Testing book titles

Tips for authors who want to optimize their book titles

Updated over a week ago

A book’s title is its calling card. It needs to be memorable and should set the right expectations in terms of tone and content.

The best way to come up with a title is to generate LOTS of ideas. Don’t fall in love with your first idea or even your second. Come at your book’s title from as many different angles as you can think of.

A Cautionary Tale

One author was almost ready to launch his novel. He couldn’t wait to share it with the world. It was called Tramalchio in West Egg, and it was brilliant.

His wife and his editor protested. No one will be able to pronounce it, they said. No one will understand the reference. Besides, they pleaded, you have a much better title:

The Great Gatsby.

Gathering feedback is necessary to understand how others react to your book’s title. It opens your eyes to problems you might not see on your own.

How to Test Book Titles

Fast forward to the present day and the story of another author. Mike Fishbein was excited to title his newest work Pimp Your Book: How to Self-Publish a Bestseller on Amazon. “I thought it would add character and be attention-grabbing,” he said. Once he tested it on PickFu, however, “I learned that readers found it unappealing and tacky.”

Here’s a sampling of the negative responses:

  • I feel like “Pimp your…” is overdone and a little bit dated now. It also implies a cheap way to do something, not a money-saving or independent way to get something done.

  • I don’t think the title “Pimp my Book” is appropriate or appealing! It makes me think of hookers, not book publishing!

  • I do not like [the] use of the word “pimp” as it’s juvenile and offensive.

The name that Pimp Your Book was tested against, Your First Bestseller, ultimately became the book’s title. And that book sold over 400 copies in its first 10 days.

“The unfortunate truth,” Mike said, “is that my opinion is not always right. Fortunately, PickFu told me what my readers think, which is the most important opinion at the end of the day.”

Setting up a similar poll to Mike’s is easy:

1. Visit PickFu.com and click the "New Poll" button in the top right corner.

2. Write a poll question, such as “Which Book Title Is More Appealing to You, and Why?”

3. Include the options you’re considering. You can test 2 to 8 titles at a time.

4. Choose the audience you’d like to answer your poll. For instance, you can poll only women who read mystery and crime or choose other demographic traits. See full targeting options at the bottom of this article. You can also select “random audience,” which includes characteristics such as, Gender identity and Age range for free. Any traits you add after the free ones will have a cost.

<img alt="write your question for your poll" style="width:auto;">

<img alt="book title options" style="width:auto;">

<img alt="custom or general audience selection" style="width:auto;">

<img alt="adding traits to know more about your audience" style="width:auto;">

5. Preview your poll to make sure it looks exactly the way you want it to.

6. Complete the checkout process, and respondents will start answering your poll right away. They’ll not only vote on their favorite option, but they’ll write a comment explaining their choice.

You can watch your poll results as they roll in or wait for the email telling you your poll is complete (it usually takes just a few minutes after completion). Here’s what Mike Fishbein’s completed results look like.

<img alt="confirm your poll breakdown" style="width:auto;">

Preview will look as such:

<img alt="preview poll image" style="width:auto;">

As both F. Scott Fitzgerald and Mike Fishbein learned, it’s necessary to get out of your head. Testing book titles will help you communicate the book’s contents better, which will, in turn, generate more interest for potential buyers.

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