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How to Write a Book Title Correctly: A Step-by-Step Guide + Examples

Few things should scare you more than a botched title. It’s true not only for books but also for any piece of writing you may produce—including blog posts and thought leadership articles. 

Let’s be honest: we all would like to think that people don’t judge a book by its cover, but that simply isn’t the case. People do judge a book by its cover, and they certainly judge a book by its title. Readers are unforgiving. 

A recent survey revealed that 80% of readers decide whether to buy a book based on its title. This underscores the importance of crafting a title that not only captures the essence of your book but also entices potential readers.

You absolutely cannot afford a botched title.

In most cases, a botched title means your piece of writing won’t be read. And if your piece of writing happens to be a book, you’ve wasted a lot of time, effort, and probably money.

In this post, we’ll break down how to write a book title correctly.


A well-crafted title not only captures the essence of your book but also piques the interest of potential readers. It sets the stage for what they can expect and will significantly influence their decision to pick up your book.

There are 7 steps to writing a book title correctly:

  1. Understand the Structure of a Book Title

  2. Be Able to State the Unity of Your Book

  3. Define the Appropriate Tone and Style for the Title

  4. Choose the Most Compelling Image Possible 

  5. Select Strong, Visual Words That Invite Readers

  6. Test Out Your Book Title With Your Target Market

  7. Tweak Your Book Title and Make a Final Decision

Follow these steps in order and you are almost guaranteed never to regret your book title choice!

Why a Good Book Title Matters

Before diving into the steps of creating a book title, it's crucial to understand why a good title is so important.

A compelling book title:

  • Attracts Attention: It's the first thing potential readers see.

  • Creates Interest: Encourages readers to pick up your book.

  • Sets Expectations: Gives a glimpse of what the book is about.

  • Improves Discoverability: Helps your book appear in search results and bookstores.

Statistics show that books with well-crafted titles sell significantly better than those with generic or unclear titles.

Understanding the impact of a good title can motivate you to invest the time and effort needed to create one.

1. Understand the Structure of a Book Title

Nonfiction book titles follow a standard structure: a title, generally 5 words or less, and a subtitle, generally 3 to 7 words. These are simply a rule of thumb; book titles and subtitles can be longer or shorter.

  • Title: 5 words more or less 

  • Subtitle: 3 to 7 words

The title and subtitle vary in length because they serve different purposes. While the goal of the title is to grab the reader’s attention while indicating what the book is about, the subtitle’s role is to provide more information about what the book promises to offer. 

  • Title: hook 

  • Subtitle: explanation   

Book Title Structure Graphic

Take the following book titles from Amazon’s top most sold and most read books from August 29, 2022.Amazon's Most Sold and Most Read Charts

  • Becoming

  • The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life

  • Educated

  • Girl, Stop Apologizing

  • 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote for Chaos

  • The Right Side of History: How Reason and Moral Purpose Made the West Great

  • Can’t Hurt Me

  • Sapiens

  • Girl, Wash Your Face

  • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

  • Kushner, Inc.

  • Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones

  • How to Win Friends and Influence People

  • Dare to Lead

  • Never Split the Difference: Negotiation as if Your Life Depended on It

  • Mindfulness in Plain English

  • Leadership Wisdom From the Monk Who Sold His Ferrari 

  • Unfu*k Yourself

  • Becoming Supernatural

  • Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup

Understanding the structure of your book title is the first step toward creating an impactful title.

A well-structured title not only grabs attention but also gives potential readers a glimpse into the book's content and tone. Remember, the title is your first opportunity to make an impression, so make it count.

For example, titles like "The 4-Hour Workweek" and its subtitle "Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich." The main title is concise and intriguing, while the subtitle provides clear benefits, enticing the reader.

2. Be Able to State the Unity of Your Book

To find a good title and subtitle, you must be able to state the unity of your book. This expression comes from Mortimer J. Adler’s book How to Read a Book. While Adler applies this idea to reading other people’s books, it is just as true for your own book.

How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent reading | Mortimer J.  Adler | Charles Van Doren

To state the unity of your book, state the book’s content in one sentence. In Trivium Writing’s Architecture of Writing methodology, we call this the thesis. Informed by your writing goal and purpose, the thesis is the main point to take away from the book.

One of the reasons people struggle to write their book titles correctly is that they don’t have their books in order. In other words, their book is disorganized and lacks a coherent message and structure. That’s why Trivium Writing offers book coaching services.  

When you can state the unity of your book in one clear, concise sentence, you are on the right path.

This clarity not only helps in crafting a compelling title but also ensures that your book's content remains focused and cohesive. It’s a crucial step in the title creation process that shouldn't be overlooked.

Having a clear thesis not only aids in creating a cohesive book but also plays a crucial role in your marketing strategy. It helps in crafting a compelling elevator pitch, writing a persuasive book blurb, and even targeting the right audience.

3. Define the Appropriate Tone and Style for the Title

Each word and phrase conveys a different tone, so if you want to control your readers’ perception when they see your book, you must be deliberate. Before you spend time choosing the words for your book title, decide which tone you wish to convey.

Here are some tone examples:

  • Confident

  • Joyful

  • Friendly

  • Negative

  • Urgent

  • Elegant

  • Strong

  • Analytical 

Here are the three possible styles:

  • Informal

  • Formal

  • Neutral

By being deliberate with your tone and style, you’ll be able to attract your audience. For example, you should use a negative tone to appeal to a discontent audience, while you should an optimistic tone to appeal to a hopeful one.

While some audiences prefer an informal style, others prefer a formal one. For example, take two books on the same topic. 

Tone and Style Graphic

The title of Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do? by Michael Sandel, a Harvard professor, is informal in style as it contains a contraction and a direct question. The audience for the book is the general public interested in an introduction to justice.

The Authority of the Court and the Perils of Politics, by Stephen Breyer, a then-sitting U.S. Supreme Court justice, is written in a formal style, as it contains the formal word “authority” and no informal element.

Notice the different tones of the two books. Sandel’s book inspires intrigue and curiosity, while Beye’s book inspires urgency and negativity. While the former is open-ended and interrogative, the latter is declarative and closed. Make sure you choose wisely.

The tone and style of your title should align with the overall feel of your book. A mismatched title can mislead readers and set the wrong expectations.

Spend time reflecting on the message and mood you want to convey through your title and ensure it resonates with your intended audience.

4. Choose the Most Compelling Image Possible

Ideally, you want to create an image in your reader’s mind with your book title.

Visual book titles are often the best and the most unforgettable. They also force you to conceptualize your message more compellingly.


If you use a visual title, the image should align with your book’s content by being present in your book. In this sense, it may be best to find your book title before writing. If your book has already been written, you may find an existing image. 

How do you go about creating this image for your book title? Assuming you haven’t started writing your book already or that you’re going to make changes later, you should start by looking at the categories that divide the world.

Here are 8 categories:

  • Nature: trees, flowers, clouds, ocean, etc.

  • People: men, women, children, etc.

  • Animals: foxes, wolves, eagles, etc.

  • Abstractions: truth, perils, authority, etc.

  • Domains: architecture, psychology, art, science 

  • Roles: mother, father, king, queen 

  • Objects: couch, book, car

  • Shapes: circle, square, star

Each of these categories contains words with different tones and styles. But the categories in and of themselves have their own tone. Think of that tone when you choose a category or a word. You can feel that tone yourself and ask for feedback.

Graphic showing 8 domains to select a compelling image

For example, an image of nature is more grounded than an abstract concept such as truth or a domain. Meanwhile, using an objective will make your image heavier, and using a shape will make it simpler.

A compelling image in your title can captivate your readers' imagination and make your book memorable. Consider the lasting impression you want to leave and choose words that evoke strong visual images.

This strategy not only makes your title more engaging but also more likely to be remembered by potential readers.

5. Select Strong, Visual Words That Invite Readers

Now that you have laid out the foundations for your title, it’s time to choose the words you will use. In that regard, it is essential to remember the different words available to us, also known as parts of speech. 

  • Determiners: the, a, an, etc.
  • Nouns: tree, man, foxes, etc.
  • Adjectives: brilliant, beautiful, etc.
  • Verbs: sprint, run, build, etc.
  • Adverbs: quickly, violently, slowly, etc.
  • Prepositions: of, off, on, in, etc.
  • Conjunctions: for, and, but, or nor, yet, since
  • Interjections: oh, hey, etc.

While you have several parts of speech available, not all of them are created equal. In other words, some are more important than others, and while you may use many of them, you probably won’t use them all.

The most important parts of speech are nouns and verbs because they are the main content words—the words that create images. While nouns show a person, an object, or a concept, verbs show actions. Both can underlie your book title.

Strong, Visual Words Graphic

While choosing between nouns and verbs is partly a stylistic choice, the decision should be informed by the book’s content. Verbs are more active than nouns, so in many cases, they may imply that the book is more practical.

For example, Building a Business in 7 Easy Steps uses a verb and suggests a very practical book. Business Creation 101, which uses a noun, does not sound as practical—though it may well be.

Meanwhile, The Making of an Enduring Business, using a different verb and an adjective, sounds more elegant than the first two titles. 

Selecting the right words is crucial. Words are powerful tools that can paint vivid pictures in the minds of your readers. Strong, visual words attract attention and give a sense of what the book is about.

Choose your words wisely to create a title that invites readers into your world.

6. Test Out Your Book Title With Your Target Market

Once you have a tentative title for your book—and you can have many—test it with your target market. Find people who fit your reader avatar and are interested in providing feedback on your early work. Ask them what they think.

As an aside, always have beta readers who can provide you with feedback throughout the book writing and publishing process. Make sure you ask them unbiased questions so they can give you valuable, accurate information.

Group of people discussing at an event

The best way to ask your target market about a book title is to present it to them and ask what they think. Don’t ask specific questions yet. Simply ask your readers what they think. This will help you collect unbiased information about how they feel.

Once you have their initial reaction, ask them which emotions the title evokes. While still general, this question is a bit more guided. Then you may move to more specific questions that give you precisely what you want, such as:

  • Does this title make you want to read the book?
  • Is this a title you would feel good reading in public?
  • Does the title tell you what you’ll get from the book?

Testing your book title with your target market can provide invaluable insights.

It’s important to gather honest feedback and be open to making changes based on this input. This process can help refine your title to align with your readers' expectations and preferences, increasing the likelihood of your book's success.

7. Tweak Your Book Title and Make a Final Decision

Target market feedback is subjective, and every person will have different opinions. While you shouldn’t let it dictate everything, it’s essential to take this feedback seriously. As a rule of thumb, if more than three people raise a point, pay attention to it.

You shouldn’t necessarily change your title to please your target readers, but in many cases, your readers will lead you in the right direction. For example, if three or more readers indicate that the title is unclear, it’s safe to say your title needs some work.

Smiling man working on his computer

It is always good practice to have a few backup titles if your original title doesn’t resonate with your audience. You can also tweak your title; for example, you can change the emotion and image in the title as well as the explanation in the subtitle.

After tweaking your title, run it by your target market once again to see what they think. You may want to repeat this process several times if you can’t find a title that works, is compelling, and resonates with your audience. Your book title matters, after all.

Making final tweaks based on feedback is critical in perfecting your book title. This iterative process ensures that your title is not only appealing but also accurately reflects the content and tone of your book. Don’t rush this step; a well-considered title can make all the difference.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Creating a Book Title

Even with the best intentions, it's easy to make mistakes when crafting a book title.

Here are some common pitfalls to watch out for:

  • Being Too Vague: A title that doesn’t clearly convey the book's content will not attract readers.

  • Overcomplicating: Long or complex titles can be confusing and hard to remember.

  • Ignoring the Genre: Make sure your title aligns with the genre and audience expectations.

  • Using Jargon: Avoid industry-specific terms that might alienate potential readers.

  • Neglecting SEO: Incorporate keywords that improve discoverability online.

By being aware of these mistakes, you can ensure your title is compelling and effective.

Tools and Resources for Crafting Book Titles

There are several tools and resources available to help you brainstorm and refine your book title.

Here are a few recommendations:

  • Book Title Generators: Online tools like KDP’s Book Title Generator and Portent’s Content Idea Generator can provide inspiration.

  • Keyword Research Tools: Tools like Google Keyword Planner and SEMrush help you find relevant keywords to include in your title.

  • Thesaurus and Dictionaries: Use these to find synonyms and explore different word choices.

  • Writing Communities: Join forums and groups where you can get feedback from fellow writers.

Utilizing these resources can make the title creation process easier and more effective.

Real-World Examples of Successful Book Titles

Analyzing successful book titles can provide valuable insights. Here are some examples and why they work:

  • The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss: This title is intriguing, promises a clear benefit, and is easy to remember.

  • How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie: Clear, descriptive, and speaks directly to the reader's needs.

  • The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson: Bold, controversial, and attention-grabbing.

Examining these examples can inspire you to craft a title that captures your book's essence and appeals to your target audience.

Frequently Asked Questions About Book Title

As a writing coach and consultant, I am often asked about book titles, whether they matter, and how to write good ones.

Here are some of the most common:

Why is it important to have a good book title?

A good book title is crucial because it’s the first impression your book makes on potential readers.

A compelling title captures attention, piques interest, and provides a glimpse into the book’s content, increasing the likelihood that readers will pick up and read your book.

How long should a book title be?

Typically, nonfiction book titles are 5 words or less, while subtitles are 3 to 7 words.

This is a guideline, and lengths can vary depending on the specific needs of your book. The key is to ensure that the title is concise and the subtitle provides additional context.

What is the role of a subtitle in a book title?

The subtitle’s role is to provide more information about what the book promises to offer.

While the title grabs attention and indicates what the book is about, the subtitle elaborates on the book's content and main value proposition.

How do I determine the right tone and style for my book title?

Decide on the tone and style based on your target audience and the message you want to convey.

Then, consider whether your book is formal or informal, and whether the tone should be confident, joyful, friendly, urgent, etc. This helps ensure the title resonates with your readers.

What are some examples of strong, visual words for book titles?

Strong, visual words create vivid images in the reader’s mind.

Examples include:

  • Nouns: Tree, Man, Foxes
  • Adjectives: Brilliant, Beautiful
  • Verbs: Sprint, Run, Build

These words can make your title more engaging and memorable.

How can I test my book title with my target market?

Gather a group of people who fit your reader profile and ask for their feedback on your book title.

Then, present the title without leading questions, then ask which emotions it evokes and if it makes them want to read the book. Use this feedback to refine your title.

What should I do if my target market doesn't like my book title?

If your target market’s feedback is consistently negative, consider tweaking your title.

Pay attention to recurring points of feedback, such as clarity or appeal. Have a few backup titles and test these as well, making adjustments until you find one that resonates.

How can I ensure my book title reflects the content accurately?

To ensure your title accurately reflects the content, clearly state the book's unity in one sentence.

This clarity helps in crafting a title that aligns with your book’s message and structure, ensuring it resonates with your audience and accurately represents your content.

Can a book title impact book sales?

Yes, a well-crafted title can significantly impact book sales.

A compelling title attracts potential readers, piques their interest, and encourages them to purchase the book. It also helps with discoverability in searches and can make a book more memorable.

What if I still can't decide on a book title?

If you’re struggling to decide on a book title, consider seeking professional help.

Consulting services, like those offered by Trivium Writing, can provide expert advice and help you brainstorm and select the best title for your book and audience.

Next Steps: Getting Help with Your Book Title

If you still feel confused after reading this blog and don’t know where to start with your book title, consider our consulting services. For a small fee, we can help you brainstorm title ideas and help you select the best one for your audience and book.

Click below to book a call.

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Leandre Larouche

Article by Leandre Larouche

Leandre Larouche is a writer, coach, and the founder of Trivium Writing.