Nonfiction authors typically start writing chapter titles that are as vanilla as can be, but ultimately, you want to consider chapter titles that are engaging for the reader. At the same time, you don’t want your chapter titles to be so creative that someone looking at the list of contents (also known as the table of contents or just “Contents”) to have no clue what’s in your book!

Here’s a solution: You can use a clever chapter title followed by a subtitle that explains the concept a little more clearly.

Let's say you come up with a fun title for your chapter like "Broccoli Is Bodacious." Your reader will find that chapter title engaging, but what does it mean? You can use a subtitle to explain: "Broccoli Is Bodacious: Why and How to Add Cruciferous Vegetables to Your Diet."

You can use the same trick for headers within the book. Using an intriguing quotation within a chapter title or a header is a great way to be provocative and intriguing, but don’t sacrifice clarity.

Writing a memoir? Often, memoir chapters don’t have titles and sections within chapters don’t have headers, but here’s your chance to get creative. You never know what title or header might grab someone’s attention. Think about taking an interesting image from a story you tell, such as “The Purple Rabbit” or “Twelve Pretzels.” Set up a dilemma or intrigue: “The Purple Rabbit’s Whereabouts” or “Twelve Pretzels and a Warning.”

As you try to figure out chapter titles, think about things you’ve said or a client has said that sum up a concept in an interesting way. Think of things you typically say to your followers and clients. Consider using sequences of three: "Thoughts, Beliefs, and Stories We Tell Ourselves."

You can also do a spin on a common saying or cliche. How about: “You Got This (Unless You Need to Freak Out First, In Which Case, Read This Chapter NOW)”?

Or, “Plays Shockingly Well with Others: Five Keys to Improve Your Collaboration Skills.”

Which comes first, the clever section header or the section itself? You decide. But it’s a good exercise to at least consider jazzing up your chapter and header titles.

Author's Bio: 

Nancy Peske is a professional ghostwriter, developmental editor, and book publishing consultant who has ghostwritten, coauthored, and edited many bestsellers. A member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, Nancy has been in the book business since 1987 and assists would-be authors in achieving their dream of creating a published book. Visit for more information about how she can help you get your book written and published.