Spice Up Your Book’s Title

Your book’s title is your first and best marketing tool

Keeping in mind the target audiences for your book, you’ll want to create some kind of “working title” for you book. This title may change as you write. So if you announce your book, make it clear that this is a working title.

The title on your published book’s cover should clearly convey the “flavor” of what’s inside it. In particular your title needs to capture the attention not only of people, but of the search-engine spiders that prowl the web. Often just the glimpse of a title or cover photo can make a book sale happen.

Use search-friendly keywords

Let’s say that your ancestors were Croatian, and you know how to cook tasty dishes from Croatia. You decide to put out a unique Croatian cookbook.

What is the most important thing to keep in mind about your book? The title of your book is your key marketing tool.

Your title will explicitly or implicitly tell a book seeker what genre you book falls into. If your book is going to a bookstore or library, be clear about what shelf, real or virtual, that your book will belong on.

Our hypothetical cookbook title ought to include the word “Croatia” (or “Croatian”) and “Cookbook” (or similar word to indicate its genre). But your title needs a third word too—one that expresses what is unique about your Croatian cookbook. Why is that keyword necessary?

Do a search at Amazon for “Croatian cookbooks”. You’ll find a whole bunch of cookbooks with only the keywords “Croatian” and “cookbook” or “cooking” in their titles. There is no way for a reader unfamiliar with Croatian cuisine to identify which of these Croatian cookbooks to buy!

Look also at WorldCat, the largest online library catalog. You may see the same thing – titles that are too general. Other sources to check to see if your title is already in use are Bowker’s Books In Print® and the Library of Congress online catalog. The latter is the biggest lisingt of published books in the world.

Ask your friends and family for feedback too. Test out your title thoroughly before you settle on it as the one for your book. Changing your title after the book is published will cost you money and you may lose potential buyers.

What makes a marketable title?

You must create enough keywords for your book’s title to enable the title to sell your book, and your title must be unique.

Keywords can be used in both your title and your subtitle. They should show clearly how your book differs from that of any other writer about your topic. Your title should also indicate who should buy your book. And your book title and.or its cover image should clearly indicate the genre it falls into.

So, here is one possible title for a hypothetical book: Croatian Cooking for Catholic Holidays; Meals for Family and Friends to Enjoy Together. 

With this title and subtitle I’ve shown the genre of my hypothetical book – it’s a guide to cooking. And I’ve just targeted particular audience(s) that I’d market this book to. I’m also showing potential buyers the benefits of the book, i.e. enjoyment. I’ve given shoppers a reason why they might want to pick this cookbook instead of someone else’s.

Are you thinking this title is too specific? Won’t it lock out people who might buy the book? Not really – this title actually broadens the market for the book.

For examples, it might appeal to anyone interested in cooking for holidays or other family gatherings. Also, it might appeal to cooks who are Christian and are looking for a new cuisine to try out for a holiday.

One of the biggest mistakes in marketing anything is to try to be everything to everyone. The more narrowly-defined your audience is, the the more likely it is that your targeted marketing will get results.

In addition, a highly marketable title has to have a “hook” that gets readers curious enough to look inside the book. You hook can be implicit and/or explicit. It can be intellectual and/or emotional in nature.

A couple examples of stellar titles

An example of an explicit intellectual hook can be found in the subtitle from Cynthia L.C. Wood’s book, Earth Rise: The Case for Studying and Using Earth in Astrology.

Along with the genre of the book, its intended audience is identified by the keyword “Astrology”. The rest of the subtitle narrows the subject of the book to the usefulness of Earth (as both a planet and as a  substance) by astrologers.

“Earth Rise,” the main title of Wood’s book, is more mysterious. It was inspired by a photo of the Earth rising above the moon’s surface. The photo was taken by Apollo 8 astronauts while in space.


Earth Rise is a play on the the words “sunrise: and “moonrise,” and it has a double meaning because of the author’s belief that the planet Earth should be given a more prominent role in Astrology.

Among other suggestions for elevating the importance of the planet Earth in the field of astrology, Wood’s book suggests why Earth rather than Venus should be the ruling planet of the rising sign Taurus, in a horoscope chart.

Thus, the importance of the keyword “Rise” in Wood’s title.

In our second example, Sandy Boucher created a title with both implicit and emotional hooks to lure the reader into taking a look.

Sandy Boucher’s title is Hidden Spring: A Buddhist Woman Confronts Cancer.

The target audience(s) are invited to browse it by the words, “Buddhist,” “Woman” and “Cancer”.

The explicit and emotional hook in the subtitle lies with the word “Cancer”.  The phrase, “Hidden Spring” in the main title, on the other hand, is an implicit hook.

“Hidden Spring” is a metaphor for the spiritual practices that helped Sandy through a difficult battle with colon cancer. Combined with the phrase “Combats Cancer,” Hidden Spring suggests the reader will also find hope through reading this book.

You can create an explicit or implicit hook for your title and/or your subtitle. You can make your hook grab the reader’s mind or their heart. Just make sure to focus on your target audience(s) when creating your title.

(For more about identifying your audience(s), see Slider One, “Branding Your Book,” on Authormaps home page.)

Armed with a great title and cover image, your book has a much better chance of attracting a reader’s interest – particularly in the US library market, the largest book market in the world.

A final note about book titles

Be sure to get your title nailed down before you begin promoting your book!

Changing your title after you begin marketing your book or you’ve actually published your book will cost you dearly. Not only will you need to acquire a new ISBN (International Standard Book Number. you will also need to change your book covers, interior pages, and all of your promotional materials to reflect its new title.

Next in get ready to publish, we’ll look at how to create a dynamite book cover that will help sell your book. See “Covers and Thumbnail Images“.


Marketing Your Book to Libraries, An Insider's Guide for Authors


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