From the desk of John Kremer, author of 1001 Ways to Market Your Books . . .
To the next national
bestselling author! That's you!
An effective book title alone can make the difference between a mediocre seller and a bestselling book.
The title of a book, like the headline of an advertisement or news story,
often makes the difference between a reader passing the book by or picking it up
and giving it more careful consideration.
More often than not, the reader gives less than a moment's attention to any
book title; if you don't capture the reader's imagination or curiosity or desire
in that short moment, you will have lost the sale.
More important, however, is that many distributors, bookstore buyers,
reviewers, and subsidiary rights buyers also judge a book by its title (and its
cover). They know from experience that a good title sells more books. As Gloria
Norris of the Book-of-the-Month Club once noted, “We can break out good
writers—especially if their books have good titles.”
Does a title make a difference? Yes, it does!
Back in the 1950s, the Little Blue Book series tested all their titles. Which
of these titles do you think sold best?
The Art of Courtship vs. The Art of Kissing
Care of Skin and Health vs. Eating for Health
The Art of Kissing sold more than 60,000 copies in one year while
The Art of Courtship sold 17,000 copies. That didn't surprise me.
The Care of Skin and Hair outsold Eating for Health by 52,000
copies to 36,000 copies.
All four titles (with very little if any other selling copy or description)
were exposed to the same number of readers the same number of times, so the
sales reflect a really solid test of the titles - and how book buyers responded to them.
You need to make your title memorable. That's what I look for when I critique
When John Gray followed up his bestselling Men Are from Mars, Women Are
from Venus with What Your Mother Couldn’t Tell You and Your Father Didn’t
Know, Borders returned 50% and Ingram 70%. Why? Because the second book
didn’t have nearly as memorable a title.
As Susie Russenberger of Ingram Book wholesalers noted, “The previous book
had a great title, but this one was really hard for people to say.” When Gray
began doing more Mars and Venus books, he again leapt to the top of the bestseller lists.
If you are looking to brand your book or want to create a bestseller,
a book title critique will help you to create a bestselling book before you hire
a cover designer (and spend up to $4,000 on a cover with a bad title).
Book Title Critique: $125.
“As a publisher on a budget, I can confidently say that consulting with John
on the cover of The Way of Leading People: Unlocking Your Integral Leadership
Skills was the best money I spent promoting my book. John provided me with
clear, concise feedback while making several valuable marketing suggestions.” —
Tim Warneka, founder, Asogomi Publishing International
“John's Book Cover Critique was the best investment I've made on my book.” — Sandra Lewis, publisher, My Health Record
Book Title Changes -
The Impact of Changing the Title
One paperback publisher changed the title of a book from Five Days to
Five Nights. The second title sold much, much better than the first.
Tim Ferriss's first title for his bestselling The 4-Hour Workweek was
How to Buy Drugs Legally Online. Now his first title would have sold some
books, but it would never have created a brand for Tim, nor would it have sold
the millions of copies the current title has sold. 4-Hour Workweek is
brandable and memorable. His first title was generic and forgetable.
When Garden Way changed the title of one of their books from The Squash
Book to The Zucchini Cookbook, sales rocketed from a paltry 1,500
copies to over 300,000 copies.
They Don’t Build Statues to Businessmen to Valley of the Dolls—Which book sounds like a novel you could lose yourself in?
The Little Blue Book Company, as noted above, often tested the titles to their books. Here are the yearly sales resulting from some of those changes:
Patent Medicine and Public Health — 3,000
The Truth About Patent Medicine — 10,000
The Sonnets of a Portrait Painter — very few
The Love Sonnets of an Artist — 6,000
The Mystery of the Iron Mask — 11,000
The Mystery of the Man in the Iron Mask — 30,000
Poems of Evolution — 2,000
When You Were a Tadpole and I Was a Fish — 7,000
The Pineapple Diet Book to The Beverly Hills Diet
Book—The second is much more glamorous and enticing. Pineapples pucker my mind.
The PRE-Reading Experience to Developing the Early Learner to The IQ Booster Kit—Note how the title becomes
more specific while at the same time offering greater benefits. Which would you buy if you were a parent? Which do you think sold best?
Tomorrow Is Another Day and Tote the Weary Load to Gone with the Wind—and the heroine's name was changed from
Pansy to Scarlett O'Hara. Which title do you think has sold millions of copies and became a major motion picture? Would the original titles have done as well?
A Grammatical Institute for the English Language (with an 18-word subtitle) to The American Spelling Book—Which title do
you think sold best for Noah Webster’s first spelling book, published in 1783?
A Story That No One Can Beat to And to Think I Saw It on Mulberry Street—Dr. Seuss’s first book was rejected by 27
publishers under that first title. When Ted Henle of Vanguard Press bought the manuscript, the first order he gave Seuss was to come up with a snappier title. He did.
It Shouldn’t Happen to a Vet to All Things Bright and Beautiful—Not only was the second title more interesting, but it
allowed James Herriot to come up with wonderful titles for the rest of the books in the series.
Your Guide to Coping with Pain to Conquering Back Pain—The Canadian title was changed when Prentice-Hall came out
with a U.S. edition so that the title would better reflect the book's contents. And better reflect the American way of viewing problems.
John Kremer is an acknowledged book promotion expert who can
answer all your questions on book publishing and marketing. Besides being the owner of his own publishing
company (Open Horizons in Taos, New Mexico), he was the editor of the Book
Marketing Update newsletter for more than twenty years.
As a marketing guru, John is also the author of a number of books on publishing and marketing, including 1001 Ways
to Market Your Books: For Authors and Publishers (6th Edition), The Complete Direct
Marketing Sourcebook, High Impact Marketing on a Low Impact
Budget, The Do-It-Yourself Book Publicity Kit, and Celebrate Today.
marketing expert John Kremer has spoken at book publishing, marketing, and publicity
seminars in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Chicago,
Orlando, Miami, Denver, Boulder, Tucson, Portland, Seattle, San Antonio, Houston, Austin, Toronto, Kansas City,
Milwaukee, Madison, Minneapolis, New Orleans, Phoenix, Saint Louis, Atlanta, Indianapolis, Nashville,
West Palm Beach, Saint Petersburg, Alexandria, Cincinnati, Buffalo, Sacramento, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids,
Des Moines, Cleveland, Calgary, London, Las Vegas, Washington DC, and many other cities.
His speeches have ranged from half-hour talks on book marketing to two-hour sessions on
getting national publicity to three-day seminars on how to open new markets for your books.
What People Are Saying . . .
“For the past few years I've been asking John Kremer's
advice on handling the complexities of the book publishing business.
Here are two examples where his advice and experience has proven
invaluable. When sales of the hardback edition of one of my
books stalled (even after receiving wonderful reviews), John suggested
that I work with the publisher to repackage and revise
the material in the form of a paperback. He explained exactly how I
should pitch the idea and exactly what to say to the publisher.
His strategy resulted not only in a second chance for the book but an
additional advance! The revised edition quickly ate
through both advances and I eventually received several royalty checks
before the paperback finally went out of print.
Then, more recently, when I found myself without an agent, I called John
to ask him the best way to get an agent. He told me
to call everyone who I knew who might know a good agent, especially
people whom I had interviewed (for articles and such) who
had bestselling books. I did as he suggested, separating my possible
sources into "A", "B", and "C"
depending on the likelihood that they'd have a good contact. By the time
I had called everyone on the "A" list,
the name of one agent had come up twice. I sent him an email describing
myself and my work (with which he was familiar) and now
I'm being represented by one of the top agents in the country. Thanks
John!!!” — Geoff James, author of Success Secrets from
Silicon Valley and The Tao of Programming
“John Kremer gave the most
consistent excellent, practical advice. It was my first time to see or
hear him. I thought he
distinguished himself as someone who might be worth paying to consult
with. You know that's high praise out of my
thrifty mouth!” — Lisa Reid, Ferguson-Carol Publishers
“After studying all the self-publishing books and
putting together a business plan and marketing plan, I still had questions
which could only be addressed by the voice of experience, such as how to
time the whole process. The e-mail lists have been a
terrific help in this respect. Nevertheless, sometimes there is nothing
like talking one-on-one with an experienced individual.
In addition, John offered several ideas for marketing which were
specific to my type of book. I'm certain these will more than
pay for the consultation. ... For a new publisher like myself it was
just what I needed to put all the pieces together. As for
the more experienced publisher, I'll bet he could give you a few ideas
to spark your promotional efforts.” — Brian Scott,
Systematic Publications and Media
“I love your book (1001 Ways) by the way (with
the innovative marketing ideas). I am trying to get my money
saved because many have said a consultation with you is worth every
penny and more.” — Debra Cohen, author,
Gems of Wisdom: Quotes to Ponder
“So thanks again. I guess I might as well say that I
think that you're an amazing guy. You have an uncanny ability to find
out the needs of countless number of authors you have advised and
counseled so that individually we feel you've tuned into us.
Yet your ideas have a universal appeal. One of my areas of interest is
in creativity. You certainly have a most unusual creative spirit.
You come up with ideas so spontaneously and offer them so easily and
warmly it's like you've been thinking of the subject forever.
And as I mentioned to you, I know how much you enjoy giving to others.
Your laughter and good humor punctuate what you give.” — Marv
“John Kremer — He's smart,
creative and clever, and he knows how to help you sell books.” — Jon
Bard, Editor, Children's Writing Update!
“My meeting with John Kremer was one of the most important factors contributing to the success of my self-published
international bestseller, Seeds of Deception. At his advice, I
found the ideal distributor, started my institute, made important changes in the
book, and confidently set up the marketing plan that has sustained me for years.
I recommend to everyone who asks me about writing or publishing a book to speak
with John.” — Jeffrey Smith, author and publisher of
Seeds of Deception: Exposing Industry and Government Lies about the Safety of the Genetically Engineered Foods You’re Eating
Holding Out for a Great Title - Swim with the
When Harvey Mackay was writing Swim with the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive, he kept trying out different titles.
He rejected Prepare to Win as too mundane and 88 Lessons for '88 as too dated. Finally, he came up with a line from the
book, How to Swim with the Sharks Without Being Eaten, which he liked because of its powerful symbolism which combined a bit of
raunchiness with a sense of curiosity.
His publishers at Morrow, however, hated it. They said it was too long and too vague. But Mackay was convinced it was the right title,
so he hired Janz/Abrahamson, a Minneapolis company experienced in naming consumer products such as hot dogs, beer, and jelly. They put
together a focus group which checked out over 800 titles. Mackay's title, minus the How to, remained their top choice. When
Mackay showed the results to the people at Morrow, they capitulated. As Morrow's senior editor, Adrian Zackheim, noted in an article in
Inc. magazine, “If an author feels such a moral certainty about a title, you've got to say yes.”
Use the above book title changes and stories as examples to help you come up
with a effective book titles for greater impact.
If you still have trouble coming up with
a good title, then email me. I can help you create a book title that gets
attention AND helps you sell more books.