By Douglas Winslow Cooper
Kristen Eckstein has written a fine short book, a bargain on amazon.com at $0.99 for the Kindle version: AUTHOR’S QUICK GUIDE to Creating a Killer Non-fiction Book Title, one of her series of GUIDES. I’ll summarize some of it here, but I also encourage you to buy it.
Authors understand that getting people to read our books is almost like seduction: we lure them in with a good-looking cover, capture their interest with our title, then we tell our story.
I titled my memoir of our 50-year-long interracial marriage Ting and I: A Memoir of Love, Courage, and Devotion. Let’s analyze this:
1. The primary title is Ting and I. Unless you are well-known, you are advised to keep your title short, five words or less. Check. Who is “Ting”? That added a touch of mystery, a good thing, and perhaps echoed The King and I, another good thing. It sounded foreign, which is exotic to some and attractive, but off-putting to others, so the result is mixed. Women buy more books than men, so it would have been nice if this suggested that “Ting” is a woman, but it doesn’t.
2. The subtitle is A Memoir of Love, Courage, and Devotion. It tells you what kind of book it is, a memoir, which is good. Check. It does not exactly indicate what benefit the reader will get, though some might like to read about love, courage, and devotion, and some may even be inspired.
3. The title does not indicate how to do something, and How To is a favorite category for book buyers. Perhaps reading the book will show you how a very lovable person (my wife, Tina) behaves, but the title and sub-title don’t foreshadow that. Oh, well.
4. The title lacks numbers, which are often very attention-getting:
7 Habits of Highly Effective People, One-Minute Manager, 50 Ways to Make Love to a Woman. I added that last bogus title because there was a joke about us college physics majors that we knew the 50 ways but didn’t know any women.
5. The title and subtitle were not chosen for Search Engine Optimization [SEO], but sometimes one should do so.
Kristen Eckstein’s handy GUIDE includes a link to her coaching site, UltimateBookCoach.com, and a link for a free set of instructions, “The 50 Ultimate Book Titles Template,” with suggestions for creating your own killer, ultimate, maximally effective title.