Creating Book Titles and Subtitles That Work in Any Format

By Susan Kendrick

It's a small, small worldfor your book cover. There's a reason the length of titles and subtitles is coming up a lot lately, and that is because of the variety of ways your book is now seen and sold.

Why Small Matters: A Brief History

Think about it. A book cover used to be written and designed primarily as a physical billboard for your book. The book needed to create interest when seen on the shelf at the bookstore or anywhere else it was displayed for sale. Then came those small thumbnail versions on amazon and other online retailers. Your book cover still has to draw people in, even in its reduced size. But, now  micro-versions continue to shrink as your book finds its way onto tablets and smart phones.
Check Out These Amazon Bestsellers ... (Take a look at the books on this Business Life Bestsellers on Amazon. Which ones do you think stand out in their smaller format and which ones don't.) One author of two published books recently questioned whether or not her third book even needed a subtitle, since it would hardly be visible online. We strongly encouraged her to keep her subtitle for the reasons a subtitle has always been, and continues to be, pivotal to the branding and marketing of your book.


Your subtitle will show up in search results for your topic, in the product text on amazon, and any other place your book appears online. Don't waste this opportunity.

An Exception to This Rule?

An interesting exception to standard subtitle use is Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier. This book does not have a subtitle, but it does have an endorsement, "Ignore this book at your own peril," by Seth Godin. It also gets a huge credibility boost from bestselling authors like Tom Peters and William C. Taylor, Founding Editor of Fast Company.This book's uber-clean cover and bold, off-the-grid feel--plus the quirky Godin-esque endorsement and amazon review--surely speak to the intended audience for this book and set it apart on a planet of its own.

Is This a Wasted Opportunity?

I wonder, though, what the back cover does for this book--it doesn't show up as a "Look Inside" option on amazon. And, when you look under "Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought," the subtitles for each of those other books are included in the text box under the  book cover image. They get the benefit of this additional positioning and sales copy for their books.
It's Like a Job Interview ...
The higher the position, the more tailored and professional you need to look. Your book is a candidate, too. It has to stand out from all the other books on the topic. Everything about the packaging must be impeccable. And, depending on your audience ... no tongue piercings, visible tatoos, or stilettos. There are better ways to get noticed.

Get Help Getting Noticed

From a branding standpoint, it is your title that is the basis of the iconic look for your cover, so do consider how your title will look even the smallest formats. Use as few words as possible and short words when possible. And, make sure your book cover designer knows how to turn those words and your overall cover into a an immediately recognizable visual brand--an iconic look that will get your book noticed at any size.
For questions about or help with creating book titles and subtitles, see our Titles and Subtitles page. Or, contact us at Write To Your Market, Inc. - or 1-888-634-4120.