That's why the titles of many bestselling nonfiction books are intended to arouse the prospective reader's curiosity.
Curiosity titles succeed because they are deliberately vague, or intentionally provocative.
Either way, however, curiosity titles can sell more books because they attract attention and engage prospective book buyer, provoking questions that compel the prospective book buyer to take the next step:
- In a bookstore, the next step generally is to turn the book over and read the back-cover, or review the table of contents.
- Online, the next step usually involves reading the book's description and skimming the reader reviews.
The six types of "curiosity" titles:
- Titles that require explanation.
These titles don't make sense on their own, arousing questions like "What's this all about?" Once prospective reader has asked themselves this question, they're almost certainly going to turn the book, or read on, to learn more.
- Contradiction titles.
These titles contain words that, on the surface, contract themselves.
These titles cause readers ask themselves, "How can that be?"
- Outrageous titles.
These go a step further in provoking reader's to learn more.
- "Peeping Tom" titles.
These titles appeal to your reader's voyeuristic tendencies.
Upon encountering your title, readers want to know "What it was like to go through that?" or "What's the real inside story?"
- Exploration titles.
These titles provoke questions like "What does the author mean?" They are provocative in that they challenge the reader's existing knowledge by implying that there is more to be known about a topic than the reader's already know.
- Relationship titles.
These titles sell more books by creating a relationship between a topic and a frame of reference that readers can relate to.
These titles can also be more memorable, making word-of-mouth referrals and recommendations easier.
Secrets of titles that require explanation One of the most successful nonfiction book successes of the past 30 years is Richard Bolles' s What Color Is Your Parachute? which is updated each year.
Originating as a comment during a meeting discussing the plight of those who have been downsized, Parachute? books have sold over 10 million copies around the world.
With 10 million copies in print, clearly, the title has outsold its more "straightforward" competition, because it engages the reader's curiosity and begs the question, "How can this book possibly help me?" The titles of Malcolm Gladwell's best-selling nonfiction books also arouse curiosity.
The latest is Outliers.
When a reader picks-up a book with a strange title in the "bestselling nonfiction" area of a bookstore, they inevitably ask: "What is an outlier?" and "Why should I care?" This compels them to turn the book over, or--if they're online--read some of the descriptive copy or watch the author video.
Contradictory titles Contradictory titles can be very successful.
They succeed by making the most of the brief second, or two, available to attract a prospective book buyer's interest and encourage them to spend more time exploring your book's contents.
The strength of these titles comes from the apparent opposition between elements of the title.
The contradiction between title elements can make these titles very memorable.
An example is David Chilton's Wealthy Barber.
How can a barber--someone who spends their time cutting other people's hair--become wealthy? What's the catch? Once you have engaged your prospect's attention enough to get them to ask a question, it becomes relatively easy to complete the sale.
Consider 2 books containing the same information:
- The Wealthy Barber
- A Guide to Financial Independence
Upon encountering it, readers will typically ask: "How can it be?" or "What's the catch?" And, the book is turned-over, or opened, and the door has been opened to another copy sold.
Even if they don't believe the title's premise, they're likely to want to know what the author is trying to get away with! The power of Outrageous titles attract readers by "going too far" Seth Godin, one of America's most popular marketing authorities and personalities, is a master of the outrageous title.
One of Seth's best books is his Purple Cow.
After all, "Purple cows don't exist, so what he talking about?" Another one of Seth Godin's books is his All Marketers Are Liars.
If you're a marketing professional, you'd be hard pressed not to ask, "What does Seth mean?" or "Has he really good too far this time?" And, having asked the question, your attemtopm jas beem emgaged and you explore further.
Selling more books with a "Peeping Tom" title Just as drivers always slow down when passing the scene of an automobile accident, readers want to know the inside story, they want to know what it was like to survive an event or go through an experience.
- David Ogilvy's Confessions of an Advertising Man is a classic example of a "Peeping Tom" title.
It promises, and actually delivers, an insider's look at the thought processes and one of the pioneers of modern advertising.
- In a similar vein, Paul B.
Brown's Publishing Confidential and Jerry Simmons' What Writers Need to Know about Publishing, provide inside glimpses of book publishing.
Frank Bettger's "How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success in Selling has been in print for well over 50 years! This title connects with everyone's love of a "rags to riches" story.
The title also resonates with a universal fear of failure.
Examples of successful Exploration titles Exploration titles encourage readers to learn what they don't know.
They challenge the limits of a prospective reader's existing knowledge.
One of a best examples of an Exploration title is Patricia Shultz's 1000 Places to See Before You Die.
The success of this concept has been repeated in other "1000" books, such asWorkman Press's 1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die and a host of imitators.
Books don't sell themselves It takes a title to sell a book.
Curiosity is one of the most powerful techniques you can use when choosing a title for your book.
Curiosity titles find more readers and sell more books by engaging the prospective book buyer's interest and compelling them to learn more.
When does a curiosity title make sense? A starting point is to analze the titles of existing books in your field.
What type of titles do they have? Are the titles so descriptive and targeted that they lack character? If so, a curiosity title might make sense.
If you do choose a curiosity title, however, make sure it is a meaningful one, one that--after a brief description or explanation--makes sense to your readers.
There's a thin line between arousing curiosity and confusing your prospect book buyer.
Curiosity titles, once explained, should become obvious, so they'll stick in your reader's mind.