Presenting: A Title that Sells, Part 2

What do potential book buyers look at first? Your title. A jewel of information thanks to research done at Thomas Nelson Publishers and shared by Michael Hyatt, former chairman and CEO. The research yielded a list, in order, of how a book is chosen. I can vouch for the list's authenticity. It's exactly how I choose books. See if you don't agree:
1. Title
2. Cover
3. Back cover
4. Flaps (hardcover books or trade books with "French flaps")
5. Table of Contents
6. First few paragraphs of book's contents
7. Price
Note: If the author is well-known, that might be the deciding factor. (Unknown authors are a "non-factor.) Price, last? Intriguing, but true. Hyatt says, "Readers don't buy price. As long as the book provides enough value for the price requested, it sells."

In the PINC
Hyatt, referring to non-fiction books and blog posts, went on to say: GREAT TITLES ARE PINC (pronounced "pink.") Great non-fiction titles follow at least one of the following strategies:


P: Make a Promise       Sexy Forever: How to Fight Fat after Forty, by Suzanne Somers
I: Create Intrigue          The 7 Wonders that will Change your Life, by Glenn Beck & Keith Ablow
N: Identify a Need         How to Write a Sentence: And How to Read One, by Stanley Fish
C: State the Content      Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 1, by Mark Twain & Harriet E. Smith

Hyatt notes that some (many) titles cover more than one letter. And that fiction titles are in their own category--Intrigue--true for virtually all fiction books that sell.

Titles that Sell: Two Excellent Resources
1. Emma Walton Hamilton's post: "What's in a Title?". Hamilton, whose post focuses on fiction, suggests making your title:
  • Specific to your book, not general (Pat the Bunny, Blueberries for Sal)
  • Implies what the story is about (The Pokey Little Puppy, Goodnight Moon)
  • Catchy, such as a play with language, using alliterations, rhyme or rhythm, or having a sense of humor (Liza Lou and the Yeller Belly Swamp, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs)
  • The shorter the better (Little Toot, Freckle Juice)
  • Appropriate to the story (Make Way for Ducklings, Curious George)
  • Memorable (The Little Engine that Could, The Call of the Wild)
In short, come up with a title that encompasses all of the above and your title will not easily be forgotten. Summarized here are a few of Hamilton's suggestions on how to explore your title:
  • A memorable line from the story (A Wrinkle in Time, Little House)
  • Character names (Peter Rabbit, Corduroy)
  • A place (Little House on the Prairie, Misty of Chincoteague)
  • A hidden meaning (revealed in the story) (The Carrot Seed, Where the Wild Things Are)
  • Something ultra-simple (Holes, Where's Spot?)
  • Action words: Titles with strong verbs (Call it Courage, The Cat Ate my Gymsuit)
  • Quirky titles (From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler)
  • One-word titles (Severed, Hatchet)
  • Inherent mystery/conflict (Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective, Prisoners at the Kitchen Table)
Sources: For a more complete study of creating titles that sell, I recommend that you read the entire articles summarized in "Presenting: Titles that Sell, Part 1" and Part 2. An additional site to explore is the Book Title Name Generator. For help in creating your book title, offers Marketing Consultation with Lulu's publicity team. Clipart from:

Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 100 articles for adults and children and six short stories for children. Recently she completed Joyce Sweeney's online fiction and picture book courses. She is currently working on several projects for children. Follow Linda on  Facebook.


Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

This is wonderful! As it happens, I am working on the third book in my HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers and it's on book covers. A title is, of course, part of that process! I may quote you, Linda. Thank you!

Linda Wilson said...

Great, Carolyn. Exploring titles and what they entail has been an eye opener for me. I look forward to reading your new book. I just bought "The Frugal Book Promoter" and look forward to reading it, learning from it and applying your terrific insights and advice.

Karen Cioffi said...

Linda, what great information. These are tips that can certainly help writers create more effective titles for their books. And, as the title is the number one factor in someone buying a book, it warrants putting lots of attention into creating it. That's how I choose books also, focusing on numbers one through four.

Linda Wilson said...

Thanks, Karen. I didn't appreciate how very important a good title is until I researched it for these posts. I hope the posts help our readers as well.

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