How to pick the right title for your (non-fiction) book: Tips

The name of your book will cause it to be picked up — or not given a second glance. It includes a title and a subtitle. Here are some suggestions for picking good ones:

  • Pick a title that’s a grabber: “1001 Ways to Market Your Books – For Authors and Publishers”
  • Don’t let the lack of a title keep you from writing the book; you may need to finish the book before you find the title
  • If appropriate, name it, “How to (solve a particular problem) in only x (days, hours, whatever)”
  • Make an outrageous claim: “How to Write a Book in 14 Days!”
  • Invent a word: “Publishize”
  • The subtitle should explain the benefits: “The ABCs of Handwriting Analysis” has “Techniques and Interpretations” as subtitle. “Publishize” has “How to Quickly and Affordably Self-Publish a Book That Promotes Your Expertise”
  • Make a promise: “Lose 13 lbs. This Week!”
  • Brainstorm with friends or mastermind groups
  • Run a naming contest on your blog
  • Ask for feedback on Twitter, Facebook, etc.
  • Browse Amazon.com, your local bookstore, your local library
  • Keep a notebook with you to write down ideas

What are your ideas about book naming?

Comments
Susan Daffron commented on 29-Jan-2009 08:05 PM
Hi Joel, How cool to see my book title in your list ;-) I hope you enjoyed the book too. Happy New Year! – Susan Daffron

Who’s your audience?

If you have ever taken a writing class or an English class, you have heard this question: who is your audience? Who are you writing for? It is crucial that you know this before you put your thoughts together — let alone start to write a book.

It is amazing how many books, articles, and presentations are written by people who clearly did not have the answer to this question. They wrote because they had something to say — without thinking much about who they were saying it to.

What needs does your audience have? What challenges is your reader facing? What language does your audience understand? How much patience will your reader muster  to wade through your prose? What result will they have obtained upon completing your book?

Every reader is an individual. You may think of your books market has a crowd, but each reader is just one person. And if they are to buy your book, it must speak to them. They must see themselves in its title, its subtitle, its contents, its promises.

Create a persona that represents your reader. Design a fictitious character that embodies qualities of your audience. Then draw a picture of them, and write their characteristics on the picture. Keep that picture in view while you write. That way you will remember who your audience is.

Print color books at a good price

Go to Blurb.com and download their free software, Mac or PC. Watch their excellent video tutorials. Then design your book, including photos, and get a coffee-table quality book, soft or hard cover. Wide range of prices; 4 sizes.

Printing color books in small quantities has always been price-prohibitive; Blurb.com is not cheap, but acceptable, for special projects.

Roy Blount Jr.’s latest book

Alphabet Juice: The Energies, Gists, and Spirits of Letters, Words, and Combinations Thereof; Their Roots, Bones, Innards, Piths, Pips, and Secret Parts, … With Examples of Their Usage Foul and Savory” was discussed this evening on NPR’s “City Arts and Lectures,” as its author, amazingly sharp and deceptively down-home Roy Blount, Jr., was interviewed therein.

If the title and author do not capture you, click on the title to visit Amazon.com, and read the Washington Post review on the site. Although it inexplicably lacks paragraphs, it is worth reading and savoring on its own.

This is a book I want in my library. The relationship between the form of words and their function is treated lovingly, passionately, and intelligently.

A delight, I am certain.

Book as mirror

Many people feel a need to write a book. They feel in their hearts they have something to say, something to tell, something to teach. In my coaching of many first-time authors, I’ve noticed something that has happened to each of them — and to me, to.

The book becomes a mirror, an externalization of thoughts and feelings. The author learns things about herself that she did not know. Feelings that were vague become clear. Perceptions become sharpened: “Now I understand!” is a frequent comment.

So the book becomes an important part of the author’s journey. It takes shape as the author provides meaning, and the shape is often surprising, unanticipated.

Even my BookProgram™ approach, which emphasizes the creation of a structural framework before doing the actual writing, works this way. In fact, my experience is that its discoveries are even more potent than those of the usual writing process. Somehow, focusing on structure requires us to confront the need for meaning and consistency more directly.

Have you written a book? Are you writing one? Does this resonate with your experience?

Books beat brochures for finding new clients

As a business coach, I have explored the process of finding new coaching clients extensively. I think what I’ve learned probably also applies to other professionals, such as financial advisors, doctors, accountants, etc.

There are lots of ways to become known, including:

  • Networking groups, such as BNI and your chamber of commerce
  • Writing articles
  • Maintaining a blog
  • Giving presentations for local and national groups that match your desired client demographics
  • Advertising – print and Web

Many coaches and other professionals I know have had beautiful brochures designed and printed, and hand them out to prospects in many contexts. I’d like to suggest replacing your brochure with a book.

There are several reasons why brochures don’t work well for coaches and other professionals:

  • Few people keep brochures; they glance at them and toss them (isn’t this what you do?)
  • A brochure doesn’t contain much information; emphasis is usually placed on a pleasing design and good materials
  • Brochures are either expensive or look too cheap (even if they’re not) to reflect well on you

A book, on the other hand,

  • Automatically establishes you as an authority
  • Gives you room enough to define your uniqueness
  • Is unlikely to get thrown away
  • Can actually be less expensive to produce than a moderately-priced brochure (a 48-page perfect-bound book with a color cover is just over $1 in quantities of 500)

I’ve created a template-based kit for coaches to produce a 48-page book without difficulty, and I have additional kits planned for other professions. But whether you use my kit or not, I recommend you consider producing a book to replace your brochure.

“I do have a book inside me — but I don’t know where to start!”

I hear this statement frequently. The single most powerful tool you can learn to get you unstuck, in my opinion, is clustering.

I learned clustering from Gabriele Rico’s “Writing the Natural Way,” which I highly recommend. On her website, she describes the clustering process:

“A non-linear brainstorming process, clustering makes the Design mind’s interior, invisible associations visible on a page. Clustering becomes a self-organizing process as words and phrases are spilled onto the page around a center. The Sign mind begins to see pattern and meaning, and the writing flows naturally into a vignette.”

Rico uses “Sign mind” for the “left brain” and “Design mind” for the right brain.

Here’s a more instructive description, from the blog of writer Dustin Wax.

Here’s the basic idea:
1.    Write a word in the middle of a sheet of paper.

2.    Circle it.

3.    Write down the first word or phrase that comes to mind and circle it.

4.    Draw a line connecting the second circle to the first.

5.    Repeat. As you write and circle new words and phrases, draw lines back to the last word, the central word, or other words that seem connected. Don’t worry about how they’re connected — the goal is to let your right-brain do its thing, which is to see patterns; later, the left-brain will take over and put the nature of those relationships into words.

6.    When you’ve filled the page, or just feel like you’ve done enough (a sign of what Rico calls a “felt-shift”), go back through what you’ve written down. Cross out words and phrases that seem irrelevant, and begin to impose some order by numbering individual bubbles or clusters. Here is where your right-brain is working in tandem with your left-brain, producing what is essentially an outline. At this point, you can either transfer your numbered clusters to a proper outline or simply begin writing in the order you’ve numbered the clusters.

By the time you’ve started reviewing your clusters, your brain has done much of the work of fleshing out your ideas; all that remains is to put these relationships into words, which is what your left-brain excels at.

Rico’s clustering technique gives you access to all that is in the various conscious and unconscious or subconscious parts of your mind on a subject. When you’re done—and you get that thing mentioned above as a “felt-shift,” or a “kerchunk,” after 15-20 minutes, to signal that you’re done—you will have a sort of map of what you know about a subject. That implicitly gives you, also, a map of what you don’t know, and need to research.

I cluster everything—my plan for the day; a phone call; a book (cluster the book, then cluster the chapters); a business plan; a talk…. It not only works, it feels good.

Book-cover design software – pretty good

I’ve been trying out the free version of Book Cover Pro, which lets you create book covers of any size. The simple version is $97 and comes with a single template; the fancy version comes with a library of templates for $187 and with software for creating all kinds of collateral materials for marketing your book — and for creating ebook covers, too. Pretty impressive.

Video from “Program for the Future”

I was co-chair of the Program for the Future, held 12/8-9 at The Tech Museum in San Jose, at the MediaX Center at Stanford, and in Second Life. Here’s a video of a wonderful conversation between Alan Kay (inventor of Smalltalk; Dynabook; Object-Oriented Programming) and Andy van Dam (teacher of more computer industry leaders than I can count.

It was an honor to work with the team who did all the work!

Doug Engelbart and the future of books

Together with Hiroshi Ishii of MIT’s Media Lab, I helped organize the Program for the Future , a conference held to honor Doug Engelbart on the 40th anniversary of “The Mother of All Demos”

Engelbart is known as the inventor of the mouse, but that innovation–as he frequently points out–was incidental to the much larger vision of collective intelligence. (Google for more details.)

Take a look at the video of the demo, and you will be amazed. Remember, the year was 1968!

Even though the current manifestations of that vision seem to be retarded relative to the foresight it showed 40 years ago, it is not difficult to make the leap to Amazon’s Kindle and all the on-line reading and writing options available to us today.

Book publishing as it has been practiced is in the midst of big changes.

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