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9 Ways to Avoid Creating Lame Book Titles

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canstockphoto0028533An ad from my local hardware store featured a party cooler for sale. The cooler was pictured filled with ice and canned soda, but printed in parentheses was “Sodas and ice not included.”

Most of us would realize that the ice and soda were intended as a suggested use. This disclaimer was necessary, however, for those dodo heads who would insist that the picture misled them to believe the ice and soda were included.

Just as clearly stating what is being offered is critical in advertising, so is it important in your book title.

Your book title is a billboard, a promise, an agreement to deliver certain content.

[tweet_dis]A book cover may draw the reader’s attention, but it’s the title that gets him to venture inside.[/tweet_dis]

If you’re eager to avoid lame book titles, here are some 9 tips that have worked for others.

1. Create one sentence that boldly sums up the contents or main point of your book.

Within that sentence are the keywords that should be in your title or it may be your full title.

When Robert Kiyosaki wrote his book If You Want To Be Rich and Happy, Don’t Go To School, a publisher suggested he change his title to The Economics of Education. I’m glad he didn’t listen.

2. While titles cannot be copyrighted, steer clear of emulating popular titles.

Chicken Soup for the Soul, Fifty Shades of Grey, and an alphabet mystery series starting with A is for Alibi, have already been done, for example.

3. Settle on a working title while you’re writing your book.

The perfect title may not be apparent at the start. By the time you finish your book, however, the right title will likely emerge.

4. Reflect the tone of your message in the title.

If you’re writing a how-to book, you don’t want your title to mislead your readers into thinking it’s a sizzling romantic novel. It may result in sales, but readers will be disappointed and unfulfilled. Readers who feel betrayed can leave nasty reviews.

5. Notice the nickname or short name you gave your book while you were writing it.

One of the actors from the sitcom, That 70′s Show, revealed that this was not the original title. It was the nickname the cast gave it during rehearsals. By the time it was ready for launch, the producers decided that the nickname was the right name for the show.

6. Listen to how you respond to questions about your book when you are speaking to groups or your accountability partner.

In an effort to explain the differences in men and women during one of his live presentations, John Gray responded with “Men are from Mars, women are from Venus”.

Bingo! He had found the right title for his book on relationships.

7. Go for a simple and clear title rather than fail at being clever.

  • The “how to” title is still the most popular because it appeals to our never-ending quest for doing things, taking action, and making improvements.
  • “Murder at the [location]” will still grab mystery lovers.
  • The [odd number] Ways to [do or accomplish something that we want] is irresistible with its promise of actionable steps.

8. Give your book a subtitle, if necessary for clarity.

One book that could have benefitted from a subtitle is How to Avoid Huge Ships by John W. Trimmer.

When Captain Trimmer got tired of running into small boats, he wrote this serious book directed at small boat owners/operators to help them avoid getting into the pathways of big boats which can not always see much less miss hitting them. Unfortunately, many of the 1,226 Amazon reviewers had a lot of fun with this book title. With the original price tag of $75, many of the reviewers may not have actually bought the book, but they couldn’t resist taking aim at that title.

Here are some of the reviews of Trimmer’s book that made me laugh out loud.

  • Read this book before going on vacation and I couldn’t find my cruise liner in the port. Vacation ruined.
  • Huge ships have been the bane of my life, so I was very excited when I bought this book. However, Captain Trimmer does not provide the helpful and insightful advice that I had hoped for and I did not feel that this book had any noticeable effect. If anything, I now encounter more huge ships than ever! Would not recommend.
  • After reading this book, I relized [sic] exactly what I was doing wrong everytime I was run over by bardges [sic] on the mighty Mississippi. I always played dead and hoped the boats would go away, like I was taught by a book I read, “How To Survive Bear Attacks.” I guess I thought the lessons taught by that book applied to everything life, but it clearly meant just bears. Now I am surviving the waterways better than a BP oil rig.
  • I give this book five stars because it is by far the best treatise to date regarding the avoidance of huge ships. BUT C’MON, PEOPLE! Did you learn nothing in the sixties? Avoiding huge ships won’t solve the problem. Separate but equal waterways only drives us further apart. It is the lack of understanding between the huge and non-huge vessel communities that lead to well-intentioned but misguided tomes such as this. We must begin a dialogue with our huge brethren. Remember–we are all floating on the same ocean. I have a dream… that one day ALL vessels will be judged not by their tonnage, but by the content of their cargo. Next time a huge vessel approaches, just ask yourself “WWPD?” (What would Popeye do?)
  • WHY NO KINDLE EDITION?????? 
    Given that there is a huge ship bearing down on me RIGHT NOW I am extremely disappointed that I cannot get inst

9. Be outrageous with a risky, even risque title.

Forget about being modest or politically correct when you want to grab your reader by the collar.

  • Shit My Dad Says, by Justin Halpern–a coming-of-age memoir wrapped about his father’s profane, profound and funny sayings
  • Another Bullshit Night in Suck City by Nick Flynn–a moving memoir about the troublesome relationship between Nick and his father
  • Assholes Finish First by Tucker Max–a funny book about Tucker’s misadventures. Some criticized it for being too vulgar, but one that didn’t deter its popularity.

Writing a compelling title for your book is an important part of your job as an author.

Photo courtesy of canstockphoto.com

Most first-timers have trouble with just getting started on the contents, much less
finding the right title. If your dream of writing a book has been stalled by fear or uncertainty then Rockin’ My Book is for you. I’ve made it easy for you to get started by creating it as 4-week e-course. Once you sign up you receive one email lesson per week with encouragement, steps to take, examples, suggested activities, and an opportunity to get feedback from me if you wish. I’m eager to share your publishing options and answer the many questions all writers have. Work on your own time and at your own pace in the comfort of your home or office.
Check it out at Rockin’ My Book.

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you. Maya Angelou

Rockin’ My Book helps you begin to relieve that agony. Get the start and momentum to move forward with writing your book now.

Comments

  1. Linda Luke
    Twitter:
    says:

    Thank you Flora for another very informative and fun post. These tips will also work well for bloggers and the titles they use. I am definitely guilty of boring title syndrome at times. Wonder what my clients would think if I got outrageous?

  2. Flora. You have given me some wonderful tips on how to avoid lame titles. I’ll certainly keep them in my toolbox and refer to them often as I write. I look forward to creating more “outrageous” titles. Thanks for sharing.

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