Why Writing Book Subtitles Can Help Promotion
Subtitles beneath your book title can improve sales
Subtitles are essential to book promotion for nonfiction books. Therefore, it’s vital to write them well. Before we get into tips for writing subtitles, it’s important to note that many authors agonize over main titles for their books. Some even pay thousands of dollars to writers who are experts at coming up with catchy main titles. But the irony is that when it comes to marketing for nonfiction books, the subtitle is the most crucial element.
A book’s main title is designed to make an impact, catch attention, and pique interest. The subtitle does the rest of the work. It explains or should explain, in a specific way, precisely what a book is about. In book publicity, the subtitle is crucial for this very reason. If a producer or editor receives a book with no subtitle or an inferior one, he or she is not going to take the time to look at the book. It’s that simple. Time is precious to the media. Many outlets receive hundreds of books a week in the mail. A title has to hit them hard, fast, and clearly.
5 Tips for Writing Outstanding Book Subtitles
When creating a subtitle for your nonfiction book, consider these five points, each of which will help in a book marketing and publicity campaign:
• Make sure your book has a subtitle above all else!
• Be creative, but don’t go overboard; save most of the creativity for the main title
• Provide specific information in the subtitle; explain in a few words exactly what your book is about
• Keep it short; create your subtitle as if you were writing a press release headline for your book
• Keep search engine optimization (SEO) in mind; try to use appropriate keywords and phrases that guide search engines to include your book the results they serve up
In press releases, nonfiction books with weak subtitles often impede book marketing efforts. When media receive a book in the mail and review a press release, they give 10 to 15 seconds. Therefore, what’s presented must be informational and compelling. The subtitle is one of the things they look for most.
Differences Between Book Subtitles and Main Titles
Even the best main titles are more effective when augmented by outstanding subtitles. Consider the super bestseller Freakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner. The main title is terrific; it’s clever, hip, and unusual. But would you know intuitively what the book was about if it didn’t have the subtitle of A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything? Before the book exploded in popularity, an editor seeing only the main title might not have taken the time to read the book. But when the subtitle is added, suddenly it all becomes clear. The book’s clever cover art certainly helps, but the subtitle is what draws in readers.
Considering another great example, what would The Tipping Point mean to you if that’s all you read or heard? A publicist would need to make up for the lack of a subtitle by taking crucial time and space in a press release to describe the book. But, add in the subtitle to Malcolm Gladwell’s gem, How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, and you quickly have a powerful book.
For a third example about the value of book subtitles, what would the title Built to Sell convey to you or a reporter or producer? Building what? Selling what? Add in the subtitle for this book by John Warrilow, and you get everything you need to know: Turn Your Business into One You Can Sell.
The bottom line: When it comes to book publicity and getting people to take an interest in your book, make it as easy as possible. Don’t assume the reader will know what your book is about from the main title. Your book publicist will be thankful, and your work will have a better chance of selling and becoming a hit.