A terrible title can destroy your book and keep you from reaching the world with your words. The title is like a reader’s first impression right behind the book cover. So, how do you come up with a title that will propel your book toward success?
I have a simple strategy that I teach the writers taking my course. Today I will share it with you all.
Step #1: Find the top five best-selling authors in your genre and study them.
What were the author’s last three book titles? Look for keywords that seem to resonate with the readers. While searching through these fifteen books you will notice patterns that might fit with your book. Keep in mind to take note of both the title and the subtitle of each book.
Step #2: KISS
Remember that old saying, “keep it simple sweetie?” I say to “Keep it Short Sweetie.” Short book titles with no more than 3-5 words seem to work the best. You can make up the difference using a subtitle if necessary.
Step #3: Start a list of possible book titles
Create a list of possible titles and then compare them to the best selling titles of your targeted authors. How do they compare? Are they longer or shorter? Did you use some of the same keywords?
Step #4: Test it
After you get your list down to two or three possible titles, send them out to a test group and see which title gets the best response.
I know this sounds strange, but don’t forget to make sure your title truly resonates with your book’s topic and purpose. Sometimes in the race to find the perfect, compelling title authors forget that their title must convey a message to the reader first and foremost.
Motivational guru, Tony Robbins, has established the six basic human needs and how they relate to our behavior. They are certainty, variety, significance, connection, growth, and contribution. So, how do these human needs relate to your writing?
Too many writers spend years creating their books only to find they won’t sell. It could be because of their unappealing book covers, or their lack of marketing skills, but sometimes there’s another, sneakier reason.
Flat, perfect characters don’t hold the reader’s attention. Psychology tells us that humans are attracted to people who are like themselves. No, there aren’t going to be identical people, but there needs to be something about the person that can be relatable.
When a book’s character lacks depth, it’s hard for complicated humans to relate. No one is utterly beautiful, amazingly successful, and has no problems. Your characters shouldn’t live this way either.
Every human’s basic instinct is to gain pleasure and to avoid pain. Does your character behave this way? If not, maybe you should re-think your story. Now, I know what you’re thinking. I’m writing non-fiction, so this doesn’t apply to me. Wrong! It definitely applies to a non-fiction writer. If you are writing a biography, a memoir, or a self-help book, you need to dive into the reasons behind the actions of your main character.
When I was writing the biography of an ex-gangster, I didn’t merely relate his activities in sequential order. I tried to dive in deeper and discover the reasoning behind his actions. Sidney did most of his criminal activities in an attempt to seek the pleasures of fast cars and fast women. Growing up in poverty, he wanted notoriety and significance. As a child, he noticed all the local mobsters had the respect and admiration he craved.
So, let’s take each one of these human needs and dive in deeper.
Everyone needs to feel certain that they will be able to avoid pain and gain pleasure. They want to feel a sense of security and find it comforting. If a person is poverty-stricken and has no hope of finding food, they may steal it to feed themselves and their children. They avoided the pain of starvation and gained the pleasure of feeding their children. They may even not eat anything. I know this is a simplistic example but think about your characters now.
Is the need for certainty met in your character’s life? Yes or no? How does this affect his or her behavior?
After all that jazz about certainty, humans also need variety. If everything was exactly the same every day, humans go stir crazy. Although we need certainty, we must also have a good dose of variety to spice things up a bit.
What variety do you provide in your storyline? How does this help your character? Remember, variety isn’t always a positive thing. Sometimes it can come in the form of a bad situation.
Everyone needs to feel special and appreciated for their uniqueness and importance. Like the other five human needs, this can come in the form of a negative or a positive. Tony gives an example of a street kid mugging a citizen. That thug may have never had anything in his life. He probably felt insignificant whether he would admit it or not. But, at that moment, when he was holding the gun at the victim’s head, he was significant. He was all-powerful, and this filled a psychological need, although in a very negative way.
How is your character getting this need fulfilled? Are they achieving it negatively or positively?
Although we need to feel unique and significant, humans aren’t happy if they don’t also feel connected and loved by others. Again, humans can get this need fulfilled in good ways and bad. Why do battered women go back to their abusers? A lot of the time, it’s because they need to feel connected, and they don’t have the ability or mindset to find that connection elsewhere.
How is your character connected to others? Do they feel isolated and alone? If so, how does that affect their behavior?
Every human grows physically, but unfortunately, it seems many don’t grow emotionally. This problem is the cause of much of the office politics, drama, and chaos in the workplace. Everyone must grow emotionally and physically. When reading a book, we expect the character to be a different version of themselves at the end of the book. Notice I said different, not better. There was a reason for it. While we want the heroes to grow and become better, we simultaneously want to see the antagonist deteriorate. Although sometimes, the antagonist is so likable, we find ourselves rooting for the bad guy. In this case, we hope he or she finds help and becomes better through the process.
Every human has a deep desire to leave his or her mark on the world. We want to be significant and make the world a better place. Parents want to leave a better world for their children. People who give back to their community find a deeper meaning to life and seem to have a purpose and drive. What is your character doing to give back? How is he or she contributing to the betterment of society? If he isn’t, how does this affect him? Is he bitter? Is she depressed?
When writing, dive deeper, and answer each of these questions for all of your characters. If you do, you will find your writing will have more depth. You will have happier readers and more book sales.
Do you cringe when you hear the word “dictation?” There’s no need to be intimidated by the word or the process. When someone says the word “narrate,” does that set off alarm bells? I doubt it. There’s a really simple reason behind this example.
“When you change the way you look at the world, the world you look at will change.”
– Wayne Dyer
The perception around dictation is more intense for some people so they find themselves becoming intimidated by the concept. Instead, I suggest you look at it as narrating.
Tips For Narrating (Dictating) Your Next Book:
Outline your book first by making a list of topics you would like to cover. Then choose one topic to “talk” about.
Label this recording with the topic title. This will make it easier for you when you to to arrange your recordings into a readable book.
Google Docs and MS Word both offer a talk-to-text option. This is a simple and free way to get your thoughts down on paper.
**Do Not Watch The Screen As You Dictate!** The whole point of this exercise is to get your thoughts down, not to edit as you go. If you watch the screen, you will find yourself stumbling around in your speech and trying to edit as you go. Instead, hit record and start talking. Edit later!
If you don’t want to use talk-to-text options you can record your story and send it to a transcriptionist to type it up for you. Again, don’t worry about editing here.
After all of this is said and done, now you can send it to an editor who will work on your punctuation, grammar and sentence syntax.
If you are struggling to try to find time to sit at the computer and write your book, then perhaps narration is the best option for you. I know it has made a drastic change in my writing projects.
Remember those days back in school when you weren’t the first person to be picked for a ball team? Do you really want to put yourself back into that situation? No! But, we do it all the time. As writers, don’t get into the trap of believing that you have to be “picked” by a traditional publisher to be a successful writer.
#2 Successful Writers Read
Study the most successful people in the world and you will find they are all committed to a lifelong study of business and personal development. Nowadays, you don’t even have to sit down to read a paperback book. I am constantly studying. While I’m washing dishes, I have my earbuds in listening to a seminar. While I’m driving I will be listening to an audiobook. You don’t have to wait until you have time to sit down with a cup of coffee to read and learn. The important thing to remember is to study.
#3 They Control And the Let Go
I know that sounds odd, but here’s the deal. They control the only thing they really have the power to handle and that is their reactions and their mindset. They can’t control someone else’s behavior, but they control their own. They let go of everything else.
As a writer this an important trait to acquire. People are going to be rude to you when you release a book. Someone is going to leave an occasional nasty review on Amazon. While some people praise you others are operating out of narrow-minded jealousy. Let them go. Control your reactions to these people and let them go.
#4 Forget Everyone Else and Focus on Themselves
Successful writers study the market trends, but they don’t fall into the trap of comparing their work to other writers. How can you compare apples and oranges? Every writer is working from their own ideals, mindsets, and beliefs. No two writers are alike, so don’t compare. Just focus on becoming a better writer today than you were yesterday.
#5 They Don’t Let Fear Stop Them
Successful writers are just as afraid as you are. They have the same anxieties and shortcomings, the difference is they don’t let that stop them from sharing their work with the world. Be courageous and bold. Jump in and swim even when you are afraid and I’ll see you at the top!
So many people complain about a lack of time, but I contend we all have the same 24 hours a day. It’s more about how we spend those hours.
There are 168 hrs/week. If you spend 40 at work, 56 hrs sleeping, and 7 hrs at the gym you still have 65 hrs left. What do you do with them? How can you make the most out of it?
#1 Say NO!
Don’t try to please everyone by taking on all their chores. Let them find someone else, or Heaven forbid let them do it themselves.
#2 Plan Ahead
Plan your day the night beforehand. Make a list of the top ten things you need to do and follow the list.
#3 Drop the time wasters
Don’t spend hours on Facebook scrolling through your newsfeed. Don’t sit and watch TV for three hours before going to bed. Find something more productive to do .
#4 Com University
How many hours a week do you spend commuting? Why not create your own Commute University. Studies show you can get an entire college education in your car on your way to work! Pop in a seminar, audiobook or podcast & learn on your way to work.
What are you currently doing that someone else could handle? Delegate the tasks that take up all your time so you can be free to work on your goals.