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There is no magical formula for the perfect title, but successful titles often adhere to (or masterfully defy) the following conventions. Generally, nonfiction is best served by naming the book for what it is or discusses, whereas fiction titles can be more artistic. Both genres necessitate your top creativity to compose despite their differing styles.
Concise and Elegant
LENGTH—How does it fit on the cover or in an online listing? Is it easy for readers to say in word-of-mouth recommendations and for media personnel or yourself to reference comfortably and frequently in promoting it? How will it appear in social media posts?
PRONOUNCEABLE—People won't bring it up at parties if saying it makes them feel stupid. Clever words can be provocative and relevant, but shouldn't be prohibitive to being shared, remembered, and searchable online.
WORDPLAY—Smart word choice can communicate the soul of the book and catch the reader's attention by using literary tools of alliteration, play on words, rhyme, turn of phrase, and even keywords for the subject or genre. Avoid jargon that will alienate a reader not yet familiar with the material.
COGNITIVE FLUENCY—a concept of making it simple and more likely for consumers to remember and respond favorably with words and phrases they can immediately understand and pronounce.
NONFICTION—It is common to have a short title and a more descriptive subtitle. Nonfiction titles often define a dilemma or highlight the promised benefit and sell the solution of the problem, depending on the tone of the book.
Relevant and Informative
LITERARY REFERENCE—Try to create connection with a reader to attract them to the book before they have read it, and make the title pay off after they have read it.
GENRE—Many genres have titling conventions that signal to the reader what type of book it is. For example, fantasy books usually use an invented object or world in the title like Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban or The Hunger Games. In a regency romance words like Duke, Earl, Lord or Lady evoke the time period. In nonfiction a writer usually uses a subtitle to signal the purpose of the book when the title itself is elusive.
SUBJECT— Evoke imagery, metaphor, emotion, and tone of the book. Draw from driving elements of the book organic to the content including dominant characters, settings, conflict, a McGuffin, a metaphor, an overarching theme, significant dialog, or character motivation. Add a twist to these conventions in restating your title through a character's emotional filter, or identify an element by its distinct aspects.
DISCOVERABLE—Consider keywords used by the target audience in how they search for and find books online. Putting title words into a keyword tool like Google Keyword Planner, can show you their frequency of user searches and offer similar words with better performance that could communicate your title well but be more findable. If you choose to use this tool, it’s best to look for keywords that have high monthly searches (over 10K if possible) with low competition scores.
Provocative and Memorable
INTRIGUE—Play with the line between being original and familiar. Spark interest or bait them with a title that most engages the curiosity of the readers of that subject/genre. Often what you leave out is as important as what you include—create or imply a question. The title is a preview not a summary.
CATCHY—From being able to recommend it without confusion or complicated explanation to being able to recall it when you want to search for it, something about it has to stick in the mind.
MARKET POSITIONING—Be sure it has no unintended connotations by association with unfavorable works or references, or include business names or products that you don’t own the rights to.
Oscar Wilde's Pen, Pencil and Poison sold 5,000 copies. The title changed to The Story of a Notorious Criminal sold 15,800 copies.
"Holden Caulfield" as a title for a protagonist centric book isn't as intriguing as referring to the character by they way he sees himself from the story: "The Catcher in the Rye"
"Conversation at a train station" evoked imagery and reference from the book for a more interesting title "Hills Like White Elephants"
"Gone with the Wind" is an expression used by Scarlett O'Hara musing on all the changes sweeping through her world. Evoke key themes with use of dialog or sentiment from the book. (Original titles were Bugles Sang True or Tomorrow Is Another Day.)
Implied questions can look like: (what is) The Da Vinci Code, (who is) The Great Gatsby
Alliteration: Pride and Prejudice (Pride and Prejudice was originally titled First impressions), Of Mice and Men
Publisher E. Haldeman-Julius had a method to improve sales by focusing on titles. When "Mystery of the Iron Mask" sold 11K a year, he believed the reader would care less about a mask and more about the person in the mask. The new title "The Mystery of the Man in the Iron Mask" sold 30K a year.
Nonfiction speaking in benefits and pain points explores "How to Win Friends and Influence People" versus "How to Be a Leader."
Nonfiction often uses short titles with subtitles to clarify the subject like "Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers" and "Salt: A World History" or "The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer."
Word choice matters. With the UK title "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone," it was determined that US audiences don't have the same connotation of the word philosopher and so the US version was retitled "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.
Authors can be expected to need three (3) bios
You will only need to submit two (2) bios to production:
While versions of each of these bios used online can be updated at your discretion, the ones submitted to us will be published on the book and in catalog and will not be able to be changed or updated unless there is a reprint. For this reason, do not write bios with details that will be outdated or irrelevant throughout the life of your product.
Your submission will be reviewed by our editorial and marketing staff and subject to minor changes.
Suggestions and examples are provided below as a reference.
Consumers expect a very informed and connected experience and your bio is one touch point that can directly impact how buyers of retail stores are influenced in regards to author reputation, establishing authority, and engaging readers. It will be a significant part of the marketing impact along with the title and cover art.
Here are some suggestions to consider in writing your bio
FRANK L. COLE was born into a family of Southern storytellers and wrote his first book at age eight. Sadly, he misplaced the manuscript and has since forgotten what he wrote. Highly superstitious and gullible to a fault, Frank will believe any creepy story you tell him, especially ones involving ghosts and Bigfoot. Currently, along with his wife and three children, he resides in the shadow of a majestic western mountain range, which is most likely haunted. You can learn more about Frank’s writing at www.franklcole.com.
JOAN AND GRAHAM BELGROVE left behind their careers in management and consultancy to launch The Little Cupcake Company Ltd. in 2006 in response to the growing demand for unique celebration cupcakes. They now have an established internet business supplying cupcakes nationally to both private customers and major companies.
MARJORIE PRICEMAN is the author-illustrator of How to Make a Cherry Pie and See the U.S.A. as well as How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World. She has received two Caldecott Honor Citations for Hot Air!: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Hot-Air Balloon Ride and Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin by Lloyd Moss. She lives in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.
MONICA McINERNEY grew up in a family of seven children in the Clare Valley of South Australia, where her father was the railway stationmaster. She is the author of the internationally bestselling novels The Faraday Girls, Family Baggage, The Alphabet Sisters, Greetings from Somewhere Else, Upside Down Inside Out, and At Home with the Templetons. She now lives in Dublin with her husband.
Contents—Please submit a completed contents page (nonfiction books only).
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES AND EXAMPLES
The following blog posts and articles can be helpful in preparing a good author bio.
Non Fiction: How to Write Your Author Bio (and why it matters)Either: Writing an Author Bio - Examples of Professional Bio