What’s in a Name? Choosing A Book Title

Monday, September 04, 2017

A book’s title is extremely important. According to Thomas Nelson publishers, research shows that consumers look at a book’s title first and foremost when the author’s name is taken out of the mix (well-known authors are sometimes the deciding factor in purchasing a book). However, coming up with a compelling book title can be arduous, time-consuming work. Here are four guidelines to help you craft a compelling, memorable title for your book.

1. Follow the PINC Acronym

PINC was created by Michael Hyatt (former CEO of Thomas Nelson and author of Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World). It stands for Promise, Intrigue, Need, and Content. In essence, your book title should do one of the following four things:

  • Make a Promise - Your book title can be your promise to your reader—what they will get out of reading your book.
  • Create Intrigue - Your title can engage your potential reader in a compelling way—drawing them in to learn more.
  • Identify a Need - Your book title can point out a need in someone’s life. It may be a need they already know they have, or it might be a need they become aware of through reading your title.
  • State the Content - A book’s title can also simply state the content of the book—letting the reader know exactly what they will learn or receive from reading it.

2. Make Your Book Title Original

Titles cannot be copyrighted in the United States. Therefore, two or more books can have the same title. However, if you use a title that is the same or very similar to another book, it makes it hard for your title to stand out. Be sure to search any potential book title you are considering both on the Internet and on Amazon to make sure other books don’t have the same title before settling on your final title. Having an original book title helps your book stand out.

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While you want your book’s title to be original, it should still match the soul of your book. If you are self-publishing a fiction book, the title should reflect the story. If your book is nonfiction, it should reflect the content in some way. Weighty books should not have cheerful titles, and conversely, funny books should not have grave titles.

3. Make Your Book Title Memorable

Creating a memorable title is also important. If your title is too short or too long, people won’t remember it. One- or two-word titles often don’t convey enough information and are harder to remember than titles that make a statement. The book title Sing is actually harder to remember than Sing Your Way to Peace. Titles that are too long can lose a reader’s attention. New studies are showing that attention spans have dropped from 12 seconds to 8 seconds, so make an impression, but quickly.

4. Use Only Enough Words in Your Book Title to Convey Your Book's Theme

Keeping your book’s title memorable and short makes it easy to say and type into search engines or as a URL. Remember, as an author—or anyone selling a book—you will say and type your book’s title hundreds to thousands of times over the lifespan of your book. You don’t want a title that is difficult to say or too long to type comfortably. If your title is long or difficult to say, it will cause issues when you are being interviewed by the media and when readers are trying to recommend your book to family and friends. Additionally, you want to remain excited about your book’s title even after you have said it two thousand times.

When I published the first edition of my book Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace, I did not consider how saying and typing such a long title would be problematic over time. I now know that my title is too long. Don’t make the same mistake I made. Keep your title to just enough words to convey your book’s theme. After all, you can always add more descriptive subtitles to your book.

Remember, your book’s title is an essential piece of your book metadata and a reader’s first impression of your work. It's how your book introduces itself. Follow these four guidelines as you craft a title for your book. Brainstorm many ideas and then test them with your associates before settling on the one that is original, memorable, and just enough words for you and your readers to say and type for years to come.


Read The Complete Guide: How to Self-Publish a Book

Sarah Bolme

Sarah Bolme is the Director of Christian Indie Publishers Association. Through this organization Sarah provides assistance to small publishers and independently published authors marketing books to the Christian marketplace. Sarah is also the author of the award-winning book Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace. The fourth edition will be released in February 2019.