Winning with Non-Fiction Titles

We discussed novel titles in our previous post—now we turn our attention to how to carefully select a non-fiction title to attract the right kind of future reader.

While your title will likely be connected to the subject, and therefore may seem simple, we will discuss a few elements that will help you make the best selection.

First, what is your book teaching or informing about? How to learn core accounting principles in a weekend? A new perspective on the life of Sir Edmond Hillary? Your keywords will likely appear in your title along with a subtitle to further clarify your message. 

Next, consider your customer: What needs do they have that will draw them to your book in the first place? Are they giving a presentation next week on their department budget and want to refresh their financial key-terms vocabulary? Are they wrangling their personal taxes? Are they a small business owner that is looking for a loan? All these potential readers have different reasons to be looking at your book—are you servicing all of them with your material? If not, this is where you can define who would benefit the most.

Choose a short title. A short title is easy to remember and easy to talk about. They don’t occupy a lot of space in our overburdened memory banks. Use a subtitle to further target your audience and explain the purpose of your book. Here you can be more specific and make a promise, if your book will deliver some skill that the reader will obtain upon completion.

Solicit feedback on your title. Ask for critical feedback to avoid the chances of people agreeing with you to be polite. Once you have the right title and subtitle combination, people won’t have to ask you what the book is about.

Learn what titles work best by spending time in a local bookstore. Eavesdrop on what customers are looking for, talk to booksellers and librarians. Check out the competition both in-store and online in your category. What titles stand out to you? What makes them so appealing? This is also the time to check that your selection isn’t so common as to be buried behind dozens of similar titles.

Elaborate the benefits. This is where numbers and time specific benefits are useful. They entice with the promise of resolving an issue that will improve the reader’s life in a measurable amount of time or fixed number of steps. 

You cannot copyright a title, the reason being there are too few combinations for potential volume of books in the world. But all the same, do not pick a title that already exists. It will backfire with readers and with agents and editors.

Consider a reader looking for a book to help them raise a new puppy. They come across a title of Good Dog. “Okay,” they think. “I want a good dog.” But how does this book help with the issues they have right now? Here is where your subtitle can shine for the perfect audience:

Good Dog: Breeding Small Dogs

Good Dog: How a Golden Retriever Saved My Life

Good Dog: Taking Care of Your Senior Dog

Good Dog: My Summer on a Dog Farm

Good Dog: Train Your Puppy in 8 Weeks

Five books with the same title, but how easy was it to see which one will address the needs our dog owner has right now?

Remember, if going the traditional publishing route, the editor who buys your non-fiction manuscript or proposal reserves the right to change the title if they think a different title can have a bigger sales impact.

We are happy to help brainstorm your title and work with you to create a winning proposal. Contact us today for a complimentary consultation.

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