Titles That Sell: Series Name, Book Title, and Subtitles
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It’s a Marketing Thing
A title is a marketing thing. It’s a way to attract a customer to take a look at your book. Unfortunately, titles can be different in different markets. For children’s books, we generally sell in either the trade market or the educational market. Trade means that you sell in bookstores, while educational means you sell mostly to schools and libraries through educational distributors, direct sales or ebook library platforms.
For trade markets, titles tend to be literary or artistic. They don’t lay out the content so much as entice with a character name, a metaphor, or a catchy phrase. However, the educational market likes more utilitarian titles that lay out the purpose of the book.
Let’s say you have a book about an armadillo who learns to share. Let’s name her Ginger. You might title it:
Tons of books just feature the name of the character, and that’s more of a trade title. Adding in a descriptive word is still a trade title.
For the educational market, though, you might want to use a more utilitarian title:
GINGER LEARNS TO BE A HAPPY GIVER
The two areas can blend together and categorizing them is sorta arbitrary. Still, trade titles tend to be artistic, while educational titles tend to be utilitarian.
Keywords Add Oomph to Titles
Another thing to consider is how you use keywords in a title. I once had an editor tell me that if you use LOVE in a title, it will have double sales at least. For example, the classic book, YOU ARE MY “I LOVE YOU”, has had a fantastic run, partly because of that word, LOVE. Of course, you can’t overuse that word or it loses its power! Once a season kind of thing, or once every two or three years.
But are there any other keywords that you can identify in your other titles? What kinds of books do you write/market, and can you identify any keywords for your genre, topics, or audience? And are there any keywords that seem to work?
Titles Have Three Metadata Slots
Also, think about this. You really have three potential slots in the metadata for titles, places to add keywords to help a book be found in search engines.
I have one book series called, The Aliens, Inc., a short chapter book series about a family shipwrecked on Earth. Their son, Kell, attends third grade. And the family must figure out how to earn a living on Earth, so they start a party planning business. Their first party is an alien-themed birthday party, and they totally blow it. They don’t know what humans think about aliens.
SERIES TITLE: The Aliens, Inc. series
BOOK TITLE: Kell, the Alien (more of a trade title, since it’s the name of the character.)
This series doesn’t have a subtitle, which tend to be used more in nonfiction or in educational titles. If I had added one, it might be: Making Friends in Third Grade. That would give me a couple other keywords: friends, third grade.
So, why does this work? The three slots all give you an opportunity for keywords that can be found with search engines. Remember: Amazon succeeds because they are a great search engine.
You don’t need to repeat keywords in these three metadata slots. Once is enough for it to be indexed in the search engine database. But you also want to have natural, not forced language. Don’t try to stuff every possible keyword into the slots. So, I repeated “alien” in the series title and the book title.
Several strategies can help you find the right title. First, list all the keywords that the right reader could use to find your book. Character names, character roles, places, setting, events, social/emotional learning keywords, curriculum keywords, descriptive adjectives, grade levels, and so on. Then, list apt metaphors for the story.
Then, create series titles, book titles and subtitles that use natural language, but include as many keywords as possible.
Yes. This is a utilitarian approach to titles, dictated by the need for search engines to find your book. You may prefer a literary or artistic title that suits your fancy. But I’d bet that my titles would sell more books!
Because when you think about titles, here’s the right question: how can you best use the metadata to help your book sell better?
I love the examples of books/series you share. It's real life, not a wanna-be! I've changed my focus about keywords. It's amazing what I can see through the microscope of your experience. Appreciate all you do!