How to Write Book Titles That Sell: 5 SEO Tips for Creating a Nonfiction Book Title So You Can Sell More Copies

by Nina Harrington

We’ve all heard it: Don’t judge a book by its cover.

But why is that such a popular warning?

Probably because we do judge things (and people) based on appearances—if a book has an eyecatching cover, you’ll probably pick it up to learn more.

But if the book’s cover looks like a drunk chipmunk painted it, you’ll probably pass it by…even though reading it might change your life forever!

Titles act the same way. If a title doesn’t hook you immediately, you’re not going to click to learn more or pick it up, much less buy it.

But with the right title, you can make a great first impression that leads to more sales! Here’s how to write book titles that sell using the insights of SEO.

How to Write Book Titles Using SEO

Titles are a reader’s first point of contact with your book. So it’s pretty much impossible to overstate how important picking the right title is.

According to research conducted by author, blogger, and former publisher Michael Hyatt, consumers tend to look at the features of a book in the following order:

  1. Title
  2. Cover
  3. Back cover blurb
  4. The text on the flaps (if your book is a hardcover)
  5. Table of contents
  6. First few paragraphs of the book’s content
  7. Price

Notice that the name of the author is not on the list, although it could be a factor if the writer is a well-known celebrity or authority in that niche.

Why does this matter?

Imagine that you have a problem, or a compelling interest, and go online to Amazon or another site to find ideas and solutions to your problem.

What do you type into the search bar?

It’s usually the final result that you want to achieve. For example, “how to write a romance novel,” or “how to lose 10 pounds in 10 days.”

Amazon will then display a list of books based on the relevance of their titles and subtitles to the search criteria that you have given.

Not the author. Not the price. The title and subtitle.

How do readers select books from the list?

As our eyes scan down the screen, we’re subconsiously reading the title and subtitle of each book, aligning the words to the cover art and the other books on the list displayed before making the decision to click on a particular book to find out more.

The whole process happens in less than a second, but in that time, we’ve assessed how relevant each book is to our needs, and whether it’s worth our time and money.

Less than a second. That’s how long any author has to help a browser discover their book!

And it all starts with crafting a title and subtitle for your book that you know will appeal to your ideal readers—the people who need the information or solution that your book provides.

Essential Elements of an Attention-Grabbing Book Title

The hard fact is—and some authors may wince at this one—you have to look at your book title as a sales pitch.

Your book may provide the perfect solution to a challenge that your ideal readers are facing, but they don’t know that it exists.

It’s your job to help readers to discover your book so that they can benefit from all of the hard work you’ve put into it.

A good title tells what the book is about. A great title tells what the end destination is. A truly superb title is one that tells the end destination and also appeals to core human desires.”

— Buck Flogging at Archangel Ink

Let’s take a look at these key elements.

Does the subject matter appeal to core human needs?

These can be very crudely defined as:

  • happiness
  • wealth
  • health and beauty

If your book helps your ideal reader to make more money, look better, or be happier, then it has a better chance of success than a textbook on an obscure topic, no matter how fascinating that topic might be.

Who is your ideal reader?

Why would someone want to buy this book? If you have carried out effective market research, then you have a very clear understanding of who the ideal audience for your book is, and the challenges that they are struggling with.

How will this book help them?

You should have already validated that there is a market for this book, and that your ideal reader needs this information and is willing to pay for it. What does the book do for them? What problem does it solve? What need does it fill?

What makes your book unique?

What is your book about and why should a prospective reader care?

You have to be able to convice a reader that your book is going to deliver on a particular promise, which could be anything from providing technical information about medicine or computer coding, right through to a compilation of rude party jokes or a selection of inspirational paintings in a meditation journal.

No matter what your topic, your title has to jump out and compel a reader to click on the cover to find out more. It has to give them enough information to know that it’s relevant to their interests, but do so in a way that’s intriguing—that makes them want to know more.

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