Friday, February 22, 2008

Naming Your Book: The Hardest Part of Publishing

Seeing this article today about the world's oddest book titles got me thinking. Coming up with a good book title is hard--darn hard. A lot more goes into it than meets the eye. And yet, it's the single most important marketing factor of the book.

Of course, when an author sends in a book proposal, he or she has already given their book a name. Some authors are adamantly convinced that this is the one and only title their book should have. Others realize that book publishers always have to tinker with titles and are open to the publisher's changes.

Naming a book is a delicate balance between grabbing someone's attention (for example, Fish!) and conveying what the book is really about. Sometimes you can use the main title to grab and the subtitle to explain (as they did with Fish!'s subtitle: A Remarkable Way to Boost Morale and Improve Results).

In this Internet age, you must always be conscious that the book title and subtitle include the main "keywords" that someone would have in mind when looking for a book on your subject. When someone goes to Amazon and types "morale," they get Fish!. So you have to get inside your customers' heads and think what they will be searching for.

Too often at JIST, because we have been oriented toward plain language and simple thinking, we have avoided the "grabber" part of titles and stuck with the facts (is there any doubt in your mind what Gallery of Best Resumes is about?). The few times we've tried something cute have usually backfired on us.

But without that hook in a title, it's hard to get the media excited about it. So we're experimenting again with a "grabber" title, and this time putting a lot more marketing muscle behind it. The PITA Principle: How to Work with and Avoid Becoming a Pain in the Ass hopefully gets your attention and then explains what it's about. I'll be talking a lot more about this book in the weeks and months to come. If it doesn't sell, I'll be back to doing nothing but trying to find new ways to say "a book about writing resumes" (and maybe even writing my own!).

1 comment:

howtogetwell said...

a) Can you test a title by giving the same book two titles and see which works best?

b) If you think the original title has failed after you've spent a lot of money and energy marketing the failed title, can you run two titles simultaneously to cut the losses from the change?

c) Please give any tips you may have on changing a title.

Thank you,

Gary Springer