Bard Press Essay #14
May 28, 2021
When you think about the book you are writing, see if there is a way to boil down to one word. Sometimes, that one word is the subject of the book. This has been a popular method to naming non-fiction books in recent years—Quiet, Switch, Drive, Blink, Peak, Rework, Traction. The one word title puts the subject of the book front and center on the cover. It answers the question “What’s the book about?”
Another approach is to think about the one word answer to another question—”How would you describe the book?” The answer to that question points in a different direction. It directs the reader to the voice of the narrative, the emotions evoked, and the approach the author took to conveying the message. One of Stephen Sondheim’s famous maxim’s is “Content dictates form.” Content is the what; form is the how.
I read three books last week and I found a clear one word description for each title. I think that attributes to the success of each book.
Get Good with Your Money by Tiffany Aliche has been out for about two months. The book opened at #1 on the Wall Street Journal Business list in its first week on sale and has been in the Bookscan Top 50 every week. The book builds on Aliche’s successful personal finance courses that over a million people have taken. Aliche’s approach is clear positivity with very straight-forward advice about money. For me, the word that describes the book is “possible.” She shows you what is possible and how you can get your personal finances in order now and prepare for a strong future.
Professional Troublemaker by Luvvie Ajayi Jones has been out a few weeks longer and has had similar success in the self-help category, opening at #1 and appearing in the Top 50 in the weeks following its release. This is Jones’ second book and it follows the NYT bestseller I’m Judging You. The word I immediately thought of as I started really getting into PF was 🔥. This book is about taking your place in the world and owning every bit of who you are. The book is about seeing the blockers and getting rid of all of the excuses.
No One Succeeds Alone by Robert Reffkin was released three weeks ago and has been in the Self-help Top 10 each week. This book is interesting because the title and subtitle (Learn Everything You Can from Everyone You Can) are great, classic pieces of wisdom and referred to in the book, but I don’t think that’s what the book is about or how I would describe the book to someone else. No One Succeeds Alone is about HUSTLE. Personally, I love books about hustle, so I read it cover to cover. It’s interesting because if I was buying the book based on the promise of relationships or networking, I don’t know if I would have been happy with the purchase.
What’s your word for how you would describe the book you are writing?
P.S. All three of these Black authors are having big success with their books right now. Like I said last year, if you look at your business bookshelf and don’t see any titles by Black authors, any one of these would be a great add.