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Write a Book Subtitle That Sells Your Book

Award-winning writer Kathy Widenhouse has helped hundreds of nonprofits and writers produce successful content and has gained 600K+ views for her writing tutorials. She is the author of 9 books. See more of Kathy’s content here.

You’ve hooked a reader with your title. But the book subtitle reels her in.

I’m talking primarily about your nonfiction book or eBook. Fiction titles typically stand alone. There are famous book subtitle exceptions, of course, such as Peter Pan: The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up. But more often, a fiction title is followed by a simple subtitle such as A novel or a variation of that, like A novel about the French Revolution.

But nonfiction book titles need a bit of an assist … and it comes in the form of a subtitle. Your book subtitle should grab the reader’s attention, include keywords (so it’s searchable – especially if you’ll publish it on Amazon), and be specific.

If that seems like a tall order, don’t panic. Crafting a book title and its subtitle, I’ve found, can be quite fun. Especially when you have a format to follow.

How to write a book subtitle that sells your book with Word Wise at Nonprofit Copywriter #WritingTips #WritingABook

What is a book subtitle?

A book subtitle is a phrase that tells the reader why they should read the book or eBook.

It explains why a reader should plunk down her hard-earned cash for your book and then spend her time absorbing its contents.

All those qualities can boil down to a simple template. I use it when writing the subtitles for my own books. This nifty template can become your own personal book subtitle generator, too.

Your personal book subtitle generator: it’s simple as A-B-C

Book Subtitle = Audience + Benefit + Claim

Identify these three items and weave them together to write your book subtitle. Do so and you’ll find your book subtitle is attention-grabbing, includes keywords, and is specific.

  • Audience: who is going to read your book and what do they need? Use your book subtitle to identify a potential readership and a pain point they face.
  • Benefit: offer a solution that will solve the reader’s problem or provide an answer to her question.
  • Claim: make a promise that shows how life can be different for your reader after she digests your book.

Get your book done! Use this Book Writing Planner to write your book step-by-step.

A few book subtitle examples

Let’s put the template to the test by looking at a couple of book subtitle examples.

The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, live anywhere, and join the new rich
By Tim Ferriss

  • Audience: people who feel stuck their jobs
  • Benefit: readers can have freedom to live where they want
  • Claim: readers can have financial freedom – even prosperity – using the principles in this book

Book Launch: How to write, market & publish your first bestseller in three months or less AND use it to start and grow a six-figure business
By Chandler Bolt 

  • Audience: first-time authors and writers who want to have a bestseller
  • Benefit: the opportunity to write a book quickly – in three months or less
  • Claim: a book can be the foundation for a lucrative business

Writing Devotionals That Stick: A step-by-step guide for writing this unique genre for today’s busy readers
By Kathy Widenhouse

  • Audience: writers
  • Benefit: a step-by-step guide. No need to wade through dozens of tutorials or complicated explanations.
  • Claim: readers will be able to break through to busy readers with content that resonates and stays with them.

No Gym Needed: Quick & simple workouts for gals on the go. Get a toned body in 30 minutes or less
By Lise Cartwright 

  • Audience: busy women who want to be healthy and fit but lack time
  • Benefit: quick and simple workouts that can be completed anywhere
  • Claim: a toned body can be achieved in short spurts

How long should my book subtitle be?

Gurus say 3-7 words. The book subtitle examples above are clearly longer than that. Amazon allows up to 199 characters. Clearly, there’s not a hard-and-fast rule about length.

Use your book subtitle to do its job: identify your reader and his problem, offer your book’s benefit, and make a claim about how the reader’s life can change.

Use this refillable, reusable Book Summary Worksheet to write the summary for the back of your book.

Use the A-B-C template to write your book subtitle

Write an engaging book subtitle with a brainstorming session. Create 3 lists:

  • Audience: to whom are you writing? Be specific. Your book won’t appeal to everybody. But who needs to read it? What problem does this person face? Your brainstorming may include your keywords here or in the benefit or even in the claim.
  • Benefit: This is a good place to be specific. How does your book solve this reader’s problem … answer her question … provide a way out of a challenge … raise his interest … offer something she desperately wants or needs … make his life better? List all the benefits your book provides. Then pick one.
  • Claim: what can happen because of the information in your book? What can be the outcome? What may the future look like for your reader … at least in one area of his life?

Sift through your lists and choose the best of each of them. Write several subtitles. Then choose one that works well with your book.

You’ve done the hard part by writing your book. Now have fun with writing your subtitle. And when you follow this simple template, you offer readers a benefit that reels them in with a promise for their future.

More Book Writing Tips

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