How to Ruin Your Book Sales With the Wrong Title

If you Google “how to choose a good book title,” you will get lots of articles on how to create one. Among them, you will truly find lots of natural advice, like brainstorming ideas, as if that was not obvious enough. Then, the advice will continue with “make the title catchy, exciting, and easy to remember,” like you did not want to do that in the first place!?

All this advice sounds very profound, the same as if someone said, “If you want to sell the book, you must write something good,” or, “If you want to win, you must not lose.” Bloody fantastic! Brilliant! What a profoundly smart thing to say. I bet you wish you could find that person and punch him in his smug face.

Anyway, back to my title and advices: I do not know what you should do, but at least try not doing the same thing as I have done, and, when I say this, I mean do not make the same mistakes.

Well, let’s check my title:
System Upgrade v2.016

With the very catch subtitle:
Solutions for a Failing Economy, Wealth Distribution, Declining Democracy, Climate Change, and Robots That Steal Jobs

Now, when I look at it, I would really like to spend some time inventing a time machine, so I could go back and pay a small visit to myself. I would be so happy to smack my own past self in the face, and probably shout couple curse words while I am doing it, all while thinking, “What were you thinking man, what were you thinking?!”

So, let’s first do the analysis: why did I choose such a title?

Some time ago, while brainstorming and bundling all ideas for the book, I was reading the book “ROBOTS WILL STEAL YOUR JOB, BUT THAT’S OK: How To Survive the Economic Collapse and Be Happy,” by Federico Pistono. It is a very good read from the problem’s perspective, but it was very thin on solutions.

For a very long time, I had a systematic solution as an answer to that book and many similar books regarding the problems they were describing. Unfortunately, I simply could not find the time to write about it. It was a Catch 22: if you want to survive, you have to work, and, when you work, there is little time and energy left for any other activity — especially as an IT person who was working a lot of overtime hours.

I remember that one of my first thoughts after reading Pistono’s subtitle was, “Nice, so I can have a long subtitle. I will do the same.”

While choosing the title for my own book, a few things popped out, but “System Upgrade” was somehow a natural choice. It was catchy, but, at the same time, it had a misleading meaning, raising questions like “Is it an IT book or a political system?” and “Is he talking about an operating system or the economy?”

For the subtitle, I decided to be more descriptive. I literally described what the book is all about. It never crossed my mind, at least not for 4 months after publishing, that no one on planet Earth will ever believe that there can be one simple solution for all those problems.

Before I continue with that, let me just quickly digress on why I used the number “v2.016” in the title. I wanted to give some kind of similarity to software. I wanted to say, “This is not the final version. It can be changed, and the book you are reading is just a work in progress.” No, I did not want to write, “System Upgrade v2.017” or any other book with the same title but a different number. It was just a metaphor, and now I know it was probably a bad one.

Sometimes, when I look at the Amazon Marketing Service conversion rates, and all those views and clicks that never converted into any sales, I imagine what is going through those people minds. Usually, I get a vision of them saying “Oh, more Click Bait,” and then I see them not continuing onto the product page or to actually buying the book.

That being said, unfortunately, I cannot tell you what you should do, but I can give you few advices on what not to do. First on the “not to do” list is this: do not put too many meanings in the title, expecting the average reader to be keen to resolve your mind puzzles. S/he won’t. That may happen many years after, and it is usually reserved for famous rock bands like “Tool” or “The Rolling Stones.”

Secondly, when syrup is difficult to swallow, try to dilute it with a bit of water. The same thing is applicable to the title. If you really want to say I invented an “unlimited energy device,” maybe it is better to say “device for conversion of a lateral movement into energy ,” I know, I know it is longer, but does not raise suspicion.

When people ask me how differently would I title the book now, I say that probably I would keep “System Upgrade,” but the subtitle would be changed to “Ways to create and maintain a functional economy.”

Nice, clean, and simple. And, for all those other things, probably, I would let the reader have his or her eureka moment, or I could write about it in part two. Well, it is kind of too late for that now.

When I see those top-selling books, with very nice titles, I can only admire those people for how smart and intelligent they were when they invented those titles. Can I give you advice on how to write something like that? No, I probably cannot, and I think no one can. It is an art like any other: to be good, you have to have a talent and spark of inspiration from lady luck.

I can only help you with what not to do, and, if you do not make my mistakes, probably, your work will be half-way done.