How to Sell More Books by Choosing a Title That Speaks Directly to Your Reader's Needs

Does the language used in your book titles speak directly to your readers by focusing attention on the goals or tasks they want to your target market wants to accomplish?

Your titles will help you find more readers and sell more books when your titles clearly identify the benefits your book offers readers.

Verbs play an important role in "commanding" your readers to take action or implying that the benefits are already being implied.

There are two types of verbs you can use in your book titles to target your intended market, communicate your book's benefits, and position your book relative to the competition:

  • Imperative verbs . These titles use verbs that "command" your readers to take action in order to enjoy your book's promised benefits.
  • Gerunds . Gerund, or "action," titles use verbs that act as nouns. These imply that action is already taking place.

Successful book titles based on imperative verbs

Imperative verbs encourage the reader to take action. These titles do not include a noun, or subject. Instead, imperative imply that the preceding word is "you." The "you" doesn't need to appear in the title, because it's understood. Imperative titles encourage prospect readers to take action, ie, purchase the book, by suggesting that the book will help the reader solve a problem or achieve a goal.

Once you understand how imperative titles work, you'll find they are far more common than you might have thought. Examples of book titles with imperative verbs include:

  • Book Yourself Solid , by Michael Port. If you're a coach, consultant, or trainer, you want your appointment book filled; you want to be "booked solid." Using just 3 short words, Book Yourself Solid's promise, or benefit, is immediately obvious.
  • Get Clients Now! , by CJ Hayden, adds urgency to an imperative title. Not only does the title promise coaches, consultants, and other service providers that they can attract more clients, but the title promises fast results.
  • Write the Perfect Book Proposal , by Jeffery Herman and Deborah Levine Herman. The benefit you'll gain is immediately obvious. Note that the terms used as common, everyday terms. Further, in place of multiple adjectives, there's only one perfectly chosen adjective, "Perfect," which describes the type of book proposal you'll learn how to write.

In the above examples, the authors emphasize the benefits that readers will enjoy by buying the book and following its advice. But, the following book takes a slightly different approach.

Kiss Theory Goodbye , by Bob Prosen, is an example of a highly-successful business book title based on an imperative verb. In this case, however, Bob doesn't emphasize the benefit, Bob restricts the title to his book's main idea, or approach. The title succeeds because it attracts the attention of particular type of reader , those who are tired of endless theory and little action.

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In doing so, Kiss Theory Goodbye shows that book titles based on imperative verbs can both target desired market segments and position books relative to their competition.

Successful book titles based on gerunds

Gerund titles are identifiable by verbs ending in "ing." These titles imply that action is already being taken, that readers are already in the process of solving their problem or achieving their goals. Here are some examples of book titles based on gerunds:

  • Writing White Papers, by Michael Stelzner. Instead of promising to teach you how to write a white paper, the title puts the emphasis on the process of writing white papers. The implication is that the knowledge has already been transferred, and that all that remains is to complete the process.
  • On Writing Well , by William Zinsser, is another highly-successful book title that implies the process of effective writing. Note the simplicity of the title, and the use of a single modifier, "well." This is a classic book on clear and concise writing, and the title communicates this at a glance.
  • Primal Branding, by Patrick Hanlon, also implies an analysis of the branding process, with the emphasis on a single word, primal, that identifies the author's approach.

Gerund titles can create worldwide brands for their authors, such as Jamie Nast has done with her Idea Mapping . The title of her book, which is close enough to the popular mind mapping term to describe both the book's approach and the fact that she's bringing new ideas to the topic, has been expanded into a series of seminars and workshops presented around the world.


As you research existing books in your field online, or in bookstores, take the time to pay particular attention to their titles – particularly if the titles contain verbs. If verbs are present, notice whether they're imperative verbs or gerunds – or "action" verbs. Either approach can work, depending on the degree of urgency you want to communicate in your title.

And, as you create a list of potential titles for your book, ask yourself, "By adding a verb to the title, can I strengthen my book's promise to the reader, or add urgency to the purchase of my book?"

Source by Roger C. Parker

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