Books Open Doors Insights #7: Why Your Title Doesn’t Work And What To Do About It

February 11, 2020

In this training, Ellen Violette, shares the two types of issues (internal and external ones) that authors face when trying to write a title that can stop them from writing great titles, the do’s and don’ts, and tips to avoiding writing titles that will stop your book from selling.

Resources Mentioned 

Bestseller Title Formula Checklist

3 Key Points

Don’t be a lazy title writer. Generic titles give your potential readers enough information to make a purchasing decision.

Think outside the box when writing your title; don’t settle for titles that are overused and worn out.

If the .com is taken, find another title, don’t take a .net or any other dot because people will always go to .com first and so you’ll wind up marketing for your competitors.


Ellen: Welcome to Training #7. Today I’m going to talk about why your book title isn’t working and making money for you (and what to do about it). If you’ve tried to sell your book and no one’s interested or if you’re not ready to sell your book, but you’ve been asking for feedback and the response has been, I guess, underwhelming, one of these two types of issues could be holding you back.

[0:22] One of them is internal and one of them is external. The internal struggles are the struggles inside your head, and this often leads to overthinking it. People try to construct a title a lot of times instead of letting it flow from the essence of what their book is about, or they’ll try to come up with a title that’s just too clever. When a title is too clever, people often don’t get the joke or don’t get what it means, so you have to be careful with clever titles.You want to test them to make sure that your audience gets it.

[0:59]  Sometimes, it’s a pun and it just falls flat or they’ll pick words that they like that don’t resonate with their audience. And, sometimes, it can even make people uncomfortable. And if you’re a little bit prudish, cover your ears because I’m going to share one that, I just about fell out of my chair when I heard this one, but it went like this. How To Succeed in Business Without a Penis. Secrets and Strategies for the Working Woman, that is a total no-no.

[:30] Do not ever use a word like that in a title. I would say the only time that it works is there are some like Unfuck Yourself or similar ones like that, but not like this. I mean there’s another way that you could say this, it would be perfectly acceptable.

Or, they’ll use a word that should only be used in a different context. Like The Missionary Position, Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice. So everybody knows, , it’s about her missionary work and it’s the pun of it, but it just doesn’t work or Still Stripping After 25 Years, which is about quilts.

[2:13] Or, they come up with a title that has elements that are worn out and overuse like “Positive Thinking” or “Law of Attraction” or “How to be Happy”. So, unless you’re using these in a new way and adding something to the conversation that other titles don’t have that makes it stand out, you don’t want to use these kinds of phrases, they’re just overused.

[2:33] Or, sometimes, people work on their titles so long using the same words and/or ideas in several titles that they become attached to them. So, in other words, when you are trying to come up with the title, you keep using the same words because you become attached to them, and it becomes difficult to think outside that box to find a different title, you know, a different way of looking at your title.

[2:58] And so, sometimes then you’ve got to get more creative and consider other approaches to creating a title. But that also can go back to what I just said, which is if you’ve got it in your head that you’re using “positive thinking” and no matter what title you come up with, you’re using “positive thinking”, there may be another way to say it that’s a little more outside the box that actually works and could be more creative and could work really well. But people get lazy, so they just keep going over the same one over and over and they can’t get out of the box [00:03:30]

[3:31] Or, they get lazy in a different way, like Make Money With Real Estate. Well, there’s a million ways to make money with real estate. So, is it making money with apartment buildings? Is it making money with rentals? Is it making money with Airbnb is even more specific, so you’ve got to get more specific in your titles and not be lazy and generic.

[3:54] Another one is just picking a title that makes absolutely no sense to anyone but you. So, sometimes, someone will come to me and they’ll give me a title, and I just know that it makes no sense to me and it’s going to make no sense to everybody else. And so, I’ll say, “Well, what’s your book about? What’s this title mean?” And they give me a five-minute explanation of what their title means. And I’ll say, “Well, people don’t have Cliff Notes when they go and see your book on Amazon or anywhere else for that matter. And so, you cannot have a title that makes no sense to anybody but you.” It has to immediately make sense to everybody. So, I found one, there’s actually a list online of the forty, I think it’s the forty worst book titles ever.

[4:39] So, you know a title that makes no sense, one was called Eating People is Wrong. Who’s eating people? Nobody’s eating people, no normal people. Nobody’s going to buy your book.

[4:52] Or another one,  you know, is nobody cares about your title of your book and, therefore, your book. So for instance, Why Cats Paint? Nobody cares why cats paint. Okay? This one is Why Cats Paint, A Theory of Feline Aesthetics. I mean that’s crazy. You can’t write a book and make sales on a topic that nobody cares about.

So that’s the first set of issues. And as I said, those are all internal issues.

[5:24] Now the second set of issues are external, so you can come up with some great titles only to find that other people have gotten there first. So, they’re already using that title (and/or) they’ve purchased them, and now maybe they’re selling them for premium prices. So, I’ve seen that happen many times where I’m working with a client and they come up with a title they like, and then we go and the title is being sold for, you know, $3,000, $4000, sometimes more, $10,000. So, most authors are not prepared to that kind of money to buy a domain name.

[6:00] And so when that happens, you have to start again thinking outside the box. And this is going to become more, and more important as the quote, obvious titles are taken, and certain keywords in popular markets are just too expensive for many authors to buy. It’s also going to become more important for a lot of authors to work with a title expert who’s creative and thinking outside the box for them because they’re just not capable of  doing it or they’re just too close because it’s their title.

[6:32] Sometimes, it’s easier when it’s somebody else and you can see something so clearly, but you can’t see it in your own book or your own title. And not only that, but sometimes people are so close to their book that they can’t even hear what they’re saying. So when I’m on with somebody, and they’ll just talk to me about their books, sometimes what I end up pulling out as the title is just something they said to me, but they don’t realize it’s the title because, again, they’ve  run it through their mind so many times that to them it’s just normal and I can hear it differently than they can hear it and pull out the essence of that title. So, that’s important. That’s another reason to work with somebody.

[7:10] And again, sometimes the alternative in their mind is to use a title that’s already been used, and we don’t want to do that.

Also, the domain name and a group name like on Facebook or LinkedIn or both is probably going to be taken when you come to these titles (the domains for them) that either are asking for more money or just common titles. So, if somebody got there first, you don’t want to go there. And one of the things I see people do so often is they’ll go, “Well, I’ll just take or “I’ll just take”  or something like that. And the problem with that is that most people are going to go to, and so that’s a problem because now if you have a similar business, which often is the case, but not always, there’s a greater likelihood that your marketing is going to actually benefit a competitor. So, we don’t want that to happen.

[8:06]  And sometimes, there are multiple books with the same title or similar subtitles with the same title and one author is well-known and the others aren’t, and then people will gravitate to that book if that book sounds similar to another book or your book. And so [00:08:30] they’re going to make most of the sales, and it doesn’t matter who sent the traffic to Amazon, they’re the ones that are going to make the sales because they’re well known. And that’s why you don’t want to have the same title or subtitle, you know, similar subtitles with the same title because that person is going to get the sales.

[8:51] So now, this is less likely to happen if you have a title that’s already been used, but it’s in a completely different genre, then it’s not a problem-as long as you can get

On the flip side of that, if there’s a best seller that has a similar title, but your subtitle is precise and shows that your book content is different from that one, it could give your book a marketing boost that it wouldn’t get otherwise.

[9:15] So that’s why it’s a delicate balance when you’re writing titles. If you’re doing something similar to somebody else, it can be similar in some ways, but it’s still got to be really different in its positioning and then it works really well to do that, otherwise forget it.

[9:31] So, these are important distinctions to understand moving forward when you are working on your book titles. And if you’d like to take the next step for writing bestseller titles, go to titles, and grab a copy of my Bestseller Title-Formula Checklist. That’s it for today.

Till next time, Bye-bye.


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About the Author

Ellen Violette

Ellen is an 3X award-winning book, including being named one of the Top 20 Book Coaches of 2022 by Coach Foundation. She's also a multiple #1 bestselling author, a 3-time eLit award winner, podcast host, and a Grammy-nominated songwriter. She has been helping entrepreneurs increase their credibility and expert status, become #1 bestselling authors, and make a bigger impact in the world since 2004. Her mission is to make the world a better place one author and one book at a time!



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