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Required Reading

Who says you can't judge a book by its cover? Book jackets can make or break sales--so why not use them to inspire your advertising efforts?
Magazine Contributor
3 min read

This story appears in the September 2004 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Make no mistake: Book titles are advertising headlines, and the jackets they emblazon are one-page ads for the books. What's more, they're some of the best ads you'll ever see. They have to be. If the title doesn't pique the book browser's curiosity, the book doesn't get noticed, picked up, flipped over (to read the summary on back), flipped through or bought.

That's how critical great jacket copy is, including the supporting subtitle-and a lot of investment in time and money hangs on those few words being read. So if you need inspiration to jump-start your own brainstorming efforts, simply head for your nearest bookstore, and stroll the aisles with notepad in hand. Chances are, you will find titles- usually nonfiction-that will either morph into headlines for your own advertising or trigger ideas you wouldn't have otherwise considered.

A solid example of a title that turns heads like any great headline should is shown on the book jacket displayed here. Patricia Schultz's 1,000 Places to See Before You Die is a top-selling travel tome from Workman Publishing. Clearly, it wouldn't be as popular without the unexpected use of the phrase "before you die" in the title. With the addition of those three eyebrow-arching words, the publisher has cleverly promoted the irresistibility of the content. However, a travel agency could just as easily have slapped a version of that on its advertising brochure.

There's no question that book titles featuring surprising words and phrases, just as in ads, grab the eyeballs of passersby. Think how successful The Complete Idiot's and For Dummies guides have been, as well as the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. There are also a great many titles that simply promote compelling benefits. A book called Age Erasers for Women and one dubbed Shed 10 Years in 10 Weeks are two titles that come to mind as examples of those that titillate by promising benefits to the reader. Either one of those titles could have succeeded as the headline on ads for facial rejuvenation products.

Book titles that promote the "one-minute" method of shortcut solutions can be transformed into ads using that same idea, be it a two-minute or 10-minute technique. Then, of course, there's the granddaddy of benefit phrases-How to . . .that has adorned the cover of many a bestseller. As in, say, How to Use Book Titles to Inspire Your Own Great Advertising.

Jerry Fisher is a freelance advertising copywriter and author of Creating Successful Small Business Advertising.

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