Thinking up a title that sells your nonfiction book

With nonfiction books, you’ll want to select a title that helps rather than hinders sales. A good title ensures that your book will be easy to find as it pops up in search engine queries; a bad title ensures other books will appear in such searches even though yours is better written.

A good first step to coming up with a title is to see what others are using for their books. Look for a pattern in their wording (e.g. “10 Minutes a Day to a Slimmer Body”; “9 Minutes a Day to a Healthier You”) and the words selected (e.g. diet, weight loss, healthy, fast, safe). This can be done simply by going to Amazon.com and looking at the bestselling books on the topic you’re writing about. Jot down these patterns and words.

Next, see if you can mimic these patterns but give it a new twist. This has the benefit of appearing familiar to readers, yet the twist causes the potential reader’s eyes to linger a little longer and maybe take the next step of clicking on your book. For example, a common strategy in weight-loss books is to name a diet; meanwhile, “cookies” and “weight loss” contradict one another yet your book is about baking healthy cookies that provides all the nutrition you need but none of the calories. So your book could be titled “The Cookie Diet”.

Next, always give the benefit of reading the book as part of the title; incorporate the commonly used words that you wrote down earlier. Usually, the benefit appears in the subtitle (e.g. “The Cookie Diet: A Fast, Safe Weight-Loss Plan to a Healthy You”). Sometimes this benefit involves making a promise, such as “read this book and you will safely lose weight and be healthier” of the last example. It also might provide a solution (e.g. “The Cookie Diet: Rid Your Body of Fat Forever”). The benefit/promise also might be stated in a way that it answers readers’ concerns (e.g. “The Sweet Tooth Diet: Lose Weight without Giving up Your Favorite Foods”).

A corollary to the benefit/promise is to directly state what the book offers readers. This works particularly well for how-to and guidebooks (“Danish Crawl: A Guide to Denmark’s Best Bakeries”; “How to Bake Low-Cal Pies that Taste Incredible”).

Numbers also can be a useful element in a title (e.g. “40 Brownie Recipes to Help You Lose Weight”; “10 Days to a Slimmer You”). When using numbers, make sure it is memorable number, which usually means a number divisible by 10 or one over it (e.g. “50 Pie Recipes to Help You Lose Weight”; “101 Awesome Cookie Recipes”). Also, use digits (1, 2, 10, 100) rather than spelling out the word (one, two, ten, hundred).

If your book is aimed at a specific age group, be sure to get that into the title as well (“Cupcakes for Preschoolers: Yummy yet Healthy Recipes”).