Authors agonize over what title they can offer to engage their readers and sell the story, but the problem with a catchy title is it can be misleading. Consider for a minute Gone with the Wind. Does that title convey that this is a book about rebuilding the south after the Civil War?
The title might be what grabs their attention, but you could argue it is the subtitle that really sells the book. Subtitles are powerful tools in the book marketing world and the right one will increase the odds that your book meets the reader’s expectations.
What Difference can a Subtitle Make?
Let’s look at a few books that benefit from having a snappy title followed by a more descriptive subtitle.
SEAL Team Six: Memoirs of an Elite Navy SEAL Sniper by Howard E. Wasdin, Stephen Templin – Just another war story versus a story written from the viewpoint of a Navy sniper
The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy by Thomas J. Stanley, William D. Danko – The title points to anything from a sappy love story to a book about real estate. The subtitle tells readers this is a book with plenty of dish.
Subtitles expand on the concept of the book. A good title makes them pick up the book and look, but the subtitle is what makes them buy when self-publishing.
Book Marketing and Subtitles
Adding a subtitle also makes a book more marketable, because it improves the SEO. Subtitles give the author a chance to include viable keywords that make the book pop in search engines.
Beating the System: Ways a Single Mom can Rebuild her Credit
This made up book introduces keywords into the subtitle. The subtitle addresses the target audience, single moms, and introduces the topic of rebuilding credit. The same concept works in fiction writing.
My Days in Hell: A Dark, Erotic Fantasy
My Days in Hell really doesn’t do much for search engines, but dark, erotic and fantasy will help target the book.
Subtitles are Tricky Business
Darcy Pattison, founder of Mims House publisher, calls the subtitle a chance to tell the reader something. An inferior subtitle, however, will kill a book’s chances of success.
Pop Goes the Weasel: All the Things I Want to Tell You About My Life So You Will Better Understand Me.
That subtitle is not only long, it’s boring. The average reader will give you about 10 seconds to get their attention.
A proper subtitle explains something in a very specific and concise way.
Pop Goes the Weasel: My Favorite Kids Song
That subtitle is specific enough, but it isn’t expanding on the subject of the book or providing SEO points.
Pop Goes the Weasel: A Mystery for the Young at Heart
This adds the keyword “mystery” to the title and explains a little about on the nature of the book.
When it comes to book publicity and author marketing, adding a subtitle adds possibility. A subtitle allows an author to further engage the reader and provides another tool to use for marketing.
Make it Happen! (for those not familiar with Star Trek this was another common command from Captain Jean-Luc Picard)
Keep the Faith and may the Force be with You!