Five great book titles ... and why they work

Five great book titles ... and why they work

There’s not much point going to the effort of writing a book if the end result won’t be noticed by anyone. Which means you need to invest in a) a good cover design and b) a snappy, unforgettable, ‘pick me up’ title and subtitle.

There are no absolutes when it comes to titles and subtitles, except that they shouldn’t be an afterthought. The two things I aim for when helping authors work on a title are: 

  • that the title and subtitle complement each other. Often this means the title is catchy while the subtitle provides a more explicit description of the book’s contents, and
  • that, especially in a business context, the title and subtitle combo sells the benefits to the reader of picking up your book.

Here are five examples of great title/subtitle combinations from the bookshelf in my office...

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The single most important rule when generating ideas

The single most important rule when generating ideas

I had a great idea for a topic for this week’s blog post. Believe me: it was a really good idea. The information I was going to share was pure brilliance. It might even have gone viral. But it won’t now. Unfortunately, I can’t share this idea with you … because I have no idea what it was.

If there’s one golden rule I’ve learnt in my career as a writer, and even before that in business, it is this: 

If you have a good idea, capture it now. Immediately. Straight away.

Otherwise it will likely disappear into the ether.

Unfortunately, even though I know this rule – and the risks of ignoring it – all too well, I still forget it from time to time.

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A handy weapon in the war on procrastination

A handy weapon in the war on procrastination

Confronting any writing task is a recipe for procrastination. After all, most writing requires some level of research, and that means jumping on to the internet – and while you’re there you might as check Facebook, and quickly find out when that new movie is showing, and what’s news in the football draft, and…

Then there is the challenge of staying focused on a difficult writing task. The challenged mind starts to wander off, body in tow, to greener pastures – a quick coffee, walk around the block or even, in a home office, a load of washing.

Is it any wonder you can get to the end of the week and wonder where the time went and why you don’t have much to show for it?

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Write your book in 2014 – Step 10: Proofreading

Receiving your fully laid out book back from the designer is often the first time it feels like a ‘real thing’. Even though all you get is an electronic file – usually a PDF – it looks like a real book for the first time.

But the job’s not done yet. From the outset I have talked about the fact that a book is different from most other writing projects. It needs to be done right. More than right. It needs to be done as perfectly as possible. So the next step – proofreading – is as important as any other.

Proofreading is not copyediting. Yes, there are similarities of course. But where copyediting is like the final quality control check on a car (checking that nothing is missing, and that everything is in the right place), proofreading is like the final detailing before delivery – making sure your book really shines.

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5 reasons I find Dropbox essential to my toolkit

5 reasons I find Dropbox essential to my toolkit

It’s getting awfully overcast on the World Wide Web. More and more of everything we do is, or can be, stored in the cloud, accessed from the cloud and run from the cloud. Sure, using the cloud has its risks, as Jennifer Lawrence recently discovered, but if used carefully and knowledgeably those risks, in my view, are far outweighed by the benefits.

Over the years I’ve used various different services for online backup, sharing files and ‘access anywhere’. My favourite, mainly because of its ease of use, has been Dropbox.

Recently, Dropbox Pro, the paid version of the service, has become an even more valuable tool with its (practically) unlimited 1 terabyte storage allowance and additional security features. I really don’t need any other cloud service anymore.

Here are five things I like about Dropbox...

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Write your book in 2014 – Step 9: Design

Write your book in 2014 – Step 9: Design

Visit this blog’s ‘Write a book’ category page for previous posts in this series.

When I set out to publish my very first book back in 2005, I never expected to sell many of them (and I met my expectations!). It was more of an experiment: I wanted to prove that it was possible to produce a self-published book that didn’t look self-published.

I couldn’t understand why so many independently published books look, well, amateurish.

What did I learn? I learnt that my hunch was correct. Trade published books look professionally designed because theyare professionally designed. In contrast, many self-published books look like their design was an afterthought … because it was.

Bottom line: if you want your book to look the part, invest in a designer. In fact you may even need two designers: one for the inside of the book (the ‘layout’), and one for the cover. The skills for these two tasks are fairly different and many designers are better at one than the other.

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How long does my book need to be?

How long does my book need to be?

The title of this post is one of the most common questions I get from people looking to write their first book. It’s usually code for, “I have to write how much?”. Most people either have no idea how long a book should be (which is perfectly understandable), or they have a slightly off-centre idea.

Judging a book by its thickness

The thickness of a book is not really a good indication of how much work has gone into it. A book’s thickness depends on a host of factors beyond the number of words. For instance, the paper used: the ‘bulky cream’ off-white paper often used by mainstream publishers is lighter but about 1.5 times thicker than pure-white (office) paper.

Then there is the ‘trim size’ (i.e. the height and width)...

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Quote me on this: using single and double quotation marks

Quote me on this: using single and double quotation marks

This is a small thing but being aware of it will help your writing appear more professional.

I’ve written in the past about the need to have a consistent writing style. Nothing shouts ‘amateur’ more than a mixture of American and British spellings on a website, the same word spelt in different ways or, worse still, a variable treatment of the way you spell your own company’s name. (It does happen.)

A common area for written content to become unkempt is in the use of quotation marks to mark speech and to emphasise words. I see this most often in blog posts. So let’s go to school on that.

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How to sort yourself out as a writer

How to sort yourself out as a writer

Some years ago I stumbled upon a piece of software designed to help writers of books to, well, get the job done. That application is now central to everything I do as a writer and ghostwriter: books, blogs, articles and speeches. I cannot imagine being able to do what I do without it.

Sound like a big rap? I can confidently say that Scrivener, the software in question, deserves it.

Scrivener is difficult to describe until you’ve used it. A good way to think of it is like having a separate desk for every project you are working on.

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Write your book in 2014 – Step 8: Administration

Write your book in 2014 – Step 8: Administration

Okay. Now we’re getting to the nitty-gritty of book publishing. Regardless of how far you’ve got into the writing and polishing process, and assuming you’re intending to self-publish, when you have a moment you can start thinking about the various administrative tasks you’ll need to complete.

Admin can be annoying, but it is important: a) because it will help people find your bookafter it is published, and b) because it will help give your book a professional ‘look and feel’.

And the administration required is not particularly onerous,

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