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  • Writer's pictureBarbara Mayfield, MS, RDN, LD, FAND

Pick the perfect book title – please!

Updated: Aug 14, 2023

a pile of antique books with titles on spine

This week I received an email with the subject line “book title” from the manager of acquisitions and development for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics publications department.

Finally, after nearly two years of conceiving, writing, reviewing, and editing our nutrition communication text, it’s time to settle on a title. The design team is ready to begin work on the cover and layout of the text.

It’s time to give the book a name.

We’ve been using the working title, The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Guide to Nutrition Communication, but that was not planned for the permanent title.

The Academy staff encouraged and suggested a “straightforward” title, in line with their other titles. This makes sense. A textbook is not a novel. As Michael Hyatt, former CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, suggests – a book title should do one of four things: (1)

  1. Make a promise

  2. Offer intrigue

  3. Identify a need

  4. Explain the content

What makes a book title successful?

Clearly, a textbook title should explain the content. No surprises. No hidden meanings. At the same time, couldn’t we pick a title that attracts attention and doesn’t scream “BORING” to the reader?

Research by Thomas Nelson Publishers identified seven book elements consumers consider in making a purchasing decision. Title is at the top. A good title is critical – but is it even possible to find the “perfect” title?

Characteristics of a great book title go beyond the list above. It should be easy to say and remember, making it easy to find online or in a bookstore. Ideally, it should be unique.

Fortunately, there aren’t a plethora of other textbooks about nutrition communication, which is a primary reason the Academy determined the need to create one. Any title will be unique.

What is the purpose of a subtitle?

In addition to a title, nonfiction books have subtitles. The purpose of the subtitle is to describe the book’s genre and function. If the main title doesn’t clearly tell the essence of the book, the subtitle must.

Subtitles provide more specificity and can tell not just what the book is about but who the book is for. The Academy recommends a subtitle in line with others they use for similar texts. The title and subtitle must work well together.

Which title do you like best?

The book’s title is likely to be one of the following. Which one resonates with you?

  • Nutrition Communication A Handbook for Professionals

  • Communicating Nutrition A Handbook for Professionals

  • Communicating Nutrition Science A Handbook for Professionals

  • The Art and Science of Nutrition Communication A Handbook for Professionals

  • The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Guide to Nutrition Communication A Handbook for Professionals

  • Other: What would you recommend for a title and subtitle?

An effective title has the same characteristics as effective communication – clear, concise, and compelling. May we choose well! Put your preference in the comments - please!

“Books are the training weights of the mind.” ~ Epictetus


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