Serious book proposals (I): the title

By Anthony Haynes

July 20, 2017

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When you submit a proposal for a professional or academic book, the first piece of information you will need to provide is the proposed title.

The ideal

The ideal title will do three things at the same time:

  1. identify the topic
  2. indicate the audience
  3. indicate what the book is for.

For example: An introduction to case study methods signals that the book will (1) be about case study methods, (2) will be for researchers who lack experience with that particular research methods, and (3) will likely explain how to go about conducting case studies.

The main title

Authors often like to propose a non-obvious main title, followed by a more self-explanatory sub-title.

For example, Richard Pring wrote a book called Closing the gap: liberal education and vocational preparation.

Don’t do this. Put the main search terms in the main title. So: Liberal education and vocational preparation. Though this is somewhat boring, it will make the book more readily discoverable and help to ensure it gets shelved correctly. (Richard used to find copies of his book in Blackwell’s Engineering section.)

If you still want the oblique (or evocative or lyrical) bit of your title, make it the sub-title. Liberal education and vocational preparation: closing the gap is OK.

Number of nouns

Restrict the nouns to two.

Authors often want to propose a third on the grounds that it will extend the market. But if you were to add, say, ‘in English state education’ to Professor Pring’s title above, you would not be making the market bigger by bringing in all those readers interested in English state education: you would be limiting the marketing to readers who are interested in all three terms (liberal education, vocational preparation, and English state education.

 

 

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