This is an excerpt from my book THE ONE HOUR AUTHOR: non-fiction book writing for busy people, that shows aspiring authors how to create a non-fiction book and guide them from the thinking and planning process to the fully prepared manuscript.

Bestselling non-fiction books have several common characteristics, but the title is arguably the most important of these because the potential buyer will be drawn to your subject and your solutions, information and opinions, or not. Today, many non-fiction books are offered in an e-book format only and other than the marketing material, there is very little to differentiate your offering from the many others available. So, that leaves us with the title and leaves you with the task of creating one that exhibits as many of these winning characteristics as possible.

I suggest that you read through and make a list of ideas that pop into your mind as you are doing so. Often, it is the first thought that is the most powerful and successful.

Having a working title near the beginning of your project helps you as the writer to stay on focus and so this will be a good time to introduce you to the seven characteristics of an excellent title.

1. Juxtaposition - this is more important if your book is going to be found on a traditional bookstore shelf. The books that stand out have titles that do not seem to fit on the shelf the buyer is looking at. The potential buyer walks into a store looking for something on Italian cooking and on the shelf with the other cookbooks, they cannot help but notice one with a title that just does not seem to fit.

“You put WHAT in the Sauce?” is probably more attention getting than “Cooking Italian.”  The point is to get noticed enough to have the potential reader pick up your book instead of the one next to it.

2. Address the issue, problem or need that you are writing about. Give the reader the opportunity to know what you are writing about - nothing cutesy, but at least one word in the title should mention your topic. This might be in the sub title rather than the main one.

3. Keywords - once again we talk about search engine optimization but if you can possibly get a few search-able words connected to your main topic, it will go a long way toward being found in the various search engines and databases. There is much more to this science than we are going to cover here and it takes much more than just a word or two in the title, but that will at least support your further efforts to create and locate your audience. Do not get carried away in this need for SEO but simply be aware, especially if you intend to self publish.

4. Promise - your title should inform potential readers of something they will stop doing, start doing or start doing differently as a result of reading your book. This is why your audience will buy your book, because they want something as a payoff for their hard-earned dollars. They will pay for your book in exchange for receiving a benefit for themselves. There are personal benefits to reading an altruistic book that offers world change because it makes the reader feel better, even though they might not personally benefit.

5. Tease the reader with something provocative, eye catching, controversial, shocking, humorous, unexpected, and challenging or over the top in the title. You are seeking attention in the face of thousands of other titles that are competing with you. Some authors have had great success with NURDS. This is the art of creating a word that does not exist but mashes other words into a new one - sometimes it will even enter the language if the book is very successful. e.g.. Freakenomics or a word that is totally unfamiliar like, Outliers.

6. Alliteration or rhyme will help the title roll off the readers tongue; helps make it repeatable and memorable. Be careful here because, depending on your topic, a cutesy title could easily work against you. You will want to test this idea with an objective advisor or two before you commit to it.

7. No superfluous words. Keep the title as tight as you can, try using a verb or action word in the title - some recent releases use just one verb as the main title and rely on the sub title or the author’s name to carry the day. This is not a hard and fast rule since there are many exceptions that have long titles, but the first couple of words are the key to remembering the book.

bonus: try to work numbers into the title if you can such as, the 5 habits, the 7 secrets, the 3 most important...  You get the idea; it is part of the promise that you, as the author, are making to the reader and you are telling them what to expect as a result of reading your book. This has worked very well for some multi-million selling books and it might for yours, too.

The bottom line is that you will not be able to work all of these characteristics into your title, but the more you can use, the better chance you will have of being noticed. The idea is to encourage your potential reader to take your book off the shelf, examine the cover and decide to investigate further.

And just one last word of caution, if you are going to sell your book to a traditional publisher, they will have the final say on any title. Spend some time in your local bookstore perusing the titles both in your genre and outside and see if some ideas start to occur to you.