Choosing a title for your book is certainly a creative decision, but it is also your first marketing decision because your book title can greatly help or hinder the sale of your book. While most authors usually have a title in mind when they first start writing their manuscript, it is worth considering the following tips before you select a final title for your book.
Short can be sweet…and memorable
Think about the book titles you remember. I suspect many if not have short titles. So try to come up with a title for your book that has no more than four or five words at most. For whatever reason, it seems like a lot of titles have three words in them. The Hunger Games and The Tipping Point are examples. Keep that in mind as you craft your title.
“Your book title is your first marketing decision”
Avoid words that are obscure, hard to pronounce or spell
Sometimes in an attempt to be provocative authors will choose words that are unusual in an attempt to standout. Don’t be tempted. Obscure words are great for scoring points in Scrabble, but for book titles.
Give readers a hint about what they will find in the book
Again some authors will attempt to be coy thinking they should be obscure or provocative and tease readers with the title. Not a good plan. Make it memorable but don’t confuse readers or make them guess what the book may be about.
Know your genre
While it is important to be unique, it is also important to understand what the latest trends are and what is appropriate for your genre. You can learn that by looking at on-line retailers, the titles of a respected publisher in your genre or visiting your local bookstore or library.
If you are writing a non-fiction book a subtitle can really help readers understand what they will get from reading the book. A great example is a book published by Berrett Koehler titled, Love ‘Em or Lose ‘Em, with the subtitle, Getting Good People to Stay. This is a great example of a catchy short title, with a great subtitle.
Do your research
Once you have a title or titles you like, do some research to see if there are books out there in your genre with the same or a similar title. I have been surprised over the years, how many authors chose a title without doing a simple internet search on an online retailer to see if that title is already being used.
Ask your readers what they think
If you have viable options for a title, you may be able to engage your readers to determine your best title. If you have a blog or mailing list, you can present the title candidates to potential readers and let them vote. Along with learning which title like the most, you also help market the new book before it’s available.
Do you have any other tips you would like to share? Leave a comment and I will post it.
Last week, Suzanne McGee, penned a feature in the Money section of the Guardian, with the headline, You can try to be the next Hemingway — for $6,000 and the subhead, Self-publishing has made it possible to get your writing out in the world. But it hasn’t made it cheap.
In her article, she suggests based on her interviews with a number of self published authors, there are some critical elements you need to consider if you are going to self publish. Those include
- An ISBN number
- Cover Art
- Paid reviews
- Promotional print copies of your book
She suggested the total cost of the project would be around $6,000 with the two-thirds of that budget going to editing. Not surprising her article generated 80 comments and many opposing views. Some were civil in their comments and some were rude. Based on her response to the comments I think she was simply trying to point out that self-publishing is not and should not be considered a “free” opportunity as some might lead you to believe.
Certainly you can spend more or less than the amount she suggests, but those who were debating the number I think missed the most helpful points of the article.
- You are going to have to invest in editing to have a good book--I think this is the most important thing every self published author needs to remember and good editors are not cheap or free.
- You will have to invest time and money in promotion–She suggests paid reviews and many debate the value of those, but the point is you can’t just publish a book and wait for people to find it. You are going to have to spend some coin to garner interest and publicity.
- You will have to give things away before you see sales—In her article she suggests you need promotional copies of your book to hand out to media or others to get word of mouth about your book started. I think that is true, but there are other things you may want to consider as well.
The other great value to an article like this is it points out the need to have a simple way to evaluate the options out there for authors. I have written extensively about this topic and have a white paper title The Four Paths to Publishing, that layouts out the different opportunities available today for authors to get their books in the hands of readers.
If you would like to read the complete article in The Guardian, you can find it by clicking here.
Recently I had the opportunity to attend Book Expo America, which is the premier publishing industry trade show in the US. Because the industry is undergoing such amazing transformation, it makes this show very interesting as trade shows go. This year was no different. Here’s what I heard or saw that I thought you might find interesting.
Hugh Howey told people how hard it is to be a successful author. Hugh Howey has become well-known for his book Wool, both for his sales and his publishing strategy. He retained his digital rights for Wool, but signed a publishing deal with Simon and Schuster for his print rights. That makes him a great example of a hybrid author.
What I found most interesting was what Hugh said in a session I attended where he was a panelist. He shared that Wool was actually his 8th book and that he had committed to a 10 year writing plan. He also shared how he would work a job and devote a large part of the rest of his time to writing. So to get where he is now required sacrifice, commitment and perseverance. Not every author is willing to invest what he has, but I really appreciated his honesty.
Subscription services are acquiring content, but not sure if they are attracting readers yet. There were a number of announcements from Scribd and Oyster about adding content from select publishers, which made news. What we have not heard yet is how many people are signing up to take advantage of these services. So I think the jury is still out as to how this will impact publishers and benefit readers and authors. Michael Shatzkin provides some insightful thoughts on this topic in his latest blog post.
Archway Publishing authors were very happy. One of the benefits for Archway authors is the opportunity to attend a reception with people from the Simon and Schuster team. It was one of my highlights of the event. It is always great to meet authors in person and have them meet the great people at S&S.
There are still individuals who think they speak for every author. Even though there are more choices and ways to get published today than ever before, there are still some people out there who believe the way that they published is the only way to get a book to market. I continue to be fascinated by that point of view. There are different authors with different goals and different needs and so there are different paths to getting published. I have written and spoken about this topic quite extensively. Here’s a white paper that I have mentioned before that outlines the 4 Paths to Publishing.
Amazon: Friend or Foe? Depending on your pov, Amazon is either horrendous for the book business or a great asset. Too much to say about that in this blog post, but suffice it to say Amazon is disruptive and even destructive at times.
BookCon drew big crowds. BookCon was the consumer day on Saturday which allowed readers to come face-to-face with their favorite authors at book signings and Q&A sessions. Big lines. Big hit. Next year it will be two days. Great move by the publishing industry to cultivate readers.
Did you attend BEA? If so, use the comment section to let readers know what you learned at the event.
One of the many changes that has come about because of self publishing is an increase in the number of memoirs that are written and published every year. The motivation for writing varies. Some want to capture their own story to leave as a personal legacy. Some want to share their experiences because they think it will help others. Still others have it on their bucket list and want to make sure it gets crossed off. Regardless of the reason why they are written, memoir is one the most significant categories of books that are self published as compared with traditional publishing.
Yet, there are many memoir authors that still aspire to be picked up by traditional publishing house. An admirable goal, but a difficult one because many memoirs are not as commercially viable as say a YA fiction book. However, that does not mean traditional publishers will never acquire a memoir. The criterion for what they look for is very clear. I say that because I asked a number of agents and editors what they look for in a memoir before they would consider it. Here’s what they said.
….memoir is one the most significant categories of books that are self-published.
Celebrity Appeal: This one is kind of obvious, but it needs to be on the list. If a person is noteworthy in some way, it may garner some interest from a traditional publisher, but this is not something you can control. Being famous or well-known isn’t usually a planned activity.
Teaching Material: Some life stories can instruct or inspire others so another way to get the attention of a traditional publisher is make your memoir something we can all learn from.
A Compelling Tale: Some people have simply lived a life that reads like a good fiction novel or seems almost like a movie. It has the typical elements of a good story. A good example of this type of memoir is the Pursuit of Happiness
One other helpful piece of advice: One of the panels I sat on included a very seasoned agent who had also worked as an editor for a traditional publisher. She suggested some memoirs can be made more commercially appealing by simply pulling out a section of the story instead of telling everything. Some authors are hesitant to do that because it is their story and they want it told in whole, not part.
Do you have a memoir in process or have you published one already. What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
It wasn’t that long ago that the biggest challenge for a writer was getting published. Clearly that has changed because now there are four paths to publishing which I have written about extensively. So getting your book into the hands of readers is not the obstacle it once was. Now what I hear from authors is confusion about how to market their books. They seem overwhelmed or not sure where to start.
Knowing this POEM will help you.
So in this blog post I want to give you a simple framework and acronym for how to think about book marketing that will take some of the mystery out of the process. Any good integrated marketing campaign has four key activities. Publicity. Online. Events. Multi-Media. That forms the acronym POEM, which is an easy way to remember what you need to do.
Publicity is using the traditional media to make sure people know about your book. By traditional media, I mean newspapers, television and radio. To be effective in this activity, you need to be clear on the elevator pitch for your book and the audience you are trying to reach. Tactically, you will likely need a press release and a simple media kit you can use to pitch producers and journalists. The key with publicity as with the other categories is being clear on what you are going to do and what you need to hire someone to do for you.
On-line is perhaps the biggest opportunity for all authors. I believe a key element is having a blog. This is a way to create an ongoing connection with your audience. Use keywords and tags to make your content show up in searches. And be sure to have an email for media who want to reach you.
You should also be selective and strategic about social media platforms. What I have learned is Facebook is good for some books and worthless for others. Same thing with LinkedIn and Twitter and Instagram and Pinterest and whatever the next platform that will appear. Try some things and figure out what works best for your book. Use the analytics available to you to see what creates traffic and engagement. Also, be sure to gather email addresses. That way you are building a list to which you can market future opportunities.
Events is the third area where you should focus. The first and most important event is your book launch party. You can do this in very creative ways, but every author should celebrate the publication of the book. Then look for other opportunities for book signings and speaking engagements in your area with groups that would be interested in your topic. Libraries are also a great place to connect with for events.
Multi-media is the fourth area of a solid integrated marketing plan. We are an image driven culture so I believe having a video or book trailer is critical. If you do one, make sure it is produced well. You want it to make a good first impression and you can use it to help you with your other areas. Post it on your blog. Send it as part of your pitch to media. You may also want to consider creating an app for your book depending on what type of book you have.
Putting POEM to work for you.
Marketing is work, but with POEM you have a framework for creating the right type of plan to make sure you are engaged in the right activities and not missing something. However, even with a plan, the biggest challenge for many authors is persistence and consistency. It is easy to get discouraged, but the most successful self-published authors I know just keep at it.
Questions to ask as you get started.
So look at what you are doing right now. Do you have plans or activity in each of the four key categories of an integrated campaign? If so, that is great, but no matter what you are doing now, you should still write down a six or twelve month plan to keep yourself accountable. Then once you do that, you should make an honest assessment of what you can do yourself and where you need help.
Hopefully you find POEM helpful and please use the comment section to let me know what else you are doing to organize your marketing activities.
A number of years ago, I wrote a white paper titled, The Democratization of Publishing. I suggested then that one of the key benefits of self publishing was not just getting to market quicker or earning more royalties, but using books to make a difference in the lives of others. Author Solutions (AS) has recently started a campaign that validates that claim.
Under the banner of Real Authors, Real Impact, AS is highlighting authors that have published a book for the purpose of impacting others. In this campaign, there are stories of authors who have promoted organ donation and saved countless lives, helped raise awareness of domestic sex slavery, even helped changed laws. You can find the complete list of stories in the campaign on the Author Solutions site by clicking here.
In the meantime, this video is a compilation of some of the stories you will see in the campaign. If you wonder if your book can make a difference, watch the video. I think you will find it to be motivating and inspirational.