When writing and publishing a book, most authors rightfully focus single-mindedly on getting the manuscript written. But sooner or later, every author must answer one all-important question: “What do I call this thing?” As part of your book’s packaging, the title must help with three important jobs that I refer to as the 3Ds: 1) discovery, 2) differentiation, and 3) description. You can learn more about the 3Ds in item #6 of my article about 7 Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make as First-Time Authors, but in short, the title needs to help your book get discovered, help it stand out, and help set the reader’s expectations about what your book will deliver. It is both art and science.
So, without further ado, here they are – my list of Top 10 Nonfiction Book Titles:
#10 – How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
This is a classic. And due in large part to its success, it has (for better or worse) become a bit of a caricatured poster-boy for self-help titles. But it’s hard to argue with the effectiveness of its title. It’s clear and concise about the benefit you’ll get from reading it, especially when paired with the subtitle. It’s no wonder it’s sold more than 30 million copies worldwide since it was first published in 1936.
#9 – The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
First published in 1989, 7 Habits (along with and its derivatives) has also become a modern self-help classic. I’ve seen varied sources claiming sales ranging from 25 million to 40 million copies, but wherever the truth lies, it lies knowing this book was well titled. It’s clear and hard-working, letting the reader know exactly what to expect.
#8 – Atomic Habits by James Clear
A more recent title, published in 2018, what I love about Atomic Habits (as a title) is its brevity. Two words: Atomic Habits. Yet, you get a very clear sense right away for what the book is about. This sense is then confirmed with a longer, functional subtitle that clears up any ambiguity that may still exist.
#7 – $100M Offers by Alex Hormozi
This book is one of the most recent ones on the list, published mid-2021…in fact, I just finished reading (aka listening to) it last night on my walk home from the office. What makes $100M Offers work is that it instantly grabs the attention of Hormozi’s ideal reader ($100M will do that). As a publisher, I also appreciate the contraction of “One Hundred Million Dollar Offers” to “$100M Offers” – cover space is valuable real estate and this title makes great use of it.
#6 – Traction by Gino Wickman
Full Title: Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business
One word: Traction – and it effectively sums up what this book delivers: how to get traction in your business. It’s a word that resonates with a pain that Wickman’s readers obsess about. Gold.
#5 – Key Person of Influence by Daniel Priestley and Mike Reid
There’s more to this title than you might catch at first. Yes, it does a great job of communicating its USP, which is then reinforced by a detailed, functional subtitle. But what I love about this title is that it’s so closely linked to the Key Person of Influence business accelerator that Priestly and Reid operate over at Dent Global. For entrepreneurs, there’s no greater value driver for a book than when it’s strategically connected to the author’s core business. Top marks.
#4 – The First 90 Days by Michael D. Watkins
This book stands out because of how tightly focused it is on a very specific reader, and that focus is clearly articulated in the title. The First 90 Days isn’t written for leaders generally, nor for senior leaders or middle managers. This book is specifically written for people who have been newly promoted and need to hit the ground running so they can have a positive impact in the first 3 months in their new role. Specific. Clear. Brilliant.
#3 – Write Useful Books by Rob Fitzpatrick
As a publishing wonk, I just bought this book based entirely on the strength of the title. The title says it all. Full disclosure: I haven’t read it yet, but if the content is half as good as the title, I’ll be very pleased with the purchase.
#2 – Getting Things Done by David Allen
By now, you’re likely sensing a pattern. Successful nonfiction books (at least those in the expertise-based sub-genre) very often state simply and clearly the USP the reader should expect. What do David Allen’s readers want? They want to get things done. So, what’s the title of his book? Getting Things Done.
#1 – Profit First by Mike Michalowicz
I discuss Profit First as a case study in my book Entrepreneur to Author as a book that is the stepping-stone to a whole product ecosystem related to Michalowicz’s Profit First Professionals program. But more simply, Profit First is a great title because it resonates immediately with the author’s ideal reader – the small business owner who is struggling to pull consistent earnings from their business.
Want to learn more about the 5 steps you need to get right to get right in writing and publishing a nonfiction book that builds your authority and grows your business? Check out my expertly titled book Entrepreneur to Author now.