When writing a book to build your brand, choose a clear and timeless title, one that won’t quickly go out of date.
A clearly and obsolescence-proof book title can contribute to a book that will build your personal brand for decades instead of just weeks!
What’s wrong with “instant bestsellers?”
With proper promotion at book launch, just about any title can have its moment in the sun on Amazon.com. But, beware: many Amazon best-sellers shine brightly for a short time – as short as 1 day – but they quickly flicker out and no longer contribute to their author’s personal brand.
Other titles, however, establish themselves as classics in their field, and enjoy respectable sales, years – even decades – after their first appearance. Accordingly, let’s address the question:
What are the common title characteristics of nonfiction books that remain consistently in print and continue to contribute to their author’s brand?
Let’s consider 10 brand and career-building nonfiction books that have been in print for 10 years, or more:
- Bly, Bob. The Copywriter’s Handbook: A Step-by-Step Guide to Writing Copy that Sells. 3rd edition. First published 1984.
- Burg, Bob. Endless Referrals: Network Your Everyday Contacts into Sales, 3rd Edition.
- Covey, Stephen R. The 7 Habits of Highly-Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change. First published, 1990.
- Hayden, C.J. Get Clients Now! A 28-Day Marketing Program for Professionals, Consultants, and Coaches. 10th anniversary.
- Levinson, Jay Conrad. Guerrilla Marketing: Easy and Inexpensive Strategies for Making Big Profits from Your Small Business. Fourth edition, first published 1983.
- Poynter, Dan: Dan Poynter’s Self-Publishing Handbook: How To Write, Print, and Sell Your Own Book. 16th edition.
- Sewall, Carl and Brown, Paul B. Customers for Life: How to Turn that One-Time Buyer into a Lifetime Customer. First edition, 1990.
Lessons from the “enduring classics”
Even a quick analysis of the above examples yields numerous lessons. For example:
- You know what you’re going to get. Each of the above titles transparently describes what the book is about; there’s no ambiguity or clutter, just a simple description of what the book is about and how you’re going to benefit from reading it.
- Everyday language. The titles use simple, conversational language. There’s no jargon or technical terms. Not only does this aid understanding, but it also ensures that the titles will show up high in search engines; people search on the same keywords they use when talking.
- Short titles, longer subtitles. Short titles attract attention because they can be set at a large size on book covers. The subtitles, however, are typically much longer, and provide supporting details (plus increase the book’s visibility to search engines).
- Universal topics and appeals. None of the above titles are “trendy” or short-lived. There’s no built-in obsolescence when you’re discussing effective personal habits, getting clients, marketing on a budget, or copywriting. The technology may change, but the above titles are rooted in needs that are as relevant today as they were 10, 20, or even more years ago.
Bestsellers versus category leaders
With one or two exceptions, most of the above titles were never “nonfiction bestsellers” in terms of weekly bestseller in lists published by newspapers and popular magazines.
But, that’s OK because most have enjoyed years of leadership in their categories…which is far more important than overall sales.
It’s far more important to enjoy decades of branding success with a book that is consistently in the top 10 books listed in the category that appeals to your prospective clients and customers than it is to enjoy a moment of mass culture exposure.
Nonfiction bestseller lists cover far too much ground to have branding value for subject area experts. Subject area experts write books to build their personal brand and bring qualified visitors to their online marketing funnel for eventual conversion into invitations for profitable keynote speeches and sales of proprietary products and services to help readers implement the author’s ideas.
“Nonfiction” covers topics of “fascination” like Civil War History, how the brain works, politics, weight loss, inspiration, and physical fitness. This is a far cry from the relatively specialized goals of event planners and prospects who may want to hire you for coaching or consulting.
Keep your eye on the ball when writing a book to build your personal brand. Choose a title for your nonfiction book that avoids obsolescence caused by changing technology or socio-economic trends. Look for a title that addresses the timeless information needs of the market you want to serve. Choose a title that tells your story as simply as possible, rather than striving to be cute or catchy. Tell me what you think! Do you like the “enduring classics” examples I chose? Are there any titles you’d like to suggest? Do you agree with my focus on long term category leadership versus “writing a bestseller?”
Roger C. Parker shares ideas for planning, writing, promoting, & profiting from brand building books in his daily writing tips blog. His latest book is #BOOK TITLE Tweet: 140 Bite-Sized Ideas for Compelling Article, Book, & Event Titles.