Curiosity colons: Learning how to title from best selling books

What can we learn from how best selling non-fiction books are titled to help us title our own ideas and messages so that people understand our ideas and want to act on them? I’ve been thinking about this lately. I’ve gone through a process recently of trying to figure out a title for a book I’m finishing writing. I did a few rounds of surveys to target readers to help me generate ideas and decide. I’ve also done some research on what makes a great title. Even if you aren’t working on a book you are probably trying to communicate something important. We need to get to the point and be interesting in our communications. We can learn from how books are titled. Especially nonfiction books.

My book is on the topic of leadership development programs. My first title ideas didn’t stick with the target readers because they were too academic. I had to go back to the drawing board and research how to create a title for a nonfiction book. I’ve looked at some successful models on the best seller list and read articles on the topic. Some themes are emerging. Try it yourself, take a look at some of the books you own…what do the titles have in common? It seems like a format that works is to start with a short 1-4 word title that arouses curiosity, and then a longer subtitle that tells them what the book is about. This subtitle is also helpful if it contains a lot of key words that people would search for and it tells them what they will gain by reading your book…the questions it will answer, the pain it will solve, or the benefit of it.

Check out the New York Times nonfiction bestsellers and see how they are titled. What can you learn from them for how you title your emails, blogs, and ideas? Here are some examples of books you might have read. See how they fit this model?

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference (by Malcolm Gladwell)

The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich (by Timothy Ferriss)

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t (by Jim Collins)

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity (by David Allen)

My favorite book lately is “Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us” by Dan Pink. Looks like it fits the model.

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