Author’s Journey #13: Testing your book’s proposed title and subtitle

by Roger Parker on March 19, 2010

Testing your book’s title before your book is printed is the only way you can be sure that you’ve chosen the right title and subtitle for your book. Title testing is easier and cheaper than it was ever before.

It just takes a little effort to test your book’s proposed title and subtitle, but it can save you a lot of frustration and lost opportunities down the road.

Testing titles on your website

Here are some of the tools and techniques you can use to test proposed titles and subtitles on your website:

  • ŸLanding pages. Start by creating separate landing pages for each proposed book title. Landing pages don’t show up in a website’s navigation; visitors have to know where to go to get there. (You can keep search engines from indexing your landing pages by adding the HTML NOFOLLOW command to the header of each landing page.)
  • Setting up a test. Populate each landing page with identical content, but add a downloadable incentive, such as a tip sheet or table of contents, on each landing page. This will allow you to not only track the number of visitors to each page, but the number of visitors interested enough to download your incentive.
  • Driving traffic. There are several ways you can test the drawing power of different titles. One way is to drive traffic to your landing pages using blog posts, or Tweets, that contain different titles. Another option would be to create an A-B home page test, or an A-B-C test, so that every second (or third) visitor encounters a slightly different home page, i.e., a home page with a link containing a different titles.

The advantage of this approach is that- -assuming you know how to add and link new pages on your website and work with online resources like Google Analytics—there’s virtually no cost involved.

The disadvantage of this approach is that, depending on your blog and website traffic, you’ll soon get an idea of which title drives the most landing page traffic and downloads. However, it may take a week, or more, to come to a definite conclusion about which title draws the most traffic.

Pay-Per-Click options

You can speed-up your title testing using pay-per-click search engine advertising. In this case, you would create a pay-per-click campaign with 2 or 3 ads, with a different title in each ad.

Pay-per-click ads provide you with immediate feedback. Within a few moments of setting up your campaign, you’ll begin to see patterns developing.

The disadvantage, of course, is that you have to pay for pay-per-click advertisements. However, you are always in control; you can specify how much money you want to spend on your title testing each day. In addition, you can fine tune by targeting specific geographic areas, or excluding certain areas (i.e., foreign countries, etc.)

Using online surveys to test proposed book titles

During the last few years, a variety of online testing sites have appeared. Survey sites allow you to create and post online surveys hosted either on your site or the survey’s website.

Examples include: Free Online Surveys, Poll Daddy, SurveyMonkey, Zoomerang, and hundreds of others.

The best online surveys are not only free, but they offer a variety of survey formats: multiple choice, ranking, fill in the blank, and ratings. Many sites start-off free, but charge minimum monthly subscription charges for more advanced displaying and reporting options.

Best practices for online book title surveys

Here are a few tips to help you make the most of your free online book title surveys:

  • ŸProvide a context. Set the stage for your title options with a short introductory paragraph that explains what your book is about, who you wrote it for, and the benefits it offers. Explain that you are looking for the titles that best describe the book you’re writing.
  • ŸProvide multiple options. Don’t just test titles, test the subtitles, too. And separate titles and subtitles. Just because you’ve paired a specific title with a specific subtitle doesn’t mean they work best in that order. Use separate questions for titles and subtitles, testing title against title and subtitle against title.
  • ŸInvite suggestions. Don’t assume that the title and subtitle options you provide include all the possibilities. Provide a text box for participants to use suggesting new alternatives.

Once you get started with testing book titles and subtitles, you can refine the process as much as you want to. For example, you can invite participants to rank the various possibilities, or ask them to rate the alternatives on scales of 1-5. You can also explore ways to qualify survey participant responses according to the likelihood of them purchasing each title and subtitle alternative.

Surveying the right people

The quality of your survey results depends on how effectively you have targeted the right market. It would be futile, for example, to invite everyone living in city of Dover, NH, for example, to comment on proposed titles and subtitles for #BOOK TITLE Tweet: 140 Bite-Sized Ideas for Compelling Article, Book, and Event Titles.

A better choice would be to survey the faculty of the University of New Hampshire’s Writing Program, or- -even- -students participating in the program. Even better, however, would be to survey Published & Profitable friends and members, or readers of my blog. So, always make sure you target your surveys to the right audience!

To learn more about surveys and market testing

To learn more about market research, I recommend Jay Conrad Levinson and Robert Kaden’s More Guerrilla Marketing Research, which you can learn more about here. Unlike many books on the target, this book was written for business owners interested in a fast track to results. I’ve interviewed Robert, and he has a refreshingly candid approach to the topic.

The book’s subtitle summarizes the book’s purpose: Asking the Right People, the Right Questions, the Right Way, and Effectively Using the Answers to Make More Money.

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rcp-heming-picRoger C. Parker helps others write books that build brands. He’s written over 30 books, offers do-it-yourself resources at Published & Profitable, and shares writing tips each weekday. His latest book is Title Tweet! 140 Bite-Sized Ideas for Article, Book, and Event Titles
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