I read a book review recently for a book about today’s tight job market. If giving a letter grade to the book’s contents, based purely on what I know of the book based on the review alone, I’d say it earned a B+. Perhaps even an A-.
A grade for the title? I will charitably give it a C-.
This book was not written by a dumb guy. He’s a professor at an Ivy League university.
The thing is, in reading the book review, I came across at least two better potential titles. Both of which came from the author himself (and, I believe, from within the book itself!)
The book’s actual title, while descriptive, is such a mouthful as to be a bit off-putting:
Why Good People Can’t Get Jobs: The Skills Gap and What Companies Can Do About It
The “better” titles I came across are far less descriptive.
In a way, that’s kind of the point.
I think if you can arouse curiosity, it might attract more readers. Or at least different readers.
One thing I’d really love to see is a test. Publish the exact same book twice, with different covers and different titles. No difference whatsoever in the book’s contents but radically different window dressing to attract would-be “buyers”.
I wonder which version would sell better. Surely they would each attract a different demographic.
If such a test ever were performed, I’d love to see the results.
At any rate, the first of my “better” titles is:
The Home Depot Approach to Hiring
When filling a job is like replacing a part in a washing machine.
Note that this suggested title and subtitle both come from the book review itself but I’ve tweaked them slightly to ramp up the interest factor.
My second suggested “better” title is:
In Search of the Purple Squirrel
Companies in search of employees who don’t exist.
In this case, the title is based on something that was mentioned in the book review but the subtitle is entirely mine. (Though the author should feel free to co-opt it and use it.) I added the subtitle, based on context from the book review, to add clarity. Mainly so potential readers wouldn’t think it was a book about animals.
Why am I going on and on about the title of a book about today’s job market?
At its core, writing is about communication. While I know the author is a very smart guy, and from what I can tell his book communicates some surprising and very valuable new ideas, I just don’t think the title gives it justice. Having the best ideas in the world means little if no one ever learns of them.
And if you can’t spark people’s interest, they will never pick up the book and thus never learn of the ideas inside.
Copywriting and marketing work the same way. You could have a terrific product that would solve people’s problems but if you never arouse enough interest to make them find out about your product then it does neither of you any good.
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