The title of Paul Arden’s first book was “It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be.”
That book’s been amazingly successful.
It’s been translated into a dozen different languages.
It’s sold around 2 million copies worldwide.
But in my opinion, it wasn’t the title that did it.
Underneath the title is a sub-head that I think is genius.
“The world’s best selling book by PAUL ARDEN”
As soon as I saw that, I thought it was one of those ideas that I was jealous of, and wished I’d had myself.
I thought, it’s exactly what it says it is.
It’s a book about selling and, in Paul’s opinion, it’s the world’s best book about selling.
Consequently “The world’s best selling-book.”
When I said that to Paul he said he’d seen it differently.
He said it was the world’s best-selling book written by Paul Arden.
Because he hadn’t written any other books this had to be the best selling one by him.
However if he’d added a comma, it would have been a lie.
If it had said “The world’s best selling book, by PAUL ARDEN”.
Because, obviously, it wasn’t the world’s best selling book at all.
The lack of a comma allowed Paul to claim, with a perfectly straight face, that that wasn’t what he meant at all.
What he meant was, it was the best selling book he’d written.
But when you were at an airport, and browsing books, wondering what to pick up, that subtlety escaped you.
All you saw was “the world’s best selling book”.
And that’s quite a claim.
You’d have to at least take a look.
Then, having picked it up and browsed through it, you were half way to buying it.
And if you realised it was a weasel, so much the better.
That was even more proof that this was the best book about selling.
That’s why I thought it was absolutely brilliant.
Because the cover of a book is more than just a title.
It’s point-of-sale advertising.
All around it are other books.
Someone has come into the bookshop just to browse books.
And all they see are books, books, and more books.
How do you separate your book off from all the others?
How do you grab someone’s attention?
How do you arouse their curiosity?
What makes your book stand out, what makes you different?
Certainly “the world’s best selling book” repositions all the other books around it.
It says everything else is no more than second best.
And, by the time they’ve realised the truth, the sub head has done its job.
IMHO the other great piece of book-cover advertising was by Abbie Hoffman.
Hoffman was one of the leaders of the ‘counter-culture’ movement of the 1960s.
A climate of rebellion and questioning authority, anti big-business, ant-government, and pro draft-dodging.
His book included chapters on how to acquire food, clothing, furniture, transportation, money, dope, and other assorted items for free.
Also chapters on starting an underground paper, guerrilla radio and TV, legal advice, how to seek political asylum, shoplifting techniques, forging credit cards and identification papers.
In fact, rebelling against authority in all its forms.
What possible title can you give a book like that, that will retain its credibility but make it stand out from every other book in the store?
In huge type, filling the entire front cover, Abbie Hoffman’s title was: “Steal This Book”.