How Long Should Your Book Title Be?
by Diane Eble
One of the frequently-asked questions about book titles is, "Does the length of the title make any difference to the salability of the book?"
The short answer is: It's not so much the length as the quality of the title that determines the salability of the book.
"Think and Grow Rich" is one of the most effective titles in the history of publishing. As you can see, it's only four words long! However, those four words manage to:
- Tell what the book is about
- Make a compelling promise—you will grow rich merely by thinking the right way.
- It's on a topic that is of perennial interest to people (getting rich)
- The promise also piques interest. ("How can one get rich by thinking?")
- The title is easy to remember
On the other hand, here's another title that takes the idea of Think and Grow Rich and puts a different spin on it:: Secrets of the Millionaire Mind: Mastering the Inner Game of Wealth by T. aHarv Eker. This longer title accomplished the same things that Think and Grow Rich does, in more words. Still effective; this book has been a best seller for several years now.
If you compare book titles to headlines, then what copywriters have learned from their testing is that in general, longer headlines do better. I suspect this is simply because it often takes longer headlines to accomplish the purposes mentioned above.
My take on it is, attempt meet the 5-7 criteria of an irresistible title in as few words as possible.
This applies to nonfiction, by the way. With fiction, I think the main goal of a title is to pique interest and/or spark the imagination.
Look at the fiction titles currently on the New York Times best-seller list:
- You’ve Been Warned
- A Thousand Splendid Suns
- The Wheel Of Darkness
- Bones To Ashes
- The Wednesday Letters
- Garden Spells
- The Quickie
- Dark Possession
- The Elves Of Cintra
Effective fiction titles seem to run short, but include some sort of curiosity factor that engages the imagination. Rarely do fiction titles include subtitles. The challenge with fiction, then, is to find a title that is compelling to the imagination and that also is faithful enough to the book that when people read it, they will not be disappointed.
So how long does a title need to be to sell the book? As long as it needs to be to do the job of an irresistible title—and no longer. E. Haldeman-Julius, who probably did the most exhaustive study on titles ever recorded, concluded, "A good title is a work of genius."
This kind of genius, however, can be cultivated....
If you would like more help on making your title as strong as it can possibly be, here are some resources:
1. Ask your question about choosing a best-selling title. I will be answering them in articles (this was sparked by a question), on the blog, and/or in my upcoming course, "Choosing Your Bestselling Title" Telecourse. When you ask your question, you will also get access to the replay of the teleseminar in which I answered nearly 20 questions about choosing a great title.
2. Get the Special Report, "How to Choose Your Bestselling Title." This report builds on the above article, but includes so much more! For only $14.95, you will learn:
5 characteristics of a besteselling title
7 criteria for choosing your best title (and the minimum number you should shoot for)
The different "jobs" your title and subtitle must do. Miss even one, and your book is likely doomed.
12 places to go for great title ideas
The killer criteria that trumps all others when you test your title
How to create a "swipe file" of bestselling titles from which to brainstorm your own
How to use your research to create templates of best-selling titles you can use over again, not just for your title, but for marketing as well
7 ways to test your titles and come up with the winner that you can be sure will sell your book—including one that will actually net you income before your book is even published
7 action steps for choosing your bestselling title
Simply click the button below to instantly get this Special Report for only $14.95