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9 Tips for Choosing the Best Title for Your Book

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An 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.”

What does this have to do with choosing the right title for your book?

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

Just as clearly stating what is being offered or promised 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.

How do you choose the right title for your book?

Here are 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 Kiyosaki didn’t listen, aren’t you?

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.

Author Randall Hansen must have been ecstatic when sales of his 2009  book, Fire and Fury, spiked. Then he must have realized that Michael Wolff had used the same title for his 2018 book Fire and Furyabout the Trump White House.  Since Hansen’s book is about the allied bombing of Germany from 1942-1945, it is probably not what a lot of buyers were flocking to buy.  That means some buyers will write angry reviews, and that Hansen’s new wealth will soon disappear if folks request refunds.  Yes, the buyers could have paid closer attention to the subtitles and the very different covers, but many don’t.

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

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, and likely request refunds.

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 perfect title he had been seeking for his book on relationships.

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

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.

  • 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.

Which of these 9 tips will best help you write the perfect title for your book? Tell us in Speak Your Mind below.


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 perhaps you can benefit from my coaching services for aspiring authors. Send me an email to set up a discovery session.


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


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