Three self-publishing tips: things to avoid when choosing your title

As many “how to” bloggers and writers have stressed, choosing your book’s cover and its title can seriously help or hinder your sales when you come to the marketing and publicity for your book. But even when you have the perfect cover and you think you have found a pithy, attention-grabbing title that promises a really good read in your chosen genre and style, it pays to do a bit of thinking and research before making your final decision. There are some pitfalls to avoid.

Here are three things you can learn from problems I’ve had:

  1. Try to include your key word(s) in the title rather than only in the sub-title. My first book is a non-fiction one about horses in film and on TV. My title: “Lights! Camera! Gallop! The Story of the Horse in Film.” Yes, search engines will pick up “horse” and “film” even though they are in the sub-title. But the mighty Amazon machine which sends those helpful alerts along the lines of “you might also like” picks sometimes picks a whole set of lighting products….
  2.  Avoid any word that is spelled differently in American English from how it is in UK English. [I was going to write “spelt differently” – but apparently that’s a UK English option – it must be “spelled” in American English. See what I mean?] My third book is called “Horse and Pony Colours: which would you choose?” You notice I’d learnt from mistake number 1 above: my keywords are in the title not the sub-title. And I’d followed a suggestion I’d read that non-fiction titles should show the reader what it is that your book offers them. But “colour” is of course spelled “color” in American English. The search engines still find the book from either side of the Atlantic – but they flag up “Did you mean Horse and Pony Colors?” So now there could be a tiny suggestion at the back of the reader’s mind: can’t this author even spell?
  3. Do your research first – how many already published books have the same or a similar title? You don’t have to avoid duplicating an existing title if there’s only one other book with the same title or a very similar one. I edited some stories recently: “Night Mission: 7 WWII era stories” by Clive Lodge. The “Night Mission” bit came from one of the strongest stories. I nearly called it “The Tunnel” after one of the other stories and I’d chosen some great cover pictures of mysterious tunnels. But the cover then seemed to hint at science fiction rather than second world war adventures. “Night Mission” – with a Spitfire in the evening cloud on the cover – fitted much better. A quick search only threw up one other “Night Mission” – and since that one was about one night stands and sported an obviously sexy cover I doubted there would be too much confusion. But with “Lights! Camera! Gallop!” I discovered after I published that there are very many books beginning “Lights! Camera!” and at the moment they mostly seem to come up before mine on search pages.

So, take choosing your title seriously – avoid my mistakes – and good luck!

coversmallcolours jpeg1nightmissionsmall

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About lesleylodge

Lesley Lodge now lives on a smallholding bafflingly close to Luton, England, but grew up in the New Forest and has worked for a racing stable, a palomino stud farm and a horse trainer. Her long-time ride is Freddie, a hairy bay cob mare with a long moustache. Lesley has had several short stories published. Blues to Orange, a story about a farmer ruined by the foot and mouth outbreak, was a Luton Literary Prize Winner and published in Junction 10, a collection of short stories. She has twice been a runner-up prize winner in the annual British National Short Screenplay Competition and was the Time Out and Jim Beam Bourbon Cult Film Buff of the Year some years ago. Lesley is always looking for new stories about horses in film or TV

3 responses to “Three self-publishing tips: things to avoid when choosing your title

  1. Thanks for the title tips. Living in Canada I don’t use American English in my non-fiction books because my primary audience is Canadian. However, in my science fiction I only use American English because that’s my audience for that genre. Fortunately, none of my titles included words “spelled” in a different manner. But who knows about the future.

  2. This was a help to me.

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