Top Factors That Determine Which Books Become Lead Titles (Post 5)

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A lead title, according to The Index for Debut Authors, is a book that the publisher thinks has the best chance of selling in the current market. If your publisher believes that your book could become popular amongst all kinds of readers, then your title will receive the lion’s share of the publisher’s resources. 


Your book doesn’t necessarily need to be a lead title in order to succeed on the market, but having your publisher’s full support behind your endeavor can make a huge difference. But how do publishing companies determine which books should become lead titles and which ones don’t? Here are the top 5 factors that can influence the way your publisher (and your audience) will view your next title:

Size of Author’s Following

An author needs to be more than just an excellent writer to get their books in the right hands. Today, with so much competition on a global scale, authors need to be proactive when it comes to building and expanding their platform, both online and offline. Sola Kehinde of the Self-Publishing School writes, “Traditional publishers won’t give you a contract these days, unless they’re convinced you have a solid author platform.” Furthermore, the logic is that the bigger your audience is, the more resources a publisher will be willing to use to promote your book.


However, there are a variety of ways you can build a strong author platform, even as a new author. For example, reaching out to bloggers and other influencers to review your book is a frequently-utilized strategy for authors of all genres. Another possible solution could involve launching your own virtual book club, which is a great way to share your expertise in an engaging, personalized format.

Book Topic

Whether you’re writing an elaborate fantasy novel or a self-help book, your writing needs to contain compelling hooks that grab the audiences’ attention and make them want to keep reading. When it comes to nonfiction titles in particular, one of the defining characteristics of a successful book launch is that the book aims to solve a relevant problem or address a common challenge that a certain demographic wants to overcome. “Main ideas that work in the marketplace are always a marriage between what you bring to the table and the deep needs of your readers,” writes Bennet R. Cole from Cascadia Author Services. “You’re in the problem-solving business, and your main idea has to address your audiences’ challenges.” 


When you can successfully identify a relevant topic that you’re knowledgeable about, you’ll be well on your way to developing a practical book of advice that will fly off the shelves.

Sell-In Copies

The sell-in figure refers to the number of books retailers order before your book is officially published. Literary agent Rachelle Gardner explains, “The number tells you how many copies are available to consumers on the day the book first goes on sale.” The more books retailers order, the more eager your publishers will be to spread the word about the book’s official release date. For example, your book might be featured in a special display in a bookstore instead of merely being lined up on the shelf without any further marketing attempts.

However, as mentioned in the previous Book Topic segment, the content of your book still needs to be excellent if you want to achieve high sell-through numbers. Sell-through copies refer to the number of books that people actually purchase and read. If lots of people end up returning their title, then your reputation as an author will falter, and you’ll lose the trust of your readers.

Viable Publicity Opportunities

If you’re a new author who doesn’t have a large following, being actively involved in a variety of publicity opportunities can be more than enough to get people excited about your book. The good news is that you can find plenty of ways to get your name out there without spending any money, thanks to the power of the internet. Kevin Tomlinson, a writer for Draft 2 Digital, says that authors can use the following strategies to promote themselves and their book:

  • Write guest blog posts on related sites.


  • Search for podcasters/bloggers who are interested in interviewing an author.


  • Join Facebook group book clubs.


  • Host a free book giveaway or list your book for free for a limited time.


  • Team up with other authors to share each other’s work to your audiences.

Size of Advance

Finally, the last factor that will influence whether your book will be a lead title comes down to the size of your advance. An advance is paid to an author against royalties, so the bigger the advance, the more copies the publisher believes it will sell. In other words, an advance can be thought of as a loan while the author is writing a book; once the book is published, the publisher will earn that money back from book sales. 


As for how much an author can expect from their first book deal, there is no clear answer. “I’ve done first-book deals for as little as zero and one first-book deal that ran into seven figures,” said literary agent Chip MacGregor. There are too many variables to accurately predict what the average book advance is, including “the author platform, the potential media exposure, the timeliness of the topic, the bigness of the idea, the quality of the writing, etc.”

With that being said, you can improve your chances of receiving a larger advance by making sure that your book is:

  • Relevant, unique, and well-written.


  • Adequately promoted on several platforms.


  • Receiving attention from your audience and the media.


About the Author: Evan Shy

As a published author, scientist, and the founder and CEO of hiitide, Evan has earned experience building teams and technology that help people live positively, better.  Growing up in a family of professional athletes and entrepreneurs, Evan started his first business before leaving high school and would go on to found a number of wellness businesses while conducting physiology research and teaching at the University of Illinois at Champaign. His research has been published across scientific journals, college textbooks, and our own titles.

Evan’s own experience trying to make the leap from academic publishing to the general population was the catalyst for creating hiitide.  Evan tells the story of how he did everything wrong, from writing, marketing, to building a community around the material.  He knew the research had the potential to change lives if only they could make it more accessible and actionable for readers.  Inch by inch, the team started testing, building, iterating, and testing again… through 2 different technology platforms, to finally build hiitide.

hiitide is a team of curriculum designers, engineers, marketers, and insatiable learners who are unwavering in their commitment to creating more meaningful and rewarding connections between authors and readers.  Readers learn more, authors earn more.

hiitide creates 30-day virtual book clubs, courses, and workshops that draw out key lessons from books, delivered in short, easy-to-complete daily exercises, journals, and group discussions with the Author.

hiitide works primarily with authors equally committed to innovating new methods and stories that transform how we approach ourselves and one another. 

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