Describe It or Sell It?

It’s fun to listen to someone else’s excitement about their upcoming book release, new business opening, or art show hanging. I’m full of questions about the direction the person is going, what gave them the idea, and mostly, “How are you going to market it?”

That’s where the conversation goes silent and the entrepreneur/artist pulls up some credible sounding wishful thinking.

Had a wonderful conversation recently with a woman who’s just coming up on completing her book. She’s throwing her title test out to the people around her—and she has a large network; though, I don’t know how many she’s reached out to. Here’s her idea for a title: TOPIC (her topic, the book’s topic), described in 2-3 words.

Several friends suggested she turn it into a question. I don’t remember whether it was a how or why question, but solidly a question. For example: WHY TOPIC or HOW TOPIC? My outburst was “No, no no, no no.” (Was I clear? <smile>) The problem with a question is it causes the person to go inside their head, look off to the side (or wherever they look for answers), and try to figure out the answer for themselves. Not buy the book!

While that might be a sweet and generous and possibly even humanitarian thing for you to help people do, it does not give the essential instruction, “Buy this book. Don’t think about it. You know you need it—you want to understand this TOPIC. Buy it.”

We continued some chit chat and I tossed out a question I copied from a highly-skilled coach I hired many years ago when I started my own small business coaching practice. The sample question he proffered, that I repeated to the author in front of me, was, “Why is the sky blue?”

She glanced to the side, went inside her head, forgot about the book jacket in front of her. And was smart enough to say, “I see what you mean.”

I’m not one of her closest friends, and have no investment in whether she takes my advice or not. But she experienced “the question”; she felt it. Going away from the decision at hand into trying to figure out the answer—without buying the book!

Robert Kyosaki is well-known for a statement he made when hiring a ghost writer for his first book (Rich Dad, Poor Dad). The candidate promised she could write the best book ever. He said, “I don’t want the best book. I want the best-selling book.”

Your title needs to:

  • resonate with your target market; tickle them where they are interested—where they live
  • suggest hidden secrets (especially if a how-to book) or unique pleasures
  • be slightly mysterious to stimulate wonder/curiosity, but do not stimulate a search for answers outside of the book

And please, please, PLEASE do not try to describe the entire saga, story, or mission in the title.

Got it?

Please add your comments, questions and suggestions below. (And stay tuned, for more frequent marketing opinions based on experience.)

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