Even if you don’t specifically know what a subtitle is in a book, you have definitely seen them before. Head to any bookshop and go to the nonfiction section, and you are bound to see a few examples there. 

A subtitle can be the defining factor between a success and a book being all but invisible. They make the title clearer, and they make the book make sense. 

If you want to find out more, just keep reading! We will cover everything you need to know about book subtitles in the sections below. This includes what it is, what makes a subtitle good, how to write one, and some examples. 

What Are Subtitles In A Book?

A book subtitle will usually be found on the covers of nonfiction books. They work to make a book stand out in the market, and elaborates on the initial title in order to give people a better understanding of what the book is about.  

This isn’t to say that every nonfiction book needs to have a title – some can get away with not having one! However, it is rare, and having a subtitle for a book can be very helpful in numerous ways. 

You can think of it like this: the title itself is the hook, and the subtitle is the reel.

A good subtitle will:

  • Provide context – titles can be memorable, but cryptic – especially for nonfictions! A subtitle will give the title some much-needed context for readers to understand it better.
  • Utilize the keywords – keywords are essential if you want a book to be visible on search engines. Good keywords will get a book noticed, and make it a lot easier to find.
  • Convey the book’s tone – you don’t want to pick up a book thinking it will be funny, only for it to be super serious. A subtitle will help to convey the overall tone of the book to readers. 
  • Clarify the book’s overall focus – vague titles won’t help anyone, which is why a good subtitle is so crucial! It will let your potential readers know what the book is actually about – like mental health, finance, or anything in-between. 
  • Tells readers why they should pick up the book – a good subtitle should let your readers know what they can expect to get out of actually reading the book. Will it help them become more organized? Will it help them overcome a loss? These are important to know, and always worth mentioning to encourage someone to read the book. 

What Makes A Good Subtitle?

While there are no hard rules to follow when it comes to coming up with a subtitle for your book, there are a number of things you will want to keep in mind.

What Are Subtitles In A Book

If you want to follow the rules of what you already know works, you should consider the following things:

  • Good cadence – a subtitle should be easy to read, not an unpleasant mouthful. Even better, they should also be memorable and fun to say. Your subtitle should have a rhythm for people to follow and enjoy – it will help it stick in people’s minds!
  • Relevant keywords – never underestimate the importance of keywords. Not only will using the right keywords make it easier for your book to come up on various search engines when customers are searching for the book, but it will make it easier to figure out what the book is about. Your keyword will explain what the book is about, and what it can do for you. If you are writing a self-help book, you should use that term, or something similar.   
  • Clarity – being fancy with your words doesn’t help anyone. Be clear with the words you use, and make sure that you structure your subtitle in a way that is easy to understand. Tell your readers the various ways they could benefit from reading your book, too. For example – will it help them overcome loss or become more organized? Mention that! 
  • Concise – you don’t want your subtitle to be too long. Keep it short and concise, but make sure you are still getting the message across. See what we mean by this in the examples section. 
  • Use the rule of three – as humans, the grouping of three has a special place in our hearts. It’s more memorable, and has a nice ring to it. Use the rule of three if it applies to your book!  

How To Write A Subtitle

Writing a good subtitle doesn’t have to be difficult.

Simply do the following, and see what you can come up with: 

  1. Take a look at what subtitles have worked for others in bestselling books and see what stands out.
  2. Decide which keywords make sense for your book, and which ones you need to include. Make a list by using search engines to see what similar authors have used (successfully) in books similar to yours.
  3. Come up with at least 20 subtitles using those keywords. Put pen to paper, and note down anything that comes to mind, no matter how bad it sounds!
  4. Find your favorites out of the list and gradually eliminate them until you have a top three.
  5. Get lots of feedback on them! Make sure the feedback isn’t biased, so try not to rely on friends and family. Get some objective opinions.

Examples Of Great Subtitles

Below are some examples of three great subtitles. Note how the initial title would be lackluster on its own, as it doesn’t explain what the book is actually about.

The additional subtitle gives readers some much-needed clarity, and makes you actually want to pick up the book! 

1. Patrick King – The Science Of Getting Started: How To Beat Procrastination, Summon Productivity, And Stop Self-Sabotage

2. Melissa Gonzalez – The Pop-Up Paradigm: How Brands Build Human Connections In A Digital Age

3. Stephen Aarstol – The Five-Hour Workday: Live Differently, Unlock Productivity, And Find Happiness

Final Thoughts

A subtitle in a nonfiction book might be one of the most important features to add if you want to be successful. It will explain what the book is about, and why a reader should want to get their hands on it. 

Without a subtitle, a book might be unclear, and therefore readers won’t know what to expect by buying it. This is not a good thing, even if some people like surprises! 

Let your potential readers know exactly what they are getting themselves into, and why they should spend money on your creation. It will do both you and them a world of good.  



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