How to Write and Publish Your First Book 5: Creating a Bestseller Title

    bestseller book title

    When you write a book, there is a difficult moment when the end is in sight…

    You need to come up with a title [sigh].

    The problem with creating a bestseller book title is that you, as the writer, are too close to your book to be able to choose a good title. In fact, you’re the worst person for creating a book title because you’ve ended up with tunnel vision.

    You don’t believe me? Here’s proof:

    Let me give you an example of a novice writer who struggled to find a title for his book (I’ll reveal the famous author’s name in a moment). First, he created two titles.

    The author’s favorite title was: ‘Broadband and White Sand’.  What do you think, could it become a bestseller?

    Doubtful, right?

    The author had a second choice: ‘Millionaire Chameleon’.

    Meh – that’s even worse, don’t you think?

    Then the novice author had a brainwave. He thought, “Why not ask my potential readers for a title?”

    He asked, and someone came up with pure gold. They suggested: ‘The 4-Hour Workweek’. And this title carried author Tim Ferris to the heights of bestsellerdom!

    I’m going to take a leaf out of Tim’s playbook.

    My upcoming book is missing its title. Can you help, please? 

    Here a the summary of my upcoming book:

    Are you afraid of aging? Most people in their fifties and sixties begin to dread getting older. They fear falling sick, becoming weaker, or even losing their mind. What if you could stop or even reverse the process of aging?

    Read about thirteen youthful agers who have made their mature years the most exciting and productive time of their lives. Find out their secrets of getting the body back in shape, sharpening the mind, and getting the creative juices flowing. After reading this book, you’ll start to look forward to life past retirement as a time of freedom and joy.

    Would you please help me with a title for my book? Please vote for the best title (or offer your own idea).


    Thanks! I really appreciate your help.

    How to Start Thinking About a Title for YOUR Book

    I found some great resources for creating great titles of both nonfiction- and fiction books.

    Creating a Book Title for Nonfiction

    If you are looking for some awesome posts, check out Bryan Collins’ article: How to Pick a Bestselling Title. Bryan shares examples and stats of how small title tweaks made a huge difference to sales figures.  And he explains how to do research for a good title, spells out what makes a great title, and suggests how to finally test your title.

    Another excellent resource is Dave Chesson’s article, How to Title a Book: Making Titles That Sell

    Here’s what you’ll learn from Dave Chesson’s article

    • The inner-workings of a best-selling book title
    • Things you need to consider before selecting a title
    • Good book titles and why they work
    • Proven step-by-step process on how to title a book
    • Advanced tools and tactics to help

    Dave has also written an interesting article on Book Title Generators.

    Another excellent post for those of you will write non-fiction is an article by Jane Friedman, Secrets to Developing the Best Title for Your Nonfiction Book.

    Jane says: “The title and subtitle of your promotion-driven book must work together to entice readers to make a purchase. Titles are short, simple, visual, metaphorical, and resonant, creating an emotional response. Titles grab the gut. Titles sell.”

    As an example, Jane quotes Guy Kawasaki’s story of how nobody at a private boys’ school signed up for a course called “Home Economics for Boys.” The class filled up immediately when the school changed the name of the course to “Bachelor Living.”

    Creating a Book Title for Fiction

    If you’re more interested in writing fiction, check out Joanna Penn’s article: On Changing Book Titles and Covers: My Own Experience And How You Can Do It Too.

    This is a tell-all post where Joanna explains the mistakes she originally made when titling her books and how and why she later changed the titles.

    I hope you find these resources useful.

    If you have 2 minutes to spare, please do go and vote for a title for my book, okay?

    About the author

      Mary Jaksch

      Mary Jaksch is best known for her exceptional training for writers at and for her cutting-edge book, Youthful Aging Secrets. In her “spare” time, Mary is also the brains behind, a Zen Master, a mother, and a 5th Degree Black Belt.

    • Hi, very nice article. Keep up the good work.

    • Quote: When you write a book, there is a difficult moment when the end is in sight… You need to come up with a title [sigh].

      No, no, a thousand times no! When I begin a book in Scrivener, one of my first steps is to create a Title document in the reference area. As Ideas come to me, I put them there, lest I forget. I also ask friends for suggestions and include those.

      That long fermentation process makes it less likely that I’ll do something I regret. For instance, I started my latest with this as the top title idea:

      Like a Navy SEAL: Stress Management for Doctors, Nurses, Students and Other Healthcare Professionals

      But as I’ve written, I’ve more and more felt that is a gimmick title. Yes, I do share some useful techniques for coping with stress that Navy SEALs use and that adapt remarkably well to healthcare. But I also draw from a host of other high-stress professions and activities (i.e. mountain climbing). That’s led me to change my top title idea to:

      Cope like a Pro: Stress Management for Doctors, Nurses, Medics, Students and Other Healthcare Professionals

      That not only more accurate, it avoids the dissonance of potential readers thinking “What do Navy SEALs have to do with what I do?”

      The same long fermentation process helps with cover images. The most obvious cover for my Embarrass Less: A Practical Guide for Doctors, Nurses, Students and Hospitals was a little cluster of medical staff, perhaps around a patient’s beside. But going through hundreds of photos on stock photo websites, I found that all such photos are unavoidable dull.

      Pondering long and hard, I had a sudden insight. Why not flip the cover around and show the only patients in a hospital who’re not embarrassed, small children. You can see the result for yourself by checking out the title. I had replaced ‘dull and dry’ with ‘incredibly cute.’ And I did that because for months I had “what can I do buzzing” around in the back of my head. Time does aid creativity.

      I’ll add a few other tips from someone who has been doing this for almost twenty years. Make the title short, so it fits easily on the cover, and catchy, so readers remember it. Then make the subtitle descriptive, not worrying it’s a bit long. That’s your insurance policy. Not matter what happens to your longer book description, potential buyers will always have that subtitle to know what it is about. And if it is part of a fiction series, include that in the subtitle.

      For the cover, keep in mind two key limitations. It has to look good in portrait (taller than wide) and it has to offer clutter-free space for the title (usually at the top) and the author (usually) at the bottom. That’s a must and is best include in your selection process from the start. Some otherwise great images leave no space for anything else.

      –Michael W. Perry, Inkling Books

      • Thanks so much for your excellent comment, Michael. I had a look at your book “Embarrass Less” on Amazon and it’s a good illustration of how to place the title and subtitle.

        Excellent suggestions!

    • Ashwin Rai says:

      Great post,
      This is very helpful.

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