiction book. Sure, you may be writing a memoir about being a child prodigy, but why are you writing it? Because you had to learn that “Good Enough Is Good Enough” and the focus of your memoir is on letting go of perfectionism imposed upon you by your parents? Or maybe you ended up becoming a Buddhist practicing non-attachment and now, as a parent of a prodigy yourself, you want to write a short, self-published self-help book or life lessons book incorporating your stories of being a child and being a parent, offering advice to other parents. And let’s say a quick Internet search reveals no one has used that title Good Enough Is Good Enough except in one article and certainly not for a book. Yes, you have yourself a title for now. If you like, reserve the URL (www.GoodEnoughIsGoodEnough.com) and a Facebook page with that title. (By the way, that short, self-published book can later be expanded into a longer book, and you might have enough of a fan base for The Nonattached Parent or Good Enough Is Good Enough to get a book deal at that point.)

Or let’s say you want to write an inspirational self-help book and your working title is “Living Fully.” That’s much too general for a book title. Before you even do a search for it, ask yourself, “What sets my self-help book apart from the hundreds of thousands of inspirational self-help books in print? What promise do I offer that no one else does?” Perhaps the key original exercise, or practice, in your potential self-help book on living fully is a habit of expressing gratitude every day to at least one person, whether you know them well or not. That’s not a lot to build a book around, at least on first glance. But what if you blogged about the experience daily for a year and ended up with eight lessons you learned about practicing gratitude? Now you could come up with a title with the number 8 in it—Eight Ways to Become More Grateful could be your working title, or Eight Principles of Gratitude may be possibilities. Maybe you can explain in the book that you felt that to live fully, you needed to feel more grateful for the blessings of your life. Now your title isn’t “Live Fully” and your book isn’t a general book with a vague promise that doesn’t speak to anyone specific. Instead, it’s a book called The Gratitude Project: Eight Principles for Feeling Grateful and Blessed, and you have identified your audience: People who aspire to practice gratitude, and feel more positive and grateful, but need help learning how to do it. Your personal stories will flesh out a simple list that could be an article they find on the Internet, and you now are on your way to establish credibility as an expert in learning how to feel more grateful.

Of course, if an Internet search shows your title was already used for a book, play with it. Maybe your title will be The Thankfulness Project: A Year of Saying Thank You Each Day, or Everyday Thankfulness, or Everyday Gratitude, or “Today, I Say Thank You”–the possibilities begin suggesting themselves when you get more specific about what your book’s key message and idea is. Reid Tracy, CEO of Hay House, says, “A book for everyone is a book for no one.” Everyone wants to live fully–or at least, that vague promise would sound pleasant to just about anyone. But does everyone want to know about the “Thankfulness Project” or how to experience “Everyday Gratitude”? No–you have a specific audience now, with a specific problem your book addresses in a practical way: How to become more grateful or thankful through a practice or habit that is part of a larger program and message about the value of practicing gratitude daily. You can start writing stories about your original response to the standard advice to “be more grateful” and putting yourself into your book.

So yes, go ahead and skip the titling process to start writing if you’ve written nothing, or only a few pages or even just a chapter or so. But as you write more, begin to think about what your book is about, specifically, and what promise it offers to an audience with a need. Try to capture that idea in a few words. And pick up your mobile device and ask:

OK, Google, are there any memoirs on overcoming perfectionism?
Siri, how can I feel more grateful?

nonfiction title self-help book memoir just right

Your mind/body/spirit nonfiction title needs to be just right for YOU!

 

Now, take a look at the top links that come up. How can you compete with those articles or books to get people’s attention? What’s different about your experiences and what you have to say that will make people interested in the topic check you out? How will you get people to discover your book (and buy it!) rather than gravitate toward someone else’s website, blog, social media account, or book page? Keep in mind that when it comes to memoir and self-help, people will often buy more than one book on a topic, so don’t worry too much if your book isn’t the most original book on the face of the planet. Even so, you have to be a part of your book, sharing your story and your voice. And you have to be reflected in the title you pick. It has to feel right for you.

Try out your titles on your friends and family, and anyone who knows your work in this area. Listen thoughtfully to their feedback. And keep trying for that “just right” title that fits your book, your message, and your stories. Then, use the Internet to see if it’s original enough to work for your book. If it is, plant your flag in the ground by saving the website address (which costs about ten dollars) and/or a Facebook page in that name.

Now that you have your title, you’re ready to start writing an article of 600 to 800 words on that topic. Your article can be posted on your blog and shared on social media. Congratulations! You have a title you’re happy with. You can always change your title later, but this step in the titling process can be extremely motivating and helpful for solidifying your title. And Siri, Google, and the Internet were helpful companions, weren’t they?

As always, feel free to ask me any questions or leave a comment! And if you’re interested in getting my help with your book, check out my services page. I am doing vision plans right now, helping authors who have a book proposal to maximize its potential for getting a book deal or for guiding them in writing and marketing their own self-published mind/body/spirit nonfiction book.