Coming up with a book title can often be agonizing for authors. There are no “right” answers. Some high-profile authors pay quite handsomely to have others come up with a title. They are that important.
For non-fiction books, the subtitle is just as important as a title.
A book’s main title should be clear, impactful, intriguing, and should pique interest. The subtitle takes it from there and does the heavy lifting in terms of creating, or losing, the interest of a reader. The subtitle should explain in a very specific way exactly what a book is about.
When it comes to book promotion, a book without a subtitle, or one with a poor subtitle, can take up very valuable space in press releases and pitches. It can make a book publicist work harder to describe what the book is about.
Here area few quick tips:
- Make sure you have a subtitle!
We’ve seen non-fiction books from prospective clients – good books – that didn't have subtitles. Put simply, in most cases, a non-fiction book without a subtitle is rudderless – you don't know where it’s going or what its actually about.
Consider these two examples:
- Book title: The World is Flat.
You see this title and it could be a novel, humor, satire, history … just about any genre.
Now you see the full title: The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century. (This is the classic bestseller by Thomas Friedman) Still an intriguing title, but you have a much better idea of what the book is about, especially if you’re already familiar with such a well-known Pulitzer Prize winning writer.
- Book title: Miracle of the Air Waves.
OK, this book could be about … a miraculous event of some type? A show? A novel?
Now the full title: Miracle of the Air Waves: A History of Radio. Now you know exactly what the book is about. (This book is a bit more obscure, by Edward A. Herron, published in 1969, by a division of Simon & Schuster.
- Don't make the subtitle too long. A subtitle should be crafted with precision - concise, descriptive, and clear.
- Keep Search Engine Optimization in mind. Try to use keywords and phrases that will help your book organically appear in searches.
- Be creative, but don’t go overboard. Don't outsmart yourself and end up with a subtitle that was meant to be clever, but ends up being confusing!
The bottom line: Keep book marketing in mind when creating a subtitle. Don’t assume the reader will know what your book is about from the main title.
Your book will inevitably be more appealing, and … your publicist will be thankful.