These form fields are, obviously, where you enter in the title and subtitle for your book. Filling them in isn’t rocket science, but there are definitely a bunch of little things you need to be aware of.
Everything in your title and subtitle should be capitalized… except for the things that shouldn’t be. I often see people capitalizing words in the title but not capitalizing worlds in the subtitle. That’s wrong. A great primer on what things should and should not be capitalized can be found here. In addition to what’s written there, I’ll add that the first word after a colon (see below) should also be capitalized, even if it’s an article or preposition or word that otherwise wouldn’t be capitalized.
The title and subtitle are joined with a colon and not any form of dash or anything else. If the title of my book were Going Home Slowly and the subtitle An Iraqi Refugee’s Journey on Foot from France Back to Iraq, the complete title as I’d enter it into the “Book name” field would be this:
Going Home Slowly: An Iraqi Refugee’s Journey on Foot from France Back to Iraq
Don’t stuff a bunch of keywords in parentheses in after the subtitle, like this:
Going Home Slowly: An Iraqi Refugee’s Journey on Foot from France Back to Iraq (Iraq, Travel, Journeys, Overland, War, Refugee, Diary, Travelogue)
The title is not the place for wanton keyword stuffing. It looks bad. If you want to include keywords in your title (which you should, since it could help people find your book on Amazon), work them into the subtitle naturally. You’ll be able to add keywords to your book further down the “Add new title” page.
Amazon warns, “Books submitted with extra words in this field will not be published.” But judging from what I’ve seen from two years of looking at the titles of dozens of Kindle books every day (as part of running FKB.me), Amazon does not rigidly enforce this. That’s not to say that Amazon can’t enforce it, however; I actually have gotten an email from Amazon about one of my books when I mentioned in the “Book name” field that the ebook included a link to the MP3 version of the book for free. This information was included on the cover of my book, but Amazon still didn’t like what I was doing. Remember: Amazon giveth and Amazon taketh away.
And by the way, if your book is nonfiction, you definitely should have a subtitle of some sort that explains what the book is about. The general trend in naming nonfiction books is to have a catchy title that hooks the reader, and that’s followed by a subtitle that explains what the book is about. Don’t have only one or the other. I’ve seen far too many nonfiction books that have a good title but no subtitle, making the book look more like a novel than anything else. Using the above example again, a book called Going Home Slowly could be about any number of things. It’s only in the subtitle that you can really figure out what the book is about.
What if you’re writing a novel and don’t really have a subtitle? Can you stuff keywords into the title then? No. Let’s be realistic here. If your novel is a young adult dystopian fantasy, do you really think that saying so in the book’s title will suddenly push it to the top of the search results, up there with the books from the Divergent and Hunger Games series? I think not. But having said that, it can be useful to include the genre of the book somewhere in this “Book name” or “Subtitle” field just to give browsers on Amazon an idea of what kind of book they’re looking at. You can include the genre of the book after a colon, as you would a subtitle, or in parentheses. Here are some real examples:
- First Activation: A Post Apocalyptic Thriller by Darren Wearmouth and M.P. Wearmouth – Though note that there should by a hyphen in Post-Apocalyptic.
- Revenge is Sweet (A Samantha Church Mystery) by Betta Ferrendelli
- Pawnbroker: A Thriller by Jerry Hatchett
- Bad Games – A Dark Psychological Thriller by Jeff Menapace
Regarding that last example, I feel that colons work and look better than any kind of dash, but to each his/her own.
Having given the above as examples of working a book’s genre into the title or subtitle, I’ll now cite some of the many, many books that have come out over the years with the simple A Novel addendum tacked on:
- Mr. Mercedes: A Novel by Stephen King
- The Goldfinch: A Novel (Pulitzer Prize for Fiction) by Donna Tartt (Incidentally, here is another example of something successfully being added to the “Book name” field that is not technically the book’s title and thereby breaking Amazon’s rules. Amazon has obviously chosen to not do anything about it.)
- Artful: A Novel by Peter David
- The One & Only: A Novel by Emily Giffin
All of these novels were in the top 20 bestselling books on Amazon on the day I wrote this.
Note that the books cited above (above the A Novel examples, that is) mention the book’s genre tastefully. They’re not stuffing keywords in where they don’t belong, like this:
Pawnbroker: A Thriller, Technothriller, Action/Adventure Novel, and Crime Thriller
What do you do if your book is part of a series? How do you treat the title then? Well, there are a few ways to do it. Here are some examples:
- The Target (Will Robie) by David Baldacci
- Second Watch: A J. P. Beaumont Novel by J. A. Jance
- Allegiant (Divergent Series) by Veronica Roth
- Skin Game: A Novel of the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher
- Abducted (The Lizzy Gardner Series #1) by T.R. Ragan
- Pulse – Part Two (The Pulse Series) by Deborah Bladon
- The Atlantis World (The Origin Mystery, Book 3) by A.G. Riddle
- The Atlantis Gene: A Thriller (The Origin Mystery, Book 1) by A.G. Riddle
Note how those last two are different books in the same series, yet one has A Thriller added to it and the other doesn’t. That is an inconsistency that I think looks amateurish, success of the books and talent of the author notwithstanding. It’s the kind of thing that can and should be easily remedied.
How do you name a boxed set? There’s far less consistency here, but let’s again turn to some examples on Amazon:
- George R. R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones 5-Book Boxed Set (Song of Ice and Fire Series): A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords, A Feast for Crows, and A Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin
- Robin Hood Hacker Collection: including the #1 Techno-Thriller Encrypted (Robin Hood Hacker Techno-Thriller Series) by Carolyn McCray
- Boxed Set: Rocked by a Billionaire – Vol. 1-3 by Lisa Swann
- This is the End: The Post-Apocalyptic Box Set (7 Book Collection) by J. Thorn, L.T. Ryan, Stephen Knight and Glynn James
- Rebekka Franck Series Box Set by Willow Rose
- The Keepers Box Set (Alchemy Series) Books 1-4 by Donna Augustine
- UN-GRAY-KAANS: Thomas Prescott boxed set by Nick Pirog
- The Fifth Avenue Series Boxed Set (The Fifth Avenue Series) by Christopher Smith
- The Joe Dillard Series Box Set (Books 1 through 5) by Scott Pratt
As you can see, every author seems to be doing it in his or her own way. I personally like the last two examples best. They’re simple but effective.
(Also, did you catch the use of hyphens in the examples above that should have been en dashes?)
Make sure the title and subtitle as you write them in the “Book name” field match the title and subtitle as they are printed on your book’s cover. I can’t tell you how many books I’ve seen on Amazon that say one thing on the cover but say something else in the book title at the top of the page. It’s bizarre. The capitalization should be exactly the same, too.
The title and subtitle together need to be less than 200 characters in length. That should be plenty for any title and subtitle you’ve got. To give you an idea of just how long that is, the title of the George R.R. Martin boxed set that was cited above has 187 characters. Here it is again:
George R. R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones 5-Book Boxed Set (Song of Ice and Fire Series): A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords, A Feast for Crows, and A Dance with Dragons
And there is still room for another 12 characters!