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Book titles really do sell books

Updated: Mar 19

‘When you write non-fiction, you sit down at your desk with a pile of notebooks, newspaper clippings, and books and you research and put a book together the way you would a jigsaw puzzle.’

Janine di Giovanni

I had such a laugh with an author the other day. We had been going through SO MANY variations of titles for his book. Three years of title variations to be honest. Finally we got the cover back from the cover designer and there sat the title in red on the cover. It was all wrong. The title (that we had so loved) just didn't work at all - and so a new title came out of the blue. Totally different and unexpected and it worked.

Then I had a meeting with a few publishers the other day and they all said the same thing about what they want in a title.... make sure your non fiction title spells out exactly what your book is about. Making it clever? That is 2nd prize but make sure a reader knows exactly what they are getting in your book.

I was also reminded by their design teams that most strong title are small in words, but big on impact. Actually we like a title that has three words on the cover. Remember that people buy books online and often on mobile screens and we need BIG WORDS so we can actually read them.

. A reminder that most books have both a title and a subtitle.

The title and subtitle work together.

The title catches a reader’s attention.

The subtitle clarifies exactly what the book is about.


You book title and subtitle together need to fulfil a few roles:

·      Immediately hook your reader.

·      Shine a light on your story’s theme or controlling idea.

·      Set out exactly what your book is about.

·      Make a promise to those readers.

·      Appeal to as wide a readership or viewership as possible without alienating the core genre fans.

·      Create an authorial sensibility, if this is your first work of fiction or non-fiction, or abide by an already established authorial sensibility. This means it needs to fit with your other titles if you have other books already!


 Here are some clear, tight examples to inspire you

Ø  Beyond the Blues: A Workbook to Help Teens Overcome Depression, Lisa M Schab

Ø  Getting to Yes! Negotiating Agreement without giving in, Roger Fisher and William Ury

Ø  Love and Above: A Journey through Shamanism, Coma a Joy. Sarah Bullen



Write four totally different versions of the title for your book idea. They must have a title AND a subtitle.

Go and look at a bookshop to see how others have done it and take a good look on Amazon to see how few words you can actually use.

P.S. Sometimes your favourite idea leaves others feeling confused. And that one you want to ditch, is the one that ‘pops’ for your readers.


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