Four Strategies for Creating Titles That Jump Off the Page

If there’s one thing every publishing professional hates, it’s a title meeting. Why? Because coming up with compelling book titles is arduous, time-consuming work. The same is true for bloggers and their blog titles.


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Yet nothing in the marketing mix is more important than a strong title. It is like a newspaper headline: If prospective readers are intrigued, they keep reading. If they don’t, they move on to the next book or blog post.

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Based on our research at Thomas Nelson, consumers first look at the book’s:

  1. Title
  2. Cover
  3. Back cover
  4. Flaps (hardcover books or trade paperbacks with “French flaps”)
  5. Table of contents
  6. First few paragraphs of the book’s content
  7. Price

I didn’t mention the author because it varies. If the author is well-known, it might be the most important element. (This is why publishers sometimes put it at the top of a book.) If the author isn’t well-known, it can be a non-factor.

Notice that price is last. Readers don’t buy price. No one ever said, “That book looks great! If it were only two dollars cheaper.” Or, “This book doesn’t really appeal to me, but if it were a buck less expensive I would buy it.” As long as the book provides enough value for the price requested, it sells. But I digress.

The most important component is the title.

So what does it take to create great titles that get books on the bestsellers list or pageviews for a blog post?

Great titles are PINC (pronounced “pink”). They do at least one of the following: make a promise, create intrigue, identify a need, or simply state the content. Let me provide a few examples from the current bestseller lists.

  1. Titles that make a promise:
    The 4-Hour Body Sexy Forever Barefoot Contessa
    The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman Sexy Forever: How to Fight Fat after Forty Barefoot Contessa How Easy Is That?: Fabulous Recipes & Easy Tips
  2. Titles that create intrigue:
    Heaven Is for Real Inside of a Dog The Seven Wonders
    Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know The Seven Wonders That Will Change Your Life
  3. Titles that identify a need:
    Fearless The Total Money Makeover How to Write a Sentence
    Fearless: Imagine Your Life Without Fear The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness How to Write a Sentence: And How to Read One
  4. Titles that simply state the content:
    Bonhoeffer Why We Get Fat Autobiography of Mark Twain
    Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy Why We Get Fat Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 1

Some of these titles employ more than one strategy. For example, The 4-Hour Body makes a promise, but it also creates intrigue—How could you recreate your body in four hours?

Please note that these guidelines are primarily for non-fiction books and blog posts. Coming up with fiction titles is a whole other thing—though it seems like the strategy is usually to create intrigue, for example, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest or What the Night Knows.

And I have to admit that many books break these rules completely and succeed. I remember trying to come up with a title for Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller. Our committee was convinced that the author’s title would never work. We believed that no one would have a clue what it meant.

But Don was stubborn and wouldn’t budge. We finally acquiesced. And all it did was work! The book has sold more than 1.3 million copies to-date and still continues to sell tens of thousands of copies each year.

By the way, for bloggers, one of the best books you could ever read is Advertising Headlines That Make You Rich: Create Winning Ads, Web Pages, Sales Letters and More. The book sounds cheesy and is expensive. But it is worth its weight in gold. It is basically a catalog of headline templates that have proven effective in selling all kinds of products. I constantly refer to it.

The bottom line is that the right title can make you or break you. It is worth spending the necessary time to get it right.

Question: What strategies have you used in coming up with winning titles for books or blog posts? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • Henrik Wist

    Great timing on that post, as I am new to blogging. Thank you, Michael, for pointing out some useful resources for future blog titles. In my short experience I immediately noticed that having an idea for a post is easy. Drafting it is also easy (given the right time and mental state). But finding an intriguing title is the hardest part of it.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I spend almost as much time on the the title as the post. It’s hard work but essential.

  • Leah Adams

    This is so helpful! Thanks for the info on PINC. I will definitely be using that.

    When I came up with the name for my Bible study, I pondered on the target group primarily, of which I am one. What interests do the target group share? What words would pique’ their interest? I try to do the same with my blog posts. I know with blog posts it is important to consider ‘hot button’ words that search engines will latch onto.

    Thanks for your blog, Michael. I am learning so much from stopping by here.

  • Timothy Fish

    For non-fiction books, I ask myself what a reader in my target audience would type into Google if they were looking for information on the subject. I have one book titled “Church Website Design” which uses the exact wording I would expect. My most recent non-fiction book is titled “Book Cover Design Wizardry”. I’m not sure if adding Wizardry to the end will help or hurt, but it more accurately describes the content than just “Book Cover Design” considering that there are other books with similar titles.

    • Michael Hyatt

      This is a great tip, too, Timothy. Google’s Key Word Tool is helpful for this. You can actually type in the word or phrase and Google will tell you how many people searched for that in the past month. I use ScribeSEO on my blog, which also taps into this tool.

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  • Thomas J. Lee

    Michael, couldn’t you argue that “Blue Like Jazz” creates intrigue? It certainly does for me. I hadn’t even heard of it until now, but I’m clicking over to Amazon right away to see what it’s all about.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Yes, I think you would argue that. Evidently, it worked for over a million people!

  • Rachel Wojnarowski

    Wish I had read this before now. Just so helpful! Thanks

  • Axon Publishing

    I can’t believe that your list of 7 things the customer looks at don’t include the author!!

    • Michael Hyatt

      I did’t mention the author because it varies. If the author is well-known, it might be the most important element. (This is why publishers sometimes put it at the top of a book.) If the author isn’t well-known, it can be a non-factor.

      • Chris MacKinnon

        Wow! I’ve always thought that I could take extra time on a great subtitle to make up for a less than perfect title. Looks like I’ll have to adjust.

  • Amy

    Thanks for the examples and ideas.

    What strategies do I use? Does playing around with the words and then just going with one count?

  • Marti Pieper

    Great tips as always. For me, titling has become a fun piece of the writing puzzle.

    An agent taught me early on that an explanatory subtitle can make an attention-grabbing but unclear nonfiction title work. I’ve used this tactic more than once to gain committee/reader approval.

    Of course, your “Blue Like Jazz” example illustrates this. Its subtitle: “Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality.”

    • Michael Hyatt

      The problem with relying too heavily on the subtitle is that less than half the people will read it, especially when you consider the fact that 80% of all books will be displayed spine-out in the bookstore.

  • Ramon Presson

    The title of my newest book coming out this spring is “When Will My Life Not Suck? Authentic Hope for the Disillusioned”. A number of Christian publishers loved the manuscript (as did Foreward writer Dr. Gary Chapman) but balked at the title. The title incorporates all 4 elements and is getting lots of pre-release attention because of it. As a newspaper columnist I learned the necessity and power of great titles.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Some Christians have a huge aversion to the word “suck.” I have one blog post that uses it—Why Most Meetings Still Suck—and I always get complaints when I tweet a link to it. However, it resonates for many more. Personally, I don’t think it’s a problem, and I would use what works.

      By the way, being a newspaper columnist is GREAT training for being a blogger. Being able to get a great headline and compelling lead is crucial to success.

      • Ben

        That’s interesting. I have one title with “suck” in it, too. I hate it, but can’t ever figure out a better word to convey the feeling.

      • Ramon Presson

        Thanks so much! I really appreciate your encouraging reply.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Some Christians have a huge aversion to the word “suck.” I have one blog post that uses it—Why Most Meetings Still Suck—and I always get complaints when I tweet a link to it. However, it resonates for many more. Personally, I don’t think it’s a problem, and I would use what works.

      By the way, being a newspaper columnist is GREAT training for being a blogger. Being able to get a great headline and compelling lead is crucial to success.

  • Cris Ferreira

    I started blogging about two months ago, and everytime I write a post, I start with a title, then I change it several times before I decide on a final version.
    I keep asking myself if I would stop to read a post with that title, but my problem is that it all depends only on my opinion.
    I’ll check the book you mentioned, it’s always good to have different points of view.
    Thanks again for the useful information as always.

  • Lawrence W. Wilson

    This is a great post, Michael, and essential for so many things beyond book publishing. We worked very hard on this when naming our Sunday discipleship ministry, “Connect.” We we aiming at N (need), people’s need to form relationships within the church. Thanks for giving more clarity to this topic.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Titling anything is hard work. I agree with you. Blog names, company names, brands—all these require careful, creative thinking.

  • Uma Maheswaran S

    The title must be catchy first and would probably get someone to pick up the book. They open the door to the reader’s interest level. In my opinion, catchy titles do work. To create the title that works for us and our book, we need to experiment, brainstorm, and be flexible. We should choose our words wisely, according to the needs and wants of our audience.

  • Ameliarhodes

    Titles are something I’m still working on. I love how you explained PINC. I’ll definitely be using it. I definitely haven’t spent enough time on titles.

  • Jennifer

    This is a very helpful post! As a novice blogger it will help me with my titles. Thanks for posting!

  • Chris MacKinnon

    I’ve always thought that your title should be short, less than 5 words. Some of the examples are longer. Is this really a non-issue as long as it falls into PINC?

    • Michael Hyatt

      Yes, I think it is a non-issue. One word titles are all the rage now (e.g., Lynchpin, Shift, Drive, etc.), but it really doesn’t matter. We once published a New York Times bestseller with this title, All You Can Do Is All You Can Do But All You Can Do Is Enough! by Art Williams.

  • Bill Bliss

    I will not offer any strategies, but wanted you to know that this blog prompted me to look at one of the books you referenced, “How to Write a Sentence” as I am providing coaching to a European expatriate who is having difficulty with the written English language. I thought the book would be helpful for me to help him. I was able to download it onto my Kindle and am hopeful it will have immediate application.

    Over the years I have been following you, you have proven to be a wealth of great information, perspective and insight. Thank you.


    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Bill. I appreciate that.

  • Anonymous

    I was definitely intrigued by the “Blue Like Jazz” title so I followed the link to Amazon. I found the subtitle very helpful (was that the author’s or the publishing team’s influence?). The cover art didn’t do much for me (it didn’t seem to have any bearing on the content). The first chapter title caught my attention (I assume the same “rules” might apply to chapter titles) but reading the first few paragraphs absolutely hooked me (content matters).

    I will definitely be giving my titles more consideration in the future.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Yes, and the table of contents is hugely important. That’s where catchy chapter titles make a huge difference!

    • Steven Cribbs

      My 2 cents … I almost always look at the chapter titles. And, most of the time, the chapter titles will either sell me on the book or send me looking elsewhere. The book title gets my attention. The chapter titles tell me if the book will contain information that I really want or need.

      • Michael Hyatt

        Yep, I think that is a common pattern. That’s why I encourage authors to look at the Table of Contents as a marketing tool. It is not merely an index of content.

  • Chad Billington

    Thanks for the article, Michael. As a pastor I know what I want to say, but giving it a title can prove tricky (especially as I need them fairly regularly). I’m going to share this with the other pastors on my staff.

  • John Richardson

    Great information, Mike! When I put together my first book, coming up with a proper title was the hardest part of the whole process. I took a lot of the things the book was about and came up with titles. None of them seemed right. I then tried using the character names in different ways… with no luck. Then I tried using the places mentioned in the book… nothing clicked. I did some research on the net about titles and I ran into a site called titlescorer. This was a site that would rate your title against 50 years of bestsellers and give you a score. Now I was onto something.

    I tried my top 5 titles I had come up with to that point and my highest score was 10 out of a possible 100… not good. So I started trying combination of words and phrases, and my titlescores improved a little. I then downloaded a list of best seller titles for inspiration and looked for some type of continuity… it popped out… so many titles seemed to be metaphors.

    I worked for days on this project and started asking people what their favorite book titles were. I got all sorts of answers and a lot of ideas. I then tried about 50 combinations of words and fine tuned my list. Then I took the 30 highest scoring titles, wrote them down on an index card, and passed the card around to my friends and co-workers. As I handed them the card, I asked them one question… “With the titles on this card, which book would you buy?”
    This was an eye opening experience… of the 30 titles, three titles popped out and one was an overwhelming favorite. It was also the highest scoring title on my list with titlescorer.
    This became the title of my book. Even though other titles described the content better, this title got people’s attention. Thus became, “The Path of Consequence.”
    Why not try out your titles and see how you score…

    • Michael Hyatt

      Wow! I had no idea a resource like TitleScorer even existed.

      Thanks for the description of your process. This is what it takes to get great titles.

      • Aardvark Films

        Hmmm, not sure how valuable Titlescorer actually is. It says Lord of the Rings has an 8.6% chance of becoming a bestseller, but The Slipperyness of Cornflakes has a 69% chance. As, it seems, does everything that uses ‘The ___ of ___’ figuratively. would you buy a book called The Magnanimity of Bile?

    • TNeal

      Thanks for sharing your process and a resource. I have to admit your title, “Path of Consequence,” fits into the intriguing category.

    • TNeal

      I want to thank you all the more, John, after trying TitleScorer. I got my results and know I’ve got a great title. Now if the story holds up to its title, I’ll have a bestseller by Christmas (of what year has yet to be determined).

      • John Richardson

        I had a lot of fun with Titlescorer. It definitely points you in the right direction. Good luck with your book!

    • Ben

      OK, I could spend all day playing around with TitleScorer, but I’ve got work to do. I tried two of my titles and got a 34% on one and a 41% on the other. Looks like I’ve got some work to do.

    • Steven Cribbs

      Thanks for mentioning TitleScorer – it does give a great way to play with titles. And, it is quite interesting to see the range of scores of my titles – definitely eye-opening.

    • Brandon

      Cool! I will have to try that!

  • Patlayton

    I went to sleep last night praying for a title that would draw people into a tough to take topic and woke up to THIS post.
    Thanks for the great tips Michael. I will use them to help me think!
    Have a great day.

  • DrDavidFrisbie

    We like title with verbs! :)

    Raising Great Kids on Your Own
    Moving Forward After Divorce
    Becoming Your Husband’s Best Friend


    • Michael Hyatt

      Technically gerunds, but I agree. I use them quite a bit, too. Sometimes, it is helpful to use the imperative form of the verb. For example, Raise Great Kids on Your Own, Move Forward After Divorce, Become Your Husband’s Best Friend. This is more direct and some readers will perceive it as over-bearing. However, sometimes it works.

      • DrDavidFrisbie

        We appreciate this sage advice: thank you! — David & Lisa

  • rick hubbell

    Hi Mike,

    Helpful post with a great array of examples. Thank you.

    I am always intrigued by what people respond to, are you? We can play percentages, but sometimes it’s unpredictable. There are some things I labor over, like BREAKING THE MOLD BEFORE IT BREAKS YOU, the title of an article which went over well immediately, along with it’s visual. That was the usual excruciating process of placing and replacing. And then there are things I just stumbled into like CREATING BREAKTHROUGH IN YOUR LIFE THROUGH BIBLICAL MEDITATION, which seem quite normal, something I just threw out, which ended up garnering even more attention.

    Here is another issue: occasionally I am absolutely certain that a title is inspired by God, which I know generally gives publishers heartburn, especially when the author is wrong! However, at the end of the day I must be faithful with what I feel has been entrusted to me.

    So, to answer your question, my methods are:
    1. Perspiration & Craft (Intentionally capturing the imagination of the target market)
    2. Inspiration (Whether directly from the Lord or using the spark of creativity He’s given)
    3. Faithfulness (Doing the best I can, regardless, and just seeing what happens. Not every title will grab the masses, but something has to get you between those that do)

    I have not blogged in a few years but will first half ’11. My current book is probably the most catchy thing I’ve ever done (hah – we’ll see) and is a combination of all three, interestingly.


    • Michael Hyatt

      It is definitely unpredictable. Thanks for outlining your process!

      • rick hubbell

        You’re welcome. Thank for asking. Rick

    • Jeff Randleman

      Thanks for these thoughts.

      • rick hubbell

        Your welcome, Jeff! Rick

  • Philip Rothschild

    Thanks for illustrating this with samples Mike. Really helps.

  • womenlivingwell

    Excellent post. After nearly 3 years of blogging, facebooking, tweeting and youtubing I have learned the power of a title. People like “10 easy ways to” or “How to” posts the most. (your “4 strategies” caught my attention today! It works!)

    Often I write a title- write the blog post (or make the video) then change it 10 times before publishing because the content went a different direction than originally planned! lol! But thus far, my title style is working for me as I have new followers every single day! :-)

    Yesterday’s post was titled : 10 Fun Ways to Praise Your Husband – getting ready for Valentine’s Day – the response has been great – 26 comments – and 50+ bloggers linked up!

    Picking a title is fun! Great post!

    • Michael Hyatt

      I am like you. I change my title a dozen times. And, yes, the content often takes on a life of its own. I sit down to write one thing and something else comes out. This post is a good example. I intended to write about how to increase your blog traffic. I got stuck on titles! ;-)

    • John Richardson

      Great information, Courtney. Top 10 lists and How To posts rule the world. Some others that work well are…
      Who Else Wants _____?
      The Secret of ______
      Here’s a Quick Way to ________

      So many times the title is more important than the content. I’ll definitely have to have my wife check out your last post… :-)

  • TNeal

    I wrote a one page for a writers’ conference that an editor and two agents reviewed in a public forum. One agent said, “I have no idea what this book is about but I like the title.” Definitely a learning moment.

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  • Chad Allen

    Good thoughts. This also applies to headings within books, which are less about getting people to buy the book and more about helping people enjoy the book they’ve bought!

    • Steven Cribbs

      Good point. It is important to know what the purpose of the title is. A book title usually has a much different purpose than a section title or a header.

  • Ben

    I usually go for the intrigue – or even shock – when writing a title. I also think questions work occasionally. I have an “incubator” for blog posts, and the title is often the most challenging part. I may change it several times before it feels right to me.

  • Jeff Kusner

    Great post!… so one word titles are all the rage? THANKS!

  • Christopher Scott

    Very informative post, Michael. I have never read about how to title a book before. :-)

    For my blog posts, I try to match up my content in the blog post to what someone might type into a search engine about that same subject. The key is to make sure they match, I don’t create titles that are way off content. If I can find a way to match my content with short and sweet statement someone might type into a search engine, then I’ve found a good title.

  • Jeff Randleman

    As usual, you hit the nail right on the head. Titles are one of my toughest areas to conquer in my writing. I’ve never heard of PINC. Thanks for the insight. That will help me as I work on this area.

    FYI, you have a mis-spelled word in the first paragraph after the list of 7: “didn’t”. Just though you’d want to know…

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks for catching that typo. I completely missed it. I also found another one while I was looking!

  • Joshua Hood

    Are you a fan of titles that play on words? For example, the use of homonyms?
    (Here’s a cheesy, fake example: “The Knight Before Christmas”)
    If done right, do you think these are effective? Or too cute?

    Josh Hood

    • Michael Hyatt

      Yes, I think done well, they can work. The key is not to be so clever that people miss the message—or misunderstand it.

  • Bandrg

    You should put together a post like this about Creating Interesting Church Road Signs!

  • Ashley Musick

    Awesome and informative blog post! A part of my job, and something I enjoy doing, is reading blogs from our mission trip participants who are on-the-field. There are hundreds of participants blogging about things happening all over the world. It’s gotten to the point where I can’t possibly keep up with every single one. All of a sudden it became critical for the participant to use a good title to draw in readers who were picking which blogs to read through a list of “100 Most Recent Posts.” It’s not easy, but I’ve seen some very clever titles that have the elements you’ve listed above. Perhaps these tips will help me create titles that make my own blogs stand out in the crowd. Thanks!

    • Michael Hyatt

      You make an important point that is easy to forget. There is so much content now, that you have to create a great title just to get noticed.

  • Matt Raithel

    I know “title” is the topic, but the position of price intrigued me. I’m surprised that price falls so low on the list.

    I admit that I’ve said – “That book looks great! If it were only two dollars cheaper.” … or maybe “10$” cheaper. I hope I’m not the only one? But I don’t recall ever putting a book back on the shelf because the table of contents weren’t appealing.

    Maybe I’m misunderstanding the research?

    • Michael Hyatt

      Obviously, there is a price point above which prospects will bail out and abort their buying behavior. My point is simply no one goes to a book store and says I’m looking for a good $14.99 trade paperback. Instead, they find something they like and, assuming the price is within a rand of reason, move forward with their purchase.

      • Adam Weart

        Interesting… Every single book in the NY Times top 15 “Hard Cover Fiction” Best Seller list is between $24-$28. Is that the magic range for selling that type of book? Looks like certain price points apply to certain types of books.

        • Michael Hyatt

          Yes, I definitely think there is a range. You will always be able to find exceptions—especially in non-fiction—but there is a generally accepted range that most publishers adhere to.

          • Matt Raithel

            Thanks for the reply Michael – is this range you speak of public? Or does each publisher have their guidelines that they roll with?

          • Michael Hyatt

            I’m sure each publisher has their own, but we always compare the competition, which is different for each title. I don’t think I have any general guidelines. Sorry.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for this. I’ve been reading about this from several blogging “experts” and this post has been the most helpful.

  • Aled Wyn

    Really helpful post.
    I think I naturally lean towards intrigue with my titles. On reflection I may go too far and they end up being too vague.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I do think it’s possible to be so cute that no one really gets it. This is a challenge especially when using metaphors (though we use them all the time).

  • Sean

    I find that completing the blog or book first, then coming up with a title that ties it all together works best for me. Excpet for today’s blog. I couldn’t think of a singl thing, so I just went with something from Smokey and the Bandit. That usually works well too…

    • Steven Cribbs

      Ahhh, classic movie lines and words from our favorite characters…I like that one ;-)

  • Jeremy Statton

    Many of my readers clink on links on facebook and twitter, so part of the challenge is advertising not just the title, but maybe a small statement about the topic. It can be very difficult form me to make grab someone’s attention, but if I do it well, I can see it in my reader stats.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Yes, I agree. In fact, three pieces of metadata are critical: the title, the description, and the keywords. These are the primary things robots AND people look at.

  • Sammy Adebiyi

    Hey Michael. Great content as always. Thoroughly enjoy your blog. Strange cause I feel like titles are the best part of blogging for me. I enjoy the creativity. Went back and picked out my favorite titles over last 3 months. What do you think? Am I on the right track? I’d appreciate any input. Thanks again.

    1. 5 reasons why you should stop reading this blog
    2. How embracing the ‘S’ word strengthened my faith in God
    3. Why having a pet rock is more biblical than you think
    4. How to win a gunfight with an unloaded gun
    5. Pimp my trashcan: When Jesus doesn’t care if you tithe or cuss
    6. How to cure your zits without feeding your dog Chipotle

    • Michael Hyatt

      These are all great at creating intrigue. You obviously have a knack for this—and some experience. Keep up the good work!

      • Brandon

        Do you ever think of a great title, publish it, and then realize that it has already been published on another blog? Just wondering because that has happened to me…I still posted anyway because it was about something different.

        • Michael Hyatt

          No, that has never happened, but I am certain it is only a matter of time.

      • Sammy Adebiyi

        Thanks. Only been blogging for 3 months. Means a lot to hear that from you. More than you know. Thanks so so much for the input Michael.

        • Michael Hyatt

          You are welcome. I meant it!

    • Steven Cribbs

      You just got my attention…and sent me to your blog. :-)

  • Jack Heimbigner

    Being an amateur blogger I have been thinking more about every aspect about a blog post. Though I generally ask myself if I would stop and read the post based on my title. Taking a look at the “PINC” model gives me some better tracks to run on. Thanks!

  • Katie Ganshert

    I’m obsessed with titles, so the title of this post made me pop right on over! I’m a novelist, so I definitely like to create something that is intriguing and also fits. For me, finding the right title usually involves a lot of wrestling, but when the right one comes, it’s a great feeling.

    • Michael Hyatt

      It involves a lot of wrestling for me, too. In fact, I am struggling with one right now for one of my talks.

  • Marni Arnold


    This will truly help me when coming to that point when I am ready to have my first book looked over by someone.

    I am working on it now – I have no idea how it will turn out, but this will for sure help me in the pursuit of getting it published one day. Again, thank you for sharing this insight.

  • Steven Cribbs

    I have always heard that the title can make or break something. I don’t always do the best at creating the title; but, I definitely pay attention to it. It amazes me, though, at all of the people that are responsible for creating something that do not put much effort into the title, or the presentation of the rest of the content for that matter. I am thinking specifically in the church world and how many of the content creators think it is enough just to put something out there, without stopping to think about the way it will be consumed and how to help it be the most affective.

  • Gospel lab

    This is a great post.

    I really enjoy coming up with titles.

    I think book and blog titles are like the “hook” in a song. That chorus you keep singing all day makes you come back for more of the song.

    • Michael Hyatt

      The hook analogy for songs is exactly right. You want something memorable.

  • Brandon

    Hey Michael! How do you incorporate Disqus into your blog. I am signed up, but I do not know how to actually get it to be the commenting system on my blog? I’d appreciate any advice!

    • Michael Hyatt

      You have to be using self-hosted WordPress. Then you need to install their WordPress plugin. Detailed instructions are available on the Disqus site.

      • Brandon

        Oh ok… I am really tempted to move my blog to WordPress, but I have so much stuff on the webs. What do you think?

        • Michael Hyatt

          What platform are you on now? I moved from TypePad to WordPress two years ago. Since then, my traffic is up 321.5%. I think it was totally worth it!

  • David Santistevan

    Mike, so true. While content is king, people may never read your content due to poor headlines. I find it helpful to write my post first and then step away for a second and brainstorm a few different options for the title. Gotta take your time with it for it to be great.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Yep. I agree.

  • Nikole Hahn

    Blogging is what I do to practice good writing and so coming up with a great title is a work in progress. Thanks for the advice!

  • K.C. Pro

    I second guessed your point about book price at first, but after thinking for a moment it really makes sense. I’ve never picked up a book and not purchased it based on price.

    Thank you for the headline book suggestion. Added to my Amazon wish list. :)

    Will definitely keep PINC in mind when drafting future post titles.

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  • Tedd

    I used the pivotal experience in the life of an African child to name my manuscript. My blog is a relative of the story.

  • Jenny

    I used the intrigue strategy for a recent book I entered into the Women of Faith contest. I titled my book Fireworks & Fuzz Balls.

    • Michael Hyatt

      That definitely intrigues me!

  • Benjamin Lichtenwalner

    I picked up a copy of “Advertising Headlines That Make You Rich” based on your recommendation and you are right. It is a great way to stimulate your creative thinking on titles. I also love the PINC acronym. Thanks for the recommendations.

    • Michael Hyatt

      You are welcome, Benjamin!

  • Sammi

    I typed my comment and then it disappeared when Iwent to post it! What I said was this wasnt for a novel like I thought but I have a spiritual book I am working on and it made me think I need to readdress the title. Now you need to do a post for a novel because I am STUCK. Also I like your blog alot, its quick read and gives lots of info. I dont know how you do it all, I really don’t!

    • Michael Hyatt

      I’m so sorry about that! I wish I had more personal experience with novels. Unfortunately, I don’t.

  • Doug Hibbard

    I’ve used 2 strategies on the blog posts: One is consistency. All of my Book Review posts state “Book Review” and then the book title.

    The other is to try and make sure it fits in 120 characters to be tweetable.

    Of course, I’ve got like 20 readers and you’ve got a few zillion, so I’m going to try and incorporate your wisdom!

  • Cyberquill

    Titles are a [female canine], pardon my French.

    On second thought, as is all writing. For me, sound and style form as much an integral component of effective wordsmithing as does the imparting of substance. So not only do I ask myself, “Does this make sense, and does it get my point across?”, but just as important do I consider the question “How does it sound?” Unfortunately—or luckily?—this latter question does not lend itself to being broken down into a “follow these five steps” enumeration of tangible criteria.

    E.B. White said it best in Chapter V of The Elements of Style:

    Who can confidently say what ignites a certain combination of words, causing them to explode in the mind? Who knows why certain notes in music are capable of stirring the listner deeply, though the same notes slightly rearranged are impotent?

    Words are like music, and if a particular succession of words has that certain something, it will stick in the reader’s mind like a catchy tune she can’t get out of her head all day. This is why Blue Like Jazz works like a charm, even though, at first blush, it doesn’t actually convey meaningful information, unlike FOUR STRATEGIES FOR CREATING TITLES THAT JUMP OFF THE PAGE, which summarizes what follows with spellbinding clarity but lacks zing almost as if all titular euphony had been surgically removed (which, actually, may be perfect for a Type-A “time is money” type audience averse to squandering precious nano-seconds of cognitive effort on admiring a title’s mellifluence or on pondering what exactly, judging from its headline, a particular article or blog post may be about).

    If I were to choose between a snappy title that conveys no obvious information and one that tells me exactly what the ensuing material is all about but reads like a line from a corporate earnings report, I’d tentatively opt for the former. Ideally, of course, a title (as well as what follows) should contain both ingredients, i.e., music and meaning.

    Felicitations on the Lesser of Two Feats is one of my favorites among my own blog post titles. Not only does it scan great and feature three attractive alliterations (two f’s as well as two l-and-s-combos—licit and lesser), but it also pithily sums up what the post is about without giving away its actual subject matter.

    One popular title creation strategy is the subtle modification of well-known expressions, sayings, or titles of other works (The Bold Testament), although this technique must be used with caution, for it can get real lame real fast. Titles like To Plea or Not to Plea or From Russia With Glove tend to cause me to dig my nails into my palms rather than be impressed with the ingenuity of the authors. Overall, I find minor rephrasing a rather lazy approach to creation … but then again, I use it myself with some regularity, for it certainly bears the potential of producing nifty and hence justifiable results; in the end, it’s a judgment call.

    For instance—referring to the aforementioned Bond flick—I titled a blog post on President Bush and his recent book tour From Crawford With Book—yes, still cribbed, but sufficiently removed from the original to be somewhat cute and creative in its own right. Another post, which discusses the second novel of a particular author (whom you may have heard of), I titled The Second Wiehl, obviously a take-off on the popular expression “the third wheel.” And a post on the negative perception by some of the police in general I titled Badged Apples, playing off on the oft-used “a few bad apples” metaphor.

    The most important thing about the modification strategy, I think, is to make sure that the particular alteration one is about to employ hasn’t been used a gazillion times before. If I were to write a post on American men and came up with “U.S. Male,” or an article sharing insider information about another impending financial meltdown and were considering “Nobody Knows the Bubble I’ve Seen,” I’d make darn sure that googling these semi-brilliant creations returned less than ten results each, or else these titles wouldn’t be merely lazy, but lazy and overused, an especially deplorable combination.

    My most ingenious recent title (based on the number of hits, and also because this particular post has garnered 33 comments so far, an astronomical number given the relative obscurity of my blog, even though, admittedly, approx. 50% of the total comments per post are usually my own replies to other people’s comments) is None of Your Business. Obviously, this title suggests to the reader that he is not supposed to read what follows, which, naturally, increases his desire to read it. So at first glance, the title looks like a fleetingly effective albeit rather tawdry gimmick to get people to read the post by telling them not to read it. What elevates it beyond mere gimmickry, however, is the fact that the post actually discusses the expression “none of your business” itself, hence the title tells exactly what the post is about.

    One of my upcoming posts will be about gay marriage and the Equal Protection Clause. Rather than Gay Marriage and the Equal Protection Clause, however, I shall call it Equality for Ketchup, a product of the “huh?” strategy of title creation, as “huh?” is precisely the reaction this title is meant to evoke (and, yes, ketchup will be discussed, so it isn’t merely a random out-of-context reference just to get attention).

    Summing up, my top three title creation strategies are:

    1. Euphony (rhythm, scanning, alliteration, etc.)
    2. Modification of well-known titles, quotes, etc. (USE WITH CAUTION!)
    3. The “huh?” strategy

  • @PaulSteinbrueck

    Mike, I agree that having a great title is crucial. It’s definitely worth spending extra time. I’ve found that a lot of my most popular blog posts start with a number, like this one.

    And for what it’s worth, I think Blue Like Jazz succeeded despite it’s title not because of it. I would not have bought it after seeing it in a bookstore, but I bought it because several people raved about it.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Using numbers can really create intrigue. It’s almost as if people wonder, Okay, what ARE those four strategies?

  • Justin Lukasavige

    How about A Million Miles in a Thousand Years? I have to confess that I was intrigued but avoided that book for a long time. I had no idea what it was about.

    After 40 or 50 people told me I need to read it, it’s probably my favorite read of all time.

    If people like even the worst title (and they actually find their way to the book) it will spread, but it helps to have a great title so you don’t have to wonder.

  • Jeff Goins

    Great post. Good call on these rules applying to blogging, as well. I like what Chris Garrett says about titles: “[they’re] stop signs, not buy signs.” (see:

    A good title should stop you in your tracks.

  • Vaiebhav

    Thank you for sharing great tips. I often advise my clients to use a question in the headline, ideally a question that highlights a problem, or promises a solution. Also creating a sense of urgency (e.g. NOW) helps. Curiosity plays a powerful role. When people get curious, they get restless and try to find out more.

  • Vaiebhav

    Thank you for sharing great tips. I often advise my clients to use a question in the headline, ideally a question that highlights a problem, or promises a solution. Also creating a sense of urgency (e.g. NOW) helps. Curiosity plays a powerful role. When people get curious, they get restless and try to find out more.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Yes, questions are great. I use them frequently myself.

      • Jeff Goins

        Right. And people often Google questions (“Ask Jeeves” style).

  • Georgiana

    Titles need to be eye-catching and make a definite impression on me. Leaving a distinct question to ponder in mind makes me actually want to pick up the book and read the back cover in order to gain more insight on the meat of its message. Once it has me hooked, it’s a sure-purchase as I’ll desire to read it cover to cover. Most notable for me recently was “Heaven is for Real” ~ a nonstop page-turner that I had completed in a day and a half! :-)

    • Michael Hyatt

      I read Heaven Is for Real in two sittings. I couldn’t put it down.

  • Tambre Leighn

    Great post. Succinct and clear. I love my blogging and provide a lot of quality content but if my titles aren’t pulling in readers then my ability to reach people with coaching concepts for leading an extraordinary life is limited. Tambre Leighn/

  • Daniel Decker

    I bought the advertising headlines book a while back and just started reading it a few days ago. First few pages alone were extremely helpful in helping me to remember my ad agency days of identifying PAIN, DESIRE and SOLUTION when writing copy (and headlines more importantly).

  • Troy Von Haefen

    As a financial planner and blogger, I find it’s difficult to walk the line between creating a clever title and giving the reader enough info about my post. I enjoy your blog!
    PS…i just finished Don Miller’s “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years” and loved it. I look forward to reading “Blue Like Jazz”

  • Matt Beard

    One of the first things I look at are the recommendations. I usually look at title and author and then go straight to see who recommended the book. If it’s doesn’t have a name I know and trust I usually don’t go much farther.

  • Ben

    Great article! Thanks

  • David Nash

    I love to use a title that would catch me. Sometimes it is seasonal (“Looking For The Snow”), while at other times it may use a bit of Alaska (“Bears In The Living Room”). I don’t limit myself to a particular theme though. I try to study my subject and my intent. What do I want people to feel as they read the title? Pain? Joy? Curriosity? The title has to convey this.

    This was a great question to ask us Mike. I hope I’m doing a good job…and getting better as well.

  • Jennifer Fulwiler

    Another wealth of information. Thank you so much for sharing!

    Also, this jumped out at me: “But Don was stubborn and wouldn’t budge. We finally acquiesced. And all it did was work!”

    I’m a first-time author, and my agent and I are about to contact some of the publishers who have expressed interest in my book. I’ve come up with a title that I feel strongly is perfect for the book both in terms of tone and boosting sales. However, I’ve heard that it’s often impossible for authors, especially those just starting out, to have much sway in terms of the title decision. Do you have any tips for how we can influence our publishers without seeming pushy or arrogant?

    Thank you!

    • Michael Hyatt

      Personally, I would build the most compelling business case you can, but also be humble enough to listen. Publishers do this every day all day. They might occasionally get it right, but, frankly, I could cite more cases were publishers acquiesced to authors and the book didn’t work.

      • Jennifer Fulwiler

        Great advice. Thank you!

  • Mark McDonald

    I was out at dinner last night and use the story about “blue like Jazz” by Donald Miller. I also linked it to your saying “good product is the new marketing”. My mate and I were talking about how we can try to be overly clever and sometime something just works.

  • VirtualAgent

    Guilty as charged, I pick books first by looking at the title, back summary and then the art and the praise/critic acclaims. There’s a sea of books inside a store, and you really have to set yourself out by packaging your book perfectly, and it starts with choosing the most inviting title.

  • Aardvark Films

    Ok, so if I’d put the proper title – THE Lord of the Rings, it would have done better. How about the 200 million+ selling A Tale of Two Cities as an example then? 10.2% chance.

  • Grief Help

    Great post, thank you!

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  • Chris Lovie-Tyler

    Hi, Michael.

    Thanks for highlighting these strategies.

    I’m a new blogger, and when I create post titles, I try to

    – Make them short and snappy
    – Use word play (although, you can overdo this)
    – Make them intriguing or controversial (with a purpose, though; not just for the sake of it)
    – Hint at the essense of the post, but not give it away.

  • Brian McCoy

    Michael, I’m very excited about your blog. I just found you through the fb promotion of your Life Plan E-book! I’m a pastor and businessman and I’d like to start blogging so this is a great resource! This post also helped me think in creating sermon titles. Thanks!

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Brian. Welcome!

  • Pandora Charms

     I really
    enjoy reading your posts. Your posts really inspire me to become a more
    complete person and I really do look forward to reading more from your blog!
    Please do keep the good posts coming while I muse over this post and its
    perspective. Thanks and see you again soon!

  • carilyne christante

    A book title has an “energy” all of its own. This energy can be measured even though it appears to be hidden.

    The title you choose will hopefully represent the image and/or underlying message of your book, and you want that image conveyed clearly to your customers so that they feel what they see is what they get. Also, the title is more than just the image – this title carries a powerful energy that can create great success! But it can also be the cause behind a constant struggle with mediocre performance.

    A unique mathematical formula is used based on numerology to get your title to fit your book. This title projects important messages to customers, staff, and suppliers, making it a critical aspect of success. For some examples on the mathemathics of titles see:

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  • Riseofthereddragon

    I thought dark writing on a dark background was poor for your own cover, it cant be seen easily even on this page, much less at a distance in a book shop. I can actually see reasons why some of the book you use as examples are bad example, who can read the dog book title at all? I may be a first time author, but I come from a marketing background. Suzanne Sommers and barefoot contessa are the only two good covers, and Dave Ramsey is the perfect example of people who do their own TV commercials. Ego over title.  The book has a good title but is killed by Mr Sheen’s picture.  I appreciate that you must have some skill or connections that got your book marketed, but the cover was not one and the examples poor, but hey great artistic people are not usually good writers and in your case vise versa.  Admitting your weakness is the foundation of a solid “Platform” admit yours and get someone else to do the cover part.

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  • Pam Kumpe

    In my book, “Things I Learned in Jail” — I get emails all the time, “Pam, so when did you serve time in jail?” A Pastor just last week wrote, “Tell me your story, Pam. Seems I don’t know much about you…really.”
    — Love challenging them to read the book and to find out…plus, knowing a man received the book as a gift, read it, gave his heart to the Lord on page 29, is pretty great, too. He, then placed himself in a Christian rehab. So yes, this title brings odd looks from those “who” think they know me…

  • Angelaprivin

    My book about completely healing my IBS symptoms is called Incurable:how one woman beat her IBS diagnosis? What do you think? I think it provides intrigue and need.

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  • FMAYasha12

    The 7-things you listed are EXACTLY what goes through my mind. Though I often read a book at a library (if possible) first instead of buying, those things are what I look at first. A title with interesting words are a title that makes you wonder how it could relate to the story pulls in some people. A cover with a interesting picture or one of a scene in the book makes me wonder how it relates to the story. Everything about the first look at a book is about wonder. Wonder is what makes a reader read the book.

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  • Jeff Calloway

    More and more When writing Christian non-fiction, I leaning more towards one word titles for books with a great descriptive sub title. Blogs two the three words.

    • Michael Hyatt

      It’s definitely a trend. I followed it with my own book: Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World.

  • Denny Medeiros

    I love your post! I’ve been having trouble with titles for posts. This helps and I got the book you suggested also, thank you! Michael, do you do you know if it true that a proposal can be put in for a book not written yet, concept only? Thank you!

  • Jeff Emmerson

    WOW, wow, wow!! Thank you so much, Michael! Because of this article, I re-did my up-coming memoir title! THANK YOU! Stay great.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Awesome, Jeff. Glad it helped.

  • Jenanah W. Amatullah-Muqsit

    I thought about what answers people are thirsting for in life (Like “why am I here, what is my purpose”) and what I wanted to share about my views on the subject; that I thought would help their life journey. Also share steps to achieving their objective. Hence, the title of my book “How to Tap into Your Divine SPIRIT. Subtitle: Discover your Divine purpose in life by following six easy steps. Will it be successful, we’ll see when it comes out;-)

  • Sidney Clarky

    I’m writing this book, or more like a portfolio which consist of short stories and poems but all them are revolving around one theme which is “Kindness” . Each story has different characters and a different plot but the pre dominating theme “Kindness” is being followed for instance, a story about a nun and how she saved a young girls life. Another story in which the neighbors help a family who are going through a rough time.

    Moreover, more than one title will be really appreciated.
    What should I call it. Please help!!!

    p.s. As im still in the process of writing, I would love and you are welcomed to suggest me any good ideas to write short stories relating to kindness

  • Sheri Riley

    Michael. Thank you for posting this TODAY. After 3 long, arduous years writing, rewriting, AND rewriting my Book Proposal, my Literary Agents are submitting it to Publishers the 2nd week of January. WhooHoo!! My Book title has been one of our biggest focuses (for the reasons you’ve stated). I read or heard (on one of Podcast) this info from you but couldn’t locate it. Thank you for ALWAYS being right on time with great, effective content.

    • Michael Hyatt

      You are welcome, Sheri.

  • davidstrickland

    If I don’t recognize the author I will look and see who recommends it. If I still don’t recognize anyone then I’m not buying that book. I always read the recommendations regardless. If nobody else would read it then why should I?

  • Teske Drake

    I chose a title that would identify the target audience, as I write for a niche group (those impacted by miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant loss). Thus, the title of my next book is “Expecting with Hope” with a subtitle that further explains the need for the book: “Claiming joy when expecting a baby after loss.” This wasn’t the original title on the proposal, but as the Publisher was working on the titling and positioning, I remembered, “duh…Expecting with Hope would be a viable option, as it IS the name of one of our support groups that meets and women tend to ‘get it’.” I sent the idea on as an afterthought and the team at the publishing house replied with, “We love it!” I was definitely over-thinking it, as the title was there all along.

    I appreciate this post on a variety of levels – book writing, blog posts, and the leadership of a non-profit where we are in the process of developing some new divisions of the ministry. So good! Thank You!

  • Jeffrey Pennypacker

    Great Post Michael, I am in the middle of creating a name for an e-book. I thought about crowd sourcing it through facebook and other friends. Have you tried this method? The working title is “7 Epic things a single mom can do to help her son become a man.” obviously a little long. The newest title is “Make a man out of him, A 7 step guide for single moms raising boys.” Any input is welcomed.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Yep, I have. I have done it right here on my blog. It’s a great way to get a lot of ideas fast.

  • tabitha

    i am in the proces of writing one and i so far have 4 titles, am yet to settle on the most appropriate

  • Jerry Klobutcher

    I do not want to start a blog but I have written my first novel and I believe I have an excellent title. But, when I looked to see if the title had ever been used I found that it had, more than once. What are the rules/laws regarding using a title that has been used before? I would think that it isn’t that unusual with the amount of reading material that is out there.

    • Michael Hyatt

      It’s not that unusual. Titles can’t be trademarked unless it is based on a trademarked product. The biggest problem is the confusion it can create.

  • Jerry Klobutcher

    Thanks for the information and that is what I thought intuitively. But, as you said, more than one book with the same title can create confusion so I renamed it.

  • yaelshahar

    One other point worth noting is the way Amazon and digital publishing in general are beginning to alter the picture. Because of the way search engines work, a title that includes more information and more keywords will get more hits than one that doesn’t. So while a vague and evocative title might provoke curiosity in a human bookstore browser, it won’t help the book’s online sales. And since increasingly more books are sold online than in bookstores, we see more and more books with short punchy titles, followed by a colon and a longer key-word filled description. The result is the colon-ization of book titles across the board. (Does this make the foregoing analysis a bibliographical colonoscopy…?)

    • Michael Hyatt

      I love this: “bibliographical colonoscopy.” I think you are definitely right about what is happening. I hadn’t really thought about it before.