How to Pick a Book Title and Subtitle

The Case for Brainstorming

titleHow does an author arrive at a book title?

Introduction

It’s not an easy question and the process is rarely if ever linear. What appears good today might downright suck tomorrow morning.

For many authors, the act of writing 70,000 words is easier than finding the ten or twelve that comprise the book’s title and subtitle. (Sure, the former takes longer, but choosing a catchy, descriptive, and SEO-friendly title and subtitle is paramount.) And the stakes couldn’t be higher: Clunky monikers can render a book dead on arrival.

Against that backdrop, I recently reviewed the document I kept while writing Message Not Received: Why Business Communication Is Broken and How to Fix It. Even though I shared this with my editor at Wiley, make no mistake: I created and maintained this document mostly for my own needs.

Keeping a “master document” is simple and über-useful.

Working Titles

Here are my best titles so far:

  • What We Say and How We Say It: A Guide for Effective Business Communication
  • The New Rules of Business Communication: How to Be Understood in an Increasingly Noisy World
  • State of Confusion: Why Most Business Communications Fail and How to Fix Them
  • State of Confusion: Why Most Business Communications Fail and What to Do about them
  • State of Confusion: Why So Many of Us Communicate So Ineffectively
  • State of Confusion: Why We’re So Bad at Communicating and How to Fix It
  • State of Confusion: Why We Fail at Communicating and How to Fix It
  • State of Confusion: Why Most Business Communications Fail and How to Fix It
  • State of Confusion: Pervasive Technology and Why We Communicate So Ineffectively
  • State of Confusion: Effective Communication in an Era of Pervasive Technology
  • Communication Breakdown: How to Improve What We Say and How We Say It
  • Failure to Effectively Communicate: Why So Many of Us Communicate So Ineffectively
  • Technospeak: Excessive Jargon, Incessant E-Mail, and Why We Communicate So Ineffectively
  • A Failure to Effectively Communicate: Technology, What We Say, and How We Say It.
  • A Failure to Effectively Communicate: Fixing How We Speak and Write about Technology
  • A Failure to Effectively Communicate: Why We’re So Bad at Speaking and Writing about Technology
  • A Failure to Effectively Communicate: What We Say and How We Say It in Era of Ubiquitous Technology

Retired Title Ideas

Here are some other thoughts on titles:

  • The New Rules of Business Communication: How to Be Understood in an Increasingly Noisy World
  • Rise above the Din: Examining Ubiquitous Technology, What We Say, and How We Say It
  • Rise above the Din: Ubiquitous Technology, What We Say, and How We Say It
  • Rising above the Din: Technology, What We Say, and How We Say It
  • Simple, Direct, and Timely: Technology, What We Say, and How We Say It
  • Redefining Communication: Technology, What We Say, and How We Say It
  • Ways and Means: Technology, What We Say, and How We Say It
  • Rise Above the Din: Technology, What We Say, and How We Say It
  • Crystallize: Ubiquitous Technology, What We Say, and How We Say It
  • Crystallize: Technology, What We Say, and How We Say It
  • We Don’t Talk Anymore: Technology, What We Say, and How We Say It
  • Crystallize: A Guide To Effective Writing and Speaking in the Digital Age
  • Crystallize: How to Speak and Write Effectively about Technology and Data
  • Essential Communications: A Guide to Effective Writing and Speaking about Technology and Data
  • Talking About Tech: Effective Speaking Writing and about Technology and Data
  • Effective Speaking about Technology and Data (more of a subtitle)

This type of brainstorming and quasi-mind mapping was indispensable on several levels, and I recommend it to all Motion coaching and publishing clients. Beyond helping you settle on a title and subtitle for the actual book, “bad” ones can serve as useful part, chapter, and section titles.

Brass Tacks

Going through this type of exercise is not short of invaluable. Do it long enough and you can separate the wheat from the chaff.

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