What Should I Call My Book?

October 1996
by Curt Matthews, Chicago Review Press

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How important is it to come up with a good title for your book? How much
will a bad title hurt your book? Of course the title is just one of many
variables that can affect a book’s success, but recently I have had an
occasion to get a somewhat more objective view of the damage a poor title can

Over the last couple of years, my company has published a series of
children’s activity books based on various themes. They are all by the same
author, have the same “look” to their covers, and have the same trim size and
price. Of the five books in this series, four are doing well, but one is just
limping along. Everything else being more or less equal, the problem almost
has to be the title. Can you pick out the loser in this group? The titles areWestward Ho!, More than Moccasins, Green Thumbs, Huzzah Means Hooray, andKids Camp!

“Huzzah” means what? That is exactly the problem with the title, Huzzah
Means Hooray
. It doesn’t mean anything to most people without an explanation.
(If you have to explain a title, it is by definition a bad title.) What will
be the cost, in sales, of this bad title choice? The rate of sales for Huzzah
is one-third to one-half lower than the others. Ouch! Clearly it is worth
taking some trouble over titles.

How do good people choose bad titles? Here is how we did and how you might
too if you are not careful.

Rationalizations to Avoid

We had been cudgeling our brains for several weeks and still…IBPA Members – Click here to view the full article (login required).

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