In order of most influential to least influential, these are the 10 ways that people do judge books, according to author Tucker Max.
- The title
- The recommending source
- The cover
- The book description
- The blurbs
- The customer reviews
- The author bio and picture
- The length of the book
- The price
- The book itself
By the way, this comes from Tucker’s interesting book, The Scribe Method. Even if you don’t want to write a book, it’s an interesting look at the psychology, marketing, and business sides of nonfiction books.
One of the points Tucker makes is that we evaluate these factors unconsciously. So even if we want to abide by the maxim, “don’t judge a book by its cover”, it’s neuro-physiologically hard not to. I’m sure we judge most things in similar ways, such as people.
Another interesting point Tucker makes is that the title matters even more to sales than it used to in the post-pandemic era, where we mostly buy online and rarely buy in bookstores. Title > Cover.
This is changing the way we name things.
Check out the cover of David and Goliath as you might see it browsing a display case.
What is the name of this object?
When you look at its cover, the name of this object is clearly, “David and Goliath”.
But for most people, that’s not the name. This is what most potential buyers see:
Here the object’s name is, “David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants”. (Same on Barnes & Noble)
Maybe this is why there’s a trend towards nonfiction book names consisting of the title plus long descriptive subtitles. Look at other recently published nonfiction books:
- The Scribe Method: The Best Way to Write and Publish Your Non-Fiction Book
- Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know About the People We Don’t Know
- Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking
- Branding Is Sex: Get Your Customers Laid and Sell the Hell Out of Anything
And compare that to nonfiction advice books from long ago:
- Elements of Style
- On Writing Well
- Think and Grow Rich
And so on.
Old paradigm: name = title.
New paradigm: name = title + subtitle.
This makes the modern book title kind of like a handle or nickname for the de facto name containing title + subtitle. In that sense, the title’s catchiness still matters. Blink is a good one. But by itself, it doesn’t do all the selling work.
Subtitles, slogans, taglines, etc., whatever basically extends the title — this is becoming much more important to naming, and not just for books.