How to choose a good book title

Picking a good title for an academic book is vital for getting your work seen by other researchers in your field. Good academic titles reveal not only the topic but also an idea of the specific approach, argument or area of discussion. This post provides a helpful guide to choosing a title for your academic monograph.

First of all, remember that keywords are crucial. Think about the key terms you use throughout your work and make sure they’re included in the title. Make sure these keywords are also used throughout the book, in chapter headings and in the book blurbs.

Think about what search terms people would use if they were searching for your book and make sure you include these. Start by googling your potential title. If there are not many results this might mean that the terms you are using are not in common usage and therefore are best avoided. However, if there are many results be sure to check that there are no other books, papers or journals with the same title as yours as this will only cause confusion. In short, you want to get an idea of whether people are already searching for the keywords you’re using. Make sure the results that come up in your search are in the right discipline.

There is a difference between the main title and the subtitle. Sometimes books are only cited by the main title not the subtitle so make sure you’re not hiding any key information in the subtitle. The subtitle can contain more specific information such as the region or the kind of approach used which is not essential to the overall topic of the book. The specifics of the context, the precise languages covered or the specific participants of the study can be detailed in the blurb and the book. This doesn’t necessarily need to be in the title of the book.

Use clear and concise language to describe the topic of the book. Don’t use obscure academic terminology or jargon which isn’t widely known in the field. Remember, booksellers are not always experts in your field so the title needs to be clear to those who only have a broad understanding of the topic. Equally, if you’re coining a new term or phase in your book, it might be best to avoid using this in the main title as it won’t be known to many people and they won’t use it as a search term to find the book. Avoid using a clever or funny phrase as a title. Although it might mean something to you, out of context it won’t mean anything to anyone else and it won’t accurately convey the content of the book. Many people think an alliterative or quirky title is more appealing but really this is not appropriate for an academic audience and it is best to just focus on making the content clear.

Remember that the book title is sometimes the only thing a potential reader will see before making a decision as to whether to find out more. Make sure it is attractive to researchers in your field without being misleading or ambiguous. There’s so much research out there you want to make yours memorable so that readers realise it’s exactly what they’re looking for.

Good book titles

Examples of good book titles

Good examples of academic book titles:

  • Complexity in Classroom Foreign Language Learning Motivation: A Practitioner Perspective from Japan – This displays the overall topic as well as the specifics of the author’s context.
  • Multilingual Perspectives on Child Language Disorders –This clearly depicts the area covered and the perspectives taken.
  • The Linguistic Landscape of Chinatown: A Sociolinguistic Ethnography – As well as a clear main title, the subtitle here clarifies the approach taken.

Bad examples of academic book titles:

  • Language and Society – This is too broad and does not show what aspects of language and society are being explored.
  • Discover, Discuss, Debate: Investigating Language Use in the Multilingual Classroom – Although the main title might sound snappy and appealing it actually tells you nothing about the book and in fact, the subtitle would make a much better main title.

Key tips

  • Use as many keywords as possible in the title, preferably ones that you have also used throughout the book.
  • Think about the search terms that potential readers would use when searching for your book and include those in the title.
  • You need to remember that sometimes all the information a potential reader will have about your book is the title. If that isn’t enough to sell it, you’ve missed your chance.
  • Don’t use obscure or incomprehensible language or technical jargon.
  • Don’t be vague, anything with multiple meanings that could be misconstrued or misunderstood should be avoided.

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