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057 - Designing A Book with Title in Mind

cover design design Jul 16, 2020

Hi Guys! Nicole Gabriel here!

I’ve been working on the design and layout of so many books lately and one of the things to consider when taking your book to the layout and design phase is how well you’ve thought out your title…and all the key words on your book cover.

Clearly the title of your book is one of the most important things when it comes to writing a book. Unless the title both makes sense and draws attention it may never be found and most certainly never read. But, as a book designer and author for many years, there are certain ways to design a book that makes the title stand out even more.

I have a chapter in my Let’s Get Your Book Published book that talks about titles, subtitles, tag lines, and even colors. I also talk about all of this in my online book publishing training program. You can download my eBook for $2.99 on Amazon if you’d like to learn more. Turn to chapter 8 for cover design. In this chapter I also talk about standard print sizes, how to use royalty free images on the cover, designing for your genre, fonts, trends in cover design, all the book cover elements and how a jacket or soft cover book is laid out, wrapping the boards of a hardcover book, and a little bit about the ISBN Number, Library of Congress control number, pricing barcode, and publishing imprint.

When you are working with the right cover designer they will know that all these assets are a part of the overall project and how to place them for the most desirable effect. Most authors are unaware of the details that go into the design elements until they are about ready to go to print. But, a professional book designer knows how to manage all the elements. A one-off designer would have to study another book to know the placement of these items. There are also a host of other things to work through with the printer.

In chapter 6 of my book I talk a bit more about the title. Research at Thomas Nelson indicates that consumers first look at the books title, next the cover so it’s kinda a big deal to get these right.

Your title is a concept all its own, and it should start with the content and the style of your subject matter. Your title can:

  • Be a concrete promise
  • Reflect the content of the book
  • Create an emotional response
  • Stimulate the reader: outraging them, intriguing them, etc.
  • Identify a clear benefit or need the reader can expect to learn about
  • Define a platform or stimulate name recognition around the ideas you’re trying to get across
  • Be unique or easy to remember
  • Be descriptive

I may have talked about some of this in another podcast, but here are some general guidelines I give in my book for coming up with a title:

  • Action Words: Using strong words can get your book leaping off the shelf. Use these words to create a book with energy. For example, use “-ing” suffixes at the end of your verbs to indicate ongoing action.
  • Character Names: If you have developed a strong character in a novel, you might consider honoring him or her.
  • Conflicted or Mysterious: How can you get the reader’s attention and still stay on point with the content of your work?
  • Can you hint at the content yet not give it away? You can use the subtitle to explain things in a bit more detail with this kind of title.
  • One Word Titles: See if you can find a single engaging and descriptive word to define the entirety of your book’s message. This can be a very powerful titling technique, especially when supported by strong cover art.
  • Place Names: Have a strong setting that means something to you? Go with it.
  • Poetic Language: Be romantic, lyrical, or a little bit obscure and elusive. A great example is Gone With The Wind.
  • Quirky: What makes the reader pause and say, “huh? or “what?” That may be all it takes to get a hook in and get them to open up your book in an effort to figure out what the curiosity they’ve picked up is about.

Begin brainstorming and making a list of possible titles. Do some research into other effective titles in your respective genre. It’s important to look around at the market as you decide what title suits you and your book’s content. Don’t get too concerned with what family and friends think unless they’re a trusted reader or peer reviewer.

A good title is also one that makes it easier for people to find your book. So, if people don’t know who you are, finding you or your subject can be made far more complicated with a misunderstood title. At the same time, something quirky might be just the thing to get you attention in a noisy world.

Your subtitle:

  • Can be used to clarify or expand on the title (not generally used on a novel)
  • Can define an unclear title
  • Shouldn’t duplicate ideas or repeat words from the title
  • Uses keywords
  • Gets to the point

Know that how you title and design your book matters if you are planning on speaking in particular. If you have something on the front cover that is offensive you’ve just cut out 90% of your speaking events to large corporations. You have to play it pretty vanilla in this kind of environment. You also have to look at where you are selling your book and know that title is king in an online thumbnail image on Amazon. And being unique is great, but there is a balance between fitting the genre and standing out in that genre.

Ultimately what you put on the cover of your book is an image you hold onto for life. Yes, you can always redesign it, but think more long term. Where am I trying to get to, who am I speaking to, and is this design and title long term and timeless?

OK, my client was struggling with a title and I’m sure he will laugh if he listens to this podcast, but I have to share. So he was asked by a New York Bestseller friend what one of the books key points was…one that you’ll remember when you read the book. He talked about when he was eight years old and being bullied. He didn’t know what to do so he decided the best option was to pee on them! He wanted to title his book Pissing on Bullies. He called me up and was elated with this tittle. Of course the first thing I thought of was he will never speak at a corporate gig. He just limited his audience. And, truthfully, was that the best solution? It may not be the image of the best solution…perhaps even aggressive. His 30-something self may have thought this was funny and brilliant, but his young kids might not have the best roll model, his 50-year old self might later be embarrassed, and as I’ve already said he would limit his speaking gigs by being offensive. He eventually changed his title to something far less confrontational and neutral.

Remember that where you sell your book and what you intend to do with your book will better determine the kind of design elements you want. If selling online you only have a thumbnail image. If selling at events it becomes the primary look and feel in the room and you want to use it to enhance a brand image. You can use the book to set the stage for your image…bleeding into your business cards, website, back of the room sales collateral, marketing, and advertising materials.

So, there really is a lot going on with the image of the book and how you are positioning it. Be very clear on the audience you are speaking to and the image you are trying to convey. How are you planning on this book working for you? Are you aligned?

Alright guys…hope that helps! Let me know if you need a book coach or designer. I’d be happy to help you make a book a reality.

Wishing you peace, love, and light…

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