How to Painlessly Name Your Next Book

Published December 14, 2015 by Jane Portman
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The Ultimate Book Naming Guide for Authors Who Self-Publish Their Books Online.

This article will help you painlessly pick a name for your next book. This two-step approach to naming books is very simple, effective, and will eliminate a lot of problems while you’re working on your book, launching and re-launching it.

I definitely dipped my toes in the water when it comes to self-publishing (now writing my third book). So my friends often ask me for advice when picking a title. After a few requests like this, I decided to put my thoughts together in a good long-form guide.

Disclaimer

Publishing is a huge industry. This advice is valid for a specific circle of consultants and bootstrapped SaaS founders. We write rather expensive non-fiction books to build authority and make money. We sell these books online with dedicated landing pages and long-form sales copy.

If you write fiction, or want to conquer traditional publishing — then it might not work for you. But it might be still interesting.

First, Define Your Audience

That’s not new, but I have to mention it!

Before you even start, decide who exactly you’re writing for. Are you targeting SaaS businesses, agencies, or consultants? Designers, developers, or copywriters? Don’t know yet? Want to target a few groups at once?

Well, that means you’ll run into trouble doing anything: picking a title, writing sales copy, writing the book itself. Focus on picking the strongest words that would kill one kind of customer — your perfect customer. Don’t waste time smoothing the angles for all kinds of people that might end up at your sales page.

I called my first book Mastering App Presentation — it was a very poor choice. In fact, the book teaches designers to sell their work to clients through powerful presentation. I should have definitely mentioned some of that in the title!

The word “app” turned up there because of a big positioning mistake. I wanted to sit on two chairs, and also appeal to founders showcasing their apps. Appealing to two audiences is never a good idea!

Pick a Short, Simple Title

Most authors go out of their way trying to make their book title both short and descriptive (and also cool). In the ideal world, the title should cover the audience, the problem, the ideal outcome, and whatever not.

Here’s the truth: most times it’s impossible. So don’t waste your time looking for a unicorn. Instead, pick a simple title that matches just the following requirements:

Use Popular Formulas

The purpose of your title is to make people want to throw money at you. All these popular formulas are just different ways to impress the user: with a single charismatic word, with a strong call to action, or by claiming the status of “the ultimate handbook.”

I’m a big fan of “a single smart word” approach. Sure, you have to be careful with such titles unless you’re Seth Godin. But don’t we own the right to express ourselves in our own products? Why can’t we name products as crazy and artistic as we want?

The big solution here is a subtitle: it will do all the dirty work.

Write a Descriptive Subtitle

A subtitle has multiple awesome benefits. First, you have all the words in the world to describe exactly what’s necessary. Second, a subtitle is not a title: you don’t have to be artistic or charismatic here.

And what’s best: you can change it any time later! This allows you to pivot your positioning without changing anything else anywhere (URLs, public links, blog posts, etc).

Here are some examples for your inspiration.

Steal Like an Artist

Warning: you must not infringe copyright law or use protected trademarks in your book name. That’s an entirely different story!

But there’s nothing bad about borrowing a successful pattern from someone. Given a different industry (and good content) your own tome isn’t likely to face any comparison.

The title for my new book, The UI Audit, was named after The Brain Audit by Sean D’Souza. It’s the best book on writing sales copy I’ve ever read, and it’s also very short and concise. I wanted my own book to be as no-fluff as its predecessor. See, it’s not even a secret!

We’ve also seen plenty of “Double Your…” patterns out there: Double Your Freelancing Rate and Double Your Freelancing Clients, Double Your Audience, Double Your Dating.

How Your New Title Works Within a Sales Page

When you publish your book on a sales page, it’s often a dilemma: what do you put in the headline, if the book title is already stated on the cover? What do you put in the subhead? Where do you pitch “the big marketing pain?”

Here’s how everything can work: the title and the subtitle go into one big headline, divided by a semicolon. This way the book title is reflected in the page title, but it doesn’t look silly duplicating the cover — because it’s accompanied by a subtitle.

The page subhead is something else, a real start of your sales copy: a few more sentences that briefly state the problem and describe the solution. Have a look at The UI Audit sales page to see what I mean.

Go for a Short, Attractive Book URL

How should your URL look like? There are two popular options.

No matter what your choice, remember that you’ll be typing this URL day and night, so it should look good and be short!

If you have 8 words in your title, a standalone domain might not work. Also don’t try to include the full book name after the slash. Something like “/guide” will do the work well.

Also keep in mind that there could be more books coming up in the future, so don’t treat “the book” as the only one in the universe. I did this mistake with my first book when I called it “The Book” in navigation (but that was easy to fix later on). I did another mistake by making the URL “/mastering-app-presentation” which is definitely a pain to type! But we’re all here to learn.

Just Do It!

Spend some time picking a good title for your book, but then make a decision and move on! It still won’t be perfect. Your book success depends on so many other factors: actual book content, sales copy, launch, promotion, discounts, emails. None of these will be perfect either. Accept it and keep shipping for your own sake.

You’re the one who can make any kind of bold decisions here, or go with a safer option — it’s your own choice and your own learning curve.

Good luck!

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