Note: This is the Week of eBook Consumption here on Blogging Bookshelf. I’m decluttering my ebook collection and writing about it every day this week.

One thing I’ve been amazed at over the past couple days is just how terrible some ebooks’ titles are. Like… punch-me-in-the-face or throw-up-in-my-mouth terrible. Here are 3 ways to make sure your ebook’s title doesn’t induce a gag reflex.


1. Make sure the name explains the ebook

If you saw an ebook entitled “What Are You Doing?”, what would you think it’s about? Journal writing? Interrogation? Twitter? If you said Twitter, you win the prize. But I personally never would have guessed that just from looking at the title.

Why is it important that an ebook’s title explains what the ebook is about? Well, see the ebook I’m offering in the sidebar of my blog here? It’s called “101 Ways You’re Killing Your Blog.” The title is big and you can read it easily and understand easily what the ebook is about and are drawn to it. But what if I called it “You’re Messing Up!”? No one is going to get what it’s about or be interested in it. No good.

Want what I think is a good example of an ebook title? How about Peggy Baron’s Become a PLR Writer (not an affiliate link or anything). The title is simple, but it’s crystal clear. You know exactly what the ebook is about.

(That’s to make up for what I said yesterday. I mentioned that I hate PLR ebooks and said that that might make Peggy Baron mad because she writes PLR ebooks. But Peggy does great work from what I’ve seen and I’m sure her PLR stuff is way above the unfortunate average. I didn’t mean to insinuate that her stuff is crap. Sorry Peggy :))

In my opinion, an ebook title shouldn’t try to be too clever or cutesy. Just say what the book is about by throwing the main topic into the title. So instead of “What Are You Doing?”, how about “Twitter Mastery” (ok, not the best example, but you catch my drift) or something along those lines?

But if you HAVE to have a cutesy title, use a subtitle to explain what the book is really about. But then that raises another issue…

2. Make sure the subtitle explains the ebook

Like I said before, ideally your title is clear enough that you don’t need a subtitle to explain what your ebook is about. But let’s say you DO want that clever/cute title and need a subtitle to help clear things up a bit. So with the previous example of the Twitter ebook, we could add a subtitle and make it look something like this: “What Are You Doing?: A Beginner’s Guide to Twitter.”

But please, if you do throw a subtitle in there, make sure it does in fact clarify things.

I came across one ebook today with the following title and subtitle: “A Kick in the Pants: A Mad to Do Right Now Philosophy.” Actually, the first part might be the subtitle, and the latter part the title (I couldn’t tell because the formatting of the cover page made no sense, either). But either way, the title and subtitle just make no sense.

Here’s another example: “The Simple Web: A Web Philosophy for Getting What You Want.” Again, neither the title nor subtitle really explain very well what the ebook is about. What is a “web philosophy,” anyway?

3. Avoid awful words

I talked a little bit about this yesterday when I mentioned scammy ebooks, but there are some words in ebook titles (or anywhere on the cover page, for that matter) that just make me cringe. Here are some of my personal red flags:

  • profits
  • cash
  • leaked
  • exposed
  • secrets
  • success
  • $100k
  • autopilot
  • illegal

Those are just a few off the top of my head, but there are definitely more. Your mileage may vary, but those are some of the ones that irk me.

When I see those words, I’m immediately turned off from reading the ebook. I saw a super lame ebook today that was something like “Illegal Internet Marketing Secrets LEAKED!”

Uh oh, I feel my gag reflex acting up again…

Does anyone really fall for that “leaked” garbage? I mean, let’s think about this for a minute here. First off, there aren’t any secrets to any of this make-money-online crap. To make money online you need to either 1) work your butt off day and night for years, or 2) scam people (probably while working your butt off day and night for years).

But let’s assume there WERE some kind of hidden secrets. Someone would first have had to know that you were guarding some kind of secret success formula, break into your house, get onto your computer, find your secret formula word document or whatever, steal it, and then bring it to light so that the person you’re stealing from would know who the thief was.

Not likely.

Anway, here are a few other things to keep in mind:

  • Don’t use dollar signs in the title
  • Don’t use exclamation points
  • Don’t use outrageous words (like “superhuman” or “millionaire”) or phrases (like “what they don’t want you to know”)

In short, just try not to sound like a sleazy used car salesman (or internet marketer).

Bonus tips

So these aren’t directly related to actually naming your ebook, but I figured I’d throw them in here because I don’t know where else I’d put them.

  • If a fairly smart and proficient member of your audience could write your ebook after reading it’s title, your ebook probably sucks. Example: If you write about how people can get more traffic to their blog, don’t write an ebook called “6 Great Ways to Drive More Traffic to Your Blog.” Because anyone familiar at all with your niche will be able to tell you that you’re probably going to mention things like Twitter, guest posting, blog commenting, and Facebook. Come on. If you’re going to spend the time writing an ebook, it might as well be a GOOD one! And the best ebook provides information that people don’t yet know or are unclear on.
  • When you download an ebook, immediately rename the file so that you 1) know what you’re looking at when you browse the folder, and 2) can search for it easily.

Final words

I know you’ve all encountered a bajillion different ebooks in the course of our internet travels, so I’d love to hear your thoughts on ebook titles. And while you’re doing that (in comment form, of course), I’ll be diving ever deeper into the Higbee eBook Vault of No Return. Except that, uh… I will return tomorrow with another blog post.

  • What are some good ebook titles you’ve seen?
  • What are some bad ebook titles?
  • What do you like or not like to see in ebook titles?