The Title - How To Pick A Title For Your Book

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How to pick a title for your book

You’ve signed your contract. Now’s a great time to reflect on your title. Does it really work? If not, it’s not too late to change it. However, you must find the right one as early as possible – because everything else flows from it.

You can change the title yourself, on your Book Details page, up to the point when you have uploaded your final, copyedited manuscript to the Production page. Then it is "locked," and your access to that box is removed.

And it’s not a good idea to leave it that late, anyway.

So here are our top tips on how to choose the right title:

  1. Get straight to the point. Distil your title down to less than a handful of words. What are you trying to say to your readership? The reader should get a good idea of what the book is about just by reading the title. Remember, bookshop buyers buy along subject lines. If the subject isn’t clear, they won’t stock it.
  2. Does your title describe your book? This might sound an obvious question, but if the contents of your title do not not match up with the contents of your book, it will put people off.
  3. DON’T use more than 29 characters; that’s the maximum number that many online sales databases can hold. If it’s over that, different databases may truncate your title different ways. You’ll end up in a situation where your book has a number of different titles, depending on who stocks it. People who want to buy your book, will find it hard to obtain.
  4. Check if your title has the right keywords. Browsers on Amazon look at subject areas. If the keywords for your subject area don’t appear in the title, browsers might not find you. If you can use keywords from bestselling titles in the same category, they are likely to carry your book higher up in the search results. But don’t go too far and sledgehammer in words if they don’t fit – that will be counterproductive.
  5. DON’T include unwitting attention-grabbing obscenities that may be blocked by profanity filters online and in databases, e.g. The Scunthorpe Problem.
  6. DON’T infringe copyright by quoting song lyrics, films, TV shows, etc.
  7. DON’T use ampersands, hyphens, apostrophes or similar punctuation wherever possible. If your book is titled "Your Cat & Dog Guide" and someone rings up a distributor or shop asking for it, the operator may search under "cat and dog" and then say that they do not stock it, because it will not appear on the screen.
  8. This is a technical one – Move pronouns to the end of your title. For example, The Zen Way of Counselling should be Zen Way of Counselling, The
  9. Test title options out on other people. Keep trying until you find one that clicks. Work not only with your inner sense but with friends, booksellers, librarians, and even strangers on the street. Remember – your title must attract the attention of the book buyer; it must, if possible, create the desire to buy.
  10. Include a Subtitle even if you think you don’t need one. Some distributors – like NBN who we work with in America, require a subtitle to be added for ALL books. For fiction, the North American trade like to have the subtitle "A Novel" included as standard. This does not mean you have to include the subtitle on your book’s cover. If you would like to exclude your subtitle from your cover, then note this in your proposal. However, if you're offered a contract and you accept it, the decision ultimately lies with the publisher.
  11. Check for other books with the same title. Book titles typically can't be copyrighted. But we recommend you check Amazon and search Google for books with the same title as yours. If there is a book in the same field, on a similar subject, best choose another title. If there is a book with the same title which sold very well, again, best choose another title as you don't want to compete with it on retail sites and search engines (your new book will be harder to find).

Very occasionally we change your title

In rare cases, once the contract is signed, we may change your title or add a subtitle if we feel it doesn’t do a good enough job of selling your book.

Once the information has gone out to the trade with the title, we cannot change it. We cannot publish a revised edition later with a different title; there are too many problems with people asking for the previous title and not being able to find it.

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