If you're being published by a traditional publishing house, there are many people—from editors to sales representatives to marketing managers to publicists to even book buyers at the major booksellers—who will weigh in on the consumer appeal and effectiveness of your book's title. If you are self-publishing your book, the decision of the book title is purely up to you, so it's important to understand what your book title needs to achieve.
In addition to reflecting the content you've written, your book's title (like any marketing effort!) should create an emotional response in your potential readers. Also, while book titles generally cannot be copyrighted, you want the title of your book to be unique.
Writing a good book title for non-fiction
For a non-fiction book title, writing a good title generally means a crafting a concrete promise, a clear benefit statement as to what the reader can expect to learn about. Some good, straightforward examples include:
- The 4-Hour Workweek
- John Adams
- How to Cook Everything
- What to Expect When You're Expecting
- 20 Years Younger
- 9 Steps to Financial Freedom
Writing a good book title for a novel or narrative non-fiction
Writing a successful, catchy book title for fiction or narrative non-fiction (such as memoir) also involves reflecting the book's promise. But instead of promising that your reader will learn about the life of John Adams or look 20 years younger, you're crafting the promise of a good read.
A good novel or memoir title should reflect the contents of the book in a way that creates an emotional reaction and/or a curiosity. Whether you intrigue, enchant, puzzle, or outrage, your book's title should make the prospective book buyer think, "I want to know more." Here are some examples:
- The Da Vinci Code - "Code? Wasn't he, like, a painter?"
- Worth Dying For - "What could that be?"
- My Blood Approves - "Vampires? Yes!"
- The Other Boleyn Girl - "I know about Anne, but who's the other one?"
- A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius - "Really? We'll see what I think!"
Writing a good book title, celebrity version
The famous, like the rich, are different. Celebrities have a platform--their own name recognition, so they can title their books pretty much anyway they want to, as long as their name and picture are prominent on the book.
- My Horizontal Life by Chelsea Handler
- My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business by Dick Van Dyke
- Then Again by Diane Keaton
- Bossypants by Tina Fey
- The Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini by Benvenuto Cellini*
Instructions for how to write a good title for a book
Here is some guidance on how to write a catchy book title
And, so you can see how a book publishing professional creates a perfect title for a book, here's a case study that shows shows how to take an adequate book title and make a good book title.
Read more about how to write a subtitle.