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How to Choose a Bestselling Title

Marketing begins with packaging an immediately accessible concept. Your title is therefore your book’s best (or worst) marketer, and in the digital age of publishing, far more so than the long contested book jacket. If you look at the New York Times Bestsellers list each week, you’ll see common words repeating almost fomulaically by category.

How can the common author tap this formula? Simply by paying careful attention — perhaps just by looking at your own bookshelf or Kindle queue. Here are the top titles we found could guide you in the right direction.

Guide to, Ways to, How to: 1,276,858 / 510,834 / 151,654
These titles may sound boring, but our research finds they’re also most saleable. The very simple explanation? They’re practical. They promise to fulfill something you need. But if you want to take advantage of the biggest proven trend in bestselling titles, you don’t necessarily need to have written a self-help book. Think of sarcastic memoirs like Toby Young’s How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, a spin-off of the famous prescriptive business title: How to Win Friends and Influence People. Even fiction takes advantage of these tropes: think of Melissa Hunt’s breakout book, The Girls Guide to Hunting and Fishing.

For nonfiction, think about getting creative with recycled formulas to address specific circumstances, i.e.: “What to Do When,” (119,112 in Search Results on Amazon) or calls to action, like: “How to Start (107,615 in Search). Readers browsing for particular information, whether for personal or professional interest, will respond to both the authority of a “How to” title and the originality of your spin on it. More ideas: “The Art/Science of,” “Rules for,” “Quick Tips.” 

Perfect: 430,306
Are we more perfectionist than ever? Apparently so. Popular book titles reveal alot about human psychology. Using the word “perfect” seems to automatically guarantee a better shot at bestsellerdom, from the book-to-film, A Perfect Storm, to self-help bestsellers like Creating Your Perfect Lifestyle. (Side note: this book appears self-published on Amazon, but has gotten amazing customer reviews and visibility. Hope for the little engines that can!)

You/Your: 332,578 / 364,991
Frame the topic of your book around a well-placed “you” or “your,” and you have established a connection with your readers. The aforementioned bestseller The Start-Up of You makes you the central focus of the title, while Seeing the Big Picture: Business Acumen to Build Your Credibility, Career, and Company is a more traditional example. Other bestselling titles such as Welcome to Your Brain and Don’t Look Behind You are playful takes on this tactic.

Read the rest at my www.lucindaliterary.com/blog.

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Hi, Lucinda. Thought you'd be interested in this real life story. A dear friend, of fond memory--Virginia Adair--was about to have her first book of poems published. A poem which she  inordinately valued was "In Nomine." It had to do with her beloved father. That was also her choice for the title of the book.

Her daughter, a librarian, said--"If I saw a book called In Nomine on the shelf, I never be tempted to even look at it." She, the daughter, suggested the name of another poem instead. The publisher agreed.

Under that title,  Ants on a Melon was well received by the literary world.