One of the most important questions authors must consider when choosing a book title is How can I position my book relative to its competition?
Positioning a book is similar to targeting a book, discussed in Question 30, although there are some significant differences:
Targeting is about your readers. It involves choosing a book title that instantly attracts and resonates with your ideal readers because they can identify with your book and immediately understand how it can help them.
Positioning, however, is about your book’s competition. Positioning involves choosing a book title that differentiates your book from the competition. The title of a well-positioned book instantly communicates how the book differs from other books on the market.
Well-positioned books need no explanation; the title is enough to set the book apart and make it the preferred option.
Tools of book positioning
Here are some of the ways you can position your book:
- Depth. One of the best ways to position your book is to position it either as an easier alternative to other books on the market or–instead–position your title as a more serious, detailed approach to the topic. Use words like Introduction, First-time, Basic, and Fundamentals to attract newcomers to a topic. Introductory books often can form the basis for successful series, terms like …for Dummies or …for Idiots. Or, conversely, use words like Almanac, Handbook, or Compendium to position your book as in-depth resource.
- College course numbering. Another approach is to adopt the numbering codes used to indicate the college course levels. Introductory courses often begin with 101, leading to book titles like John Maxwell’s Attitude 101: What Every Leader Needs to Know or Social Media 101: A Beginner’s Guide to Online Marketing. Higher course numbers indicated more advanced levels, such as Presentation Skills 201: How to Take it to the Next Level as a Confident, Engaging Presenter.
- Who it’s not for. Another highly-successful book positioning approach is to position a book by specifying who shouldn’t buy the book. The classic example of this is Robin William’s The Non-Designer’s Design Book. The success of the original book in this series has resulted in several graphic design titles for non-designers.
- Style. Another popular book positioning strategy is to position books as either informal alternatives to more formal books. One well-done example is Jennifer Lee’s Right-Brain Business Plan: A Creative, Visual Map for Success which clearly positions the title as an alternative to most business planning books. Title words which also communicate style include Outspoken, Impatient, Frustrated, Humorous, and Formerly, and Irreverent.
- Approach. Often, positioning a book relative to its competition can be as simple as promising a simple, procedural approach, such as The Startup Owner’s Manual: The Step-By-Step Guide for Building a Great Company. Sometimes, a single word can be enough to position a title and provide a compelling emotional appeal, such as A Gentle Path through the Twelve Steps: The Classic Guide for All People in the Process of Recovery. In this title, note the other word that positions the book as a standard in its field, i.e., Classic.
- Qualifications. Often, positioning a book title can be done by emphasizing the author’s qualifications to write the book, often based on their experiences. Emphasize your experiences if they’re relevant to the information you’re sharing. Your qualifications can also be based on your motivates for writing a book, or your shared experiences with your ideal readers. Titles like, What’s Wrong with Me? The Frustrated Patient’s Guide to Getting an Accurate Diagnosis, resonate with readers who share your perspective or outlook.
Choosing a title that positions your book is the first step towards designing a book cover that reinforces your book’s positioning, visually strengthening the way your book differs from the competition.
Once you’ve chosen a title that differentiates your book from the competition, you’re well on your way towards creating a series of follow-up books and information products that can serve you for decades to come.
Learn more about choosing a book title to position your book by reading #BookTitleTweet: 140 Bite-sized Ideas for Compelling Article, Book, and Event Titles.
Leading authors, book coaches, agents, endorse it, like Mark Steisel, bestselling author & ghostwriter, who wrote:
Crisp, hard hitting titles are crucial; they can make or break whatever you write. Get Roger’s book to come up with the perfect title.
In addition to describing a process for choosing book titles, #BookTitleTweet describes how to test your titles to get real-world feedback from prospective book buyers.
This is Question #31 out of the 99 Questions author should ask before starting to write a book. Before starting to write and self-publish a book to build your personal brand, I encourage you to download a free copy of my 99 Questions to Ask Before You Write and Self-publish a Brand-building Book. You can also access previously-answered questions here. Share your questions about book titles and positioning your book as comments, below.