To create the title for his acim twitter, “The 4-Hour Work Week: Escape the 9-5, Live Anywhere and Join the New Rich,” author Timothy Ferriss created and tested many titles and title variations to come up with that final combination that hit a nerve with his prospective buyers.
To develop the title for his bestselling book, “Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive,” Harvey Mackay reports that he hired a creative team to hold focus groups to generate possible book titles. They included “Swim With the Sharks” among the 800 titles voted on in the final ballot.
Many great book titles are painstakingly developed, and some just happen. But most are usually a combination of both–strategy and serendipity, science and art, logic and (dare I say it?) pure luck. For the strategy part of the equation, having a systematic process in place saves you time, money, and the aggravation of pages and pages of ideas that are going nowhere.
Here, then, before you move onto book cover design or start looking for a book cover designer, is one of the strategies we use most often for coming up with your book title–the first step in creating a bestselling book cover for your book. You can use the “Look to Your Book” title strategy to confidently come up with a great list of book title ideas for any book–non-fiction or fiction.
How to “Look To Your Book”
Manuscripts are one of the most overlooked sources for a great book title. Either on your own or with help from someone else who can bring new eyes to your text, read through your chapter titles, each chapter, and the Foreword if you have one. You are not reading for content, but for individual words and phrases that capture the essence of your book in some compelling way. Keeping the two bestselling book title examples above in mind, here are five book-title-starters to look for in your book:
1. Listen to the way you say things
Sometimes in your own writing you can find an especially bold, concise, or even poetic way of saying something. It may be a phrase that speaks to a need for your book. It may relate to a benefit of reading your book. It may not encompass your entire message, but it points to it in such a powerful or offbeat way that it suddenly jumps out at you. Again, having someone else look through your manuscript is helpful because they are seeing and hearing the language you use for the first time.
2. See if you’ve coined a new term
Next, look for words, phrases, or expressions that are uniquely yours. Without noticing, you may have coined a new term that will set you apart from everyone else writing on your topic. Look, for example, at bestselling books like “Freakonomics.”
3. Check out your chapter titles
A great chapter title or one of the headings within your chapters can also translate into a powerful book title. You have no doubt already spent time coming up with these. And, while no one by itself will summarize your entire book, one chapter title or heading can express a key point that becomes an anchor for your overall idea or approach.