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How to make your business book cover attract more leads!

The old adage of ‘a picture says a 1,000 words’ is true when it comes to evoking an emotional response. This can be said for many areas of book cover design, especially fictional material, where often the title is ambiguous or subtle – the artwork can then really set the tone for the type and style of narrative inside.

However business books are of a different breed. Mostly because the title is the star of the show and highly graphical elements are not needed.

Take some of the best-selling business books, “The 7 habits of highly effective people,” “How to win friends and influence people,” “The 4 hour work week,”…I could go on, but not ONE of these have any graphics or pictures on them. They are just typography.


However, they do all have 1 very important thing in common, and that is a killer title.

You see, when people need to solve a problem, they want to find the solution quickly. Quirky and clever titles won’t help someone find their answer. They want to see the results – or at least know which books deal with that specific problem, and a book with a title that identifies that, will arouse curiosity and be put in the shopping basket.

Of course there are other factors which will help with the buying decision – the back cover for instance also holds some valuable real estate, but with more and more books being sold on sites like Amazon, the prospective reader doesn’t usually get the opportunity to look at this, which is why your title needs to do more of the work than ever.

So assuming that you’ve written your book and you are in the stages of discussing the cover with your designer here, are some things that you might want to consider, before you spend a fortune on stock photography, or illustrations.

My 6 tips for brainstorming a killer headline;

  1. Distil your core message into 1 sentence. Don’t edit at this stage, just write down in a couple of sentences what your book solves.
  2. Identify your reader clearly and add it into the above.
  3. Spend some time on Amazon and see what other titles are being used in the same genre as you – does anything inspire you? If so, write it down.
  4. Then use the above to come up with a statement, or ‘How to…’ – if you have more than 1, write a list. (Don’t be afraid of stating the obvious – that can be what is needed for people to buy your book)
  5. If you’re only using a 4 or 5 worded title, then make sure you clarify what your book is about in the sub-title
  6. Ask the audience. If you belong to online forums (LinkedIn for instance), that are your target audience, then ask them for feedback. Give them a choice of titles and see which one gets the most response.

Here are some other things to consider:

  • Don’t ask a question in the title – it’s too easy for the prospective reader to not agree with you
  • Don’t try and be clever, or funny. A play on words, when someone is looking for a solution, won’t work
  • Don’t be afraid of longer titles, as long as it’s focused and not rambling

An example
I am currently working with a client who is writing a book for school leavers and how they can find a really good job in the computer industry. (Notice he has identified his market, and niched into a particular sector…) and the title we came up with is:

How to get the best I.T Job Ever!We’ve stated clearly in the title what the book is going to solve (finding a job in I.T.) and it’s worded in a way that appeals to a younger audience.

So think of the above when you’re coming up with YOUR title of your book.

What to consider next when using this style of title
Once you have a title, now you need to think of how it’s going to look on the cover. Clever use of font can be really effective, and you may not need to use any images at all. Consider these clever uses of typography and how effective they look;

The first book uses just the colours associated with Google, and the same font. (No computer image in site…!) The second and third one is pure text – and effective text at that.  So consider this option when you’re designing your book cover.

If you do feel an image is needed, then think carefully and make sure it doesn’t try and compete with the title. Having the image fade into the background can be very effective and give some ‘texture’ to your book.

Whatever you decide just remember, if your book is aimed at potential clients, and you’re using it as a way of getting people to recognise you as an ‘expert’ in your industry, then having a benefit style title can make all the difference.

Images may be able to say 1,000 words, but an engaging headline can make you a 1,000 more leads!


  • Ironspike

    Seems we both have placed a lot of importance on the front cover. My next topic after posting about the cover art was going to be about title selection in fiction.
    You are right on having an engaging title. It plays a HUGE part in the business book world because of the targeted searching by consumers.
    I like your advice.

    If it is ok, I would like to add one more note:
    Once a ‘title’ has been settled on – do a search on Amazon, B&N, and iBook and see what type of results you get. The last thing an author will want is to have hundreds of other books match their title. With a shifting of a few words – without changing the actually message- could change a title listing position from last to first.

    Leonard Johnson

    • Alexa_Whitten

      Hi Leonard,

      Yes you’re right of course (I guess people would do this when they do their Amazon research, but a final check once they’ve got a title is also important!)

      Plus I forgot to add about then checking to see if a url is available with that name – really important if they are going to set up landing pages to then advertise the book. Perhaps that should be my next blog post!

      Thanks for your feedback!