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How to name your book and create a stunning subtitle


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What is more important, a book title or subtitle? The answer can be as critical as jumping out a plane and your parachute not opening. You have one chance to get it right. And that's why I've curated the following article to break it down and show how to create stunning names for your books. This article is way tooooo long for the average person, but in the end, it is well worth the time invested. So put on your prospect's hat and let's go prospecting for some nuggets. There is gold in them thar hills--black gold, but you've got to dig to find it. Then you can turn it into money.

How To Create Stunning Names For Your Information Products and Courses

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(This is a long article. You can read or listen to it online. Click on the cartoon)

My friend, Karen, was about to have her first child.

As you'd expect, she was a bit apprehensive but also quite joyful. One of the reasons why she was so excited was the whole process of giving a name to her soon-to-be child. She had half a dozen books on "naming the child".

While we were visiting, we had a little conversation about the naming process and she went into a lengthy explanation about how she intended to name the child. Of course, I expected her son to have an interesting name.

Several months later when I ran into Karen online, I asked her the name of her son.

"Jack", she said.

"Jack?" I responded almost incredulously. "You went through all of those books, and all you could find was, Jack?"

"Yes," she said. "I was going to find a fancy name when I ran into an article that asked me to go to the doorway and call of the name of the kid 20 times in a day. It seemed easy to shout out "Jack", then something like “Bertrand, so “Jack” it was.

And that is how my friend, Karen named her first born.

Your "firstborn" might need a slightly different process. Especially if your firstborn is a book – and you are called upon to name the book. This is where we go slightly mad.

We're not really sure how to name our products.

Which is why this article is all about learning a structural method that will help you name your products. We will look at books or information products that already exist, and see how they have gone about the process.

We will also take a look at what we're doing at Psychotactics and how even when we understand the concept, we tend to get it wrong. Well, sometimes you can just get lazy.

What are we going to cover?
1. Why your crappy name will bury your book/information product.
2. The critical role of the subtitle and what makes it stand out?
3. How to use a title and then add random interesting sub-titles.

All of these three steps are part of the journey that we need to take the name our information product. As always we need to start at the top, and that takes us to the first topic.

1) Why your crappy name will bury your book/information product.

The list you see below are the successive names given to a single book.
The author tried repeatedly to come up with a great name, but these were the names he came up with—despite putting in a great effort. See if you like any of the names.

The Parts Nobody Knows
To Love and Write Well
How Different It Was
With Due Respect
The Eye And the Ear.

Have you heard of any of these books?
Possibly not, because they never made it to the bookshelf. And the author, a "certain guy" called Ernest Hemingway, died before the book's title was finalised.

So what was the name of the book that made it to the shelves? It's called "A Moveable Feast". "A Moveable Feast" caught the attention of the editors and then the readers and became a bestseller (and has stayed high on the 'books to read' list). But it could have easily been dead in the water, with a title like "With Due Respect" or "The Eye and the Ear".

As it appears, it's not enough to just write a great book—you can kill your book with a lousy name.

So how do you name your books? The simple answer is to make it curious. And how do you make it curious? You use both the title and the sub-title to dramatic effect, that's how. But let's not start with the title and take on the sub-title instead.

In fact, let's take a few good (and bad examples from the Psychotactics stable itself).

As it appears, it's not enough to just write a great book—you can kill your book with a lousy name.

Title: The Brain Audit
Sub-title: Why Customers Buy (And Why They Don't)

So is the title interesting?

Yes, it's interesting at once. We're terribly interested in anything to do with the brain, and so in a sea of books, a name like The Brain Audit stands out immediately. But that's where the sub-title comes in.

Would you know if The Brain Audit was a medical text or a book on calisthenics? It would be hard to tell, right?

If you look up Amazon.com for books that have the term "Brain" in it, you get a range of books including one called "The Brain That Changes Itself", "Brain Rules", "Brain on Fire" and you can't really tell which one is a business book and which one isn't. And that's where the sub-title comes into play.

So yeah, that sub-title worked. Time to choose another, eh?

The second product we take a look at is a course on Uniqueness. At Psychotactics, we have a homestudy version on "how to make your company stand out in a crowded marketplace". So what's the name of the information product? It's called:

Title: Pick One
Sub-Title: Getting to Uniqueness

Did that sub-title excite you?

If the answer "NO" comes to mind, you're on the right track. So now that we're decimating the crappy sub-titles, let's go digging further and find out some more that could do with improvement. Let's look at a set of three books that were written on the topic of presentations.

Title: 'Black Belt Presentations'
Sub-title: No sub-title.
Ugh.

In fact, while we're here, let's list at least a few of the products and see why some products are easier to sell than others. And why the sub-titles make such a difference.

Title: Be Kind, Be Helpful or Begone
Sub-title: How To Build A Powerful, Community-Driven Membership Website

Title: Website Components
Sub-title: No sub-title.

Title: The Power of Stories
Sub-title: How to Turn Average Stories into Cliff-Hangers

Title: Chaos Planning
Sub-title: How 'Irregular' Folks Get Things Done

Now as you scan those names, you can quickly tell which of the sub-titles work and which don't

You can also tell that those without sub-titles aren't well thought through, or definitely hampered by the lack of the sub-title.

So let's just stop for a second and see what we've covered:
• That the title matters
• But first we must pay closer attention to the sub-title
• That it's easy to get lazy or rushed and forget to put in the sub-title
• That some sub-titles don't work as well as they should

Which brings up the question: Is there a simple way to write a sub-title? And the answer is yes. You can indeed create great sub-titles every single time. Let's find out how.

Part 2: What makes a sub-title stand out?

So we're clear.

We all put our hearts and souls into creating a title for our books and products—but yes, the sub-title is often the one that draws us in. So how do we go about creating this sub-title? The easiest way is to jump right in and create. So what's the simplest formula possible?

There is no ONE formula. And rightly so, because that would make every sub-title boring. Instead, let's look at just two.

Method 1: Headline-type of sub-title
Method 2: Problem, solution, target

Then let's head over and pluck out a few bestsellers, shall we?

Method 1: Headline-type of sub-title

Let’s first look at what they’re all about and then put in a sub-title that reads just like a headline.

a) LEAN IN, by Sheryl Sandberg with Nell Scovell: The chief operating officer of Facebook urges women to pursue their careers without ambivalence.
Title: Lean In
Sub-title given: Women, Work and the Will to Lead

Sub-title: How Women Can Forge Ahead In Their Careers Faster Than Ever Before
Sub-title: The Untold Story of One Woman's Career Surge (And How You Can Do It Too)
Sub-title: Why Women Need To Pursue Their Careers Without Ambivalence

b) THE ONE THING, by Gary Keller with Jay Papasan: Narrowing your concentration and becoming more productive. This book has already done the work for us.
Title: The One Thing.
Sub-title given: The surprisingly simple truth behind extraordinary results

Sub-title: How to narrow your concentration and become more productive
Sub-title: The keys to narrowing concentration and increasing productivity.

c) GIVE AND TAKE, by Adam M. Grant: A Wharton professor's research discloses that success depends on how we interact with others. This book has a vague sub-title but let's work on it.
Title: Give and take
Sub-title given: A revolutionary approach to success

Sub-title: How People Interaction Creates a Quicker Road to Success

d) THE POWER OF HABIT, by Charles Duhigg: A Times reporter's account of the science behind how we form, and break, habits.

Title: The Power of Habit
Sub-title given: Why We Do What We Do In Life and Business

Sub-title: The Quiet Secret to Making Habits Stick Forever
Sub-title: How Habits Rule Us (And How To Break Bad Ones Forever).
Sub-title: How to Make Good Habits Out Of Bad Ones

Just adding a headline to your sub-title makes the book stand out.

It almost doesn’t matter what the title happens to be. Well, not quite true. The title matters, but it’s the sub-title that can be made to do the grunt work. But writing headlines for your sub-title is not the only way. You can have sub-titles with the familiar formula found in The Brain Audit. And that is the problem and solution combo.

String them together and you can pretty some pretty outstanding sub-titles for your book. If we were to take the subtitles of the book that we have just looked at, and put in the problem-solution formula, you would get some pretty interesting subtitles. Let's give it a crack, shall we?

The total for The Brain Audit is "The Brain Audit" but what is the subtitle?
The subtitle has a problem and the solution. It goes like this: "why customers buy (and why they don’t). And that’s a problem and solution strung together.

Method 2: Problem, solution, target

Let’s look at the subtitles of the books we just brought up and let’s see how they too could work with subtitles that incorporate the problem and solution.

a) LEAN IN, by Sheryl Sandberg with Nell Scovell: The chief operating officer of Facebook urges women to pursue their careers without ambivalence.
Problem: Doubt/Ambivalence
Solution: Move ahead
Target audience: Women

My Journey Through Career-Doubt—And Beyond

b) THE ONE THING, by Gary Keller with Jay Papasan: Narrowing your concentration and becoming more productive.
Problem: Concentration issues
Solution: Beat the issues
Target audience: People who have trouble concentrating

The art of beating concentration issues (and becoming more productive)

c) GIVE AND TAKE, by Adam M. Grant: A Wharton professor's research discloses that success depends on how we interact with others.
Problem: Lack of success
Solution: Success through interaction
Target audience: People who want to succeed

The Hidden Secrets of Interaction (And How Successful People Use Them Well)

d) POWER OF HABIT, by Charles Duhigg: A Times reporter's account of the science behind how we form and break habits.
Problem: Form/break habits
Solution: Form/break habits
Target audience: People who want to form/break habits

How To Turn Bad Habits Into Good—And Make Them Stick

As you have just heard, you can quite easily use the problem and the solution to create subtitles.

So w hat have we covered so far?
We looked at the power of subtitles vs titles. And subtitles pack so much punch. You can create your subtitle by writing a headline or you can use the problem and solution to create a subtitle that is just as effective.

However, just to prove it is the subtitle and not exactly the title that does all the grunt work, let’s change the subtitles of some very well known books.

Example: Good to Great
Good to Great: How to turn your potatoes into twice the size, overnight.
Good to Great: The Secret to Non-Boring Garden Landscaping
Good to Great: How Indonesia turns out an endless array of badminton champions
Good to Great: The Story of Singapore Airlines' Profitability
Good to Great: Why Turkey Is The Second Fastest Growing Economy In The World
Good to Great: Why Bacteria Is Winning The War Against AntiBiotics.

Blue Ocean Strategy: How to turn your potatoes into twice the size, overnight.
Blue Ocean Strategy: The Secret to Non-Boring Garden Landscaping
Blue Ocean Strategy: How Indonesia turns out an endless array of badminton champions
Blue Ocean Strategy: The Story of Singapore Airlines' Profitability
Blue Ocean Strategy: Why Turkey Is The Second Fastest Growing Economy In The World
Blue Ocean Strategy: Why Bacteria Is Winning The War Against AntiBiotics.

Of course it won't work for every single title. For example, if you took the name like The Brain Audit and put any sub-title, it wouldn't work. But these examples are to show you that the title, for the most part, is not the crazy holy grail that you're looking for.

It's nice to have a great title.
But it's a better strategy to have an even better sub-title.

Which brings us to a moment of utter clarity.

The sub-title matters. That's what really gets the attention of the customer both in the book store, on Amazon or on your website. Without the sub-title, we're handicapping the book or info product. And yet so many of us (me included) have quite easily placed our emphasis on the title and ignored the sub-titles.

Well, now you know...

So is the title of any use after all?

Yes it is.
But should you go nuts trying to get a great title? No you shouldn't.

The cartooning course we have is called the DaVinci course. Is that a great title? No, it's not. But the greatness comes from its "invisible" sub-title. So what should the sub-title have been? It should have read like this: How to go from non-artist to amazing cartoonist in 6 months (or less).

The same applies to our headlines or Article Writing Course that don't even have titles and yet are booked out months in advance. The promise they bring is what draws the audience to the product/services.

And yet, would I ever swap a title like The Brain Audit for something else? Of course not. Not having a great title is not critical for an infoproduct, but once you get one, it's an invaluable asset.

So how do you create your titles?

In the past, the titles were today's sub-titles.
- How to stop worrying and start living: Dale Carnegie
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Stephen Covey

Then times changed to focus on the subtitle while the title shrunk

- Freakonomics
- The Tipping Point
- Positioning

Some titles come from everyday language e.g. the tipping point, positioning, etc. And some are made up e.g. Freakonomics, Strengths Finder.

So is there a way to find a title?

Yes, if you pay close attention. When you're in a conversation, pay close attention to what's being said. Every sentence has the potential for some unusual term or word that could become a book title. e.g. the last sentence has "close attention", "potential", "in a conversation", "conversation", "what's being said".

And while you may not have great use for any of those, they are all book titles that can be used.

To get book titles from your own field, open up magazines and books related to your field

Immediately you'll see a whole bunch of terms within a book. A management book will yield titles such as "Myth of the Change", "Cascade", "burning platform", "marines take care of marines" etc.

In fact, I just opened up a management site and the words/titles popped out with amazing regularity. So yes, it's all around you, these titles. And finding a title isn't so scary as it once was because we know that while titles are great, it's the sub-title that really gets the customer's attention.

So go out there and create your sub-title.
Then your title.

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