Wednesday, November 16, 2016

What Should Your F**king Book Title Be?

Titles of books, movies, and plays can be so catchy that they alone draws you to make a purchase. That is what happened to me recently.  I heard about an off-off Broadway play entitled Don’t Say a Fucking Word to Me.

I read the brief description about the dark comedy and thought I’d give it a chance.  The theater has a cool set-up.  There are three floors to this theater, which is based inside of a larger building.  You could walk right by it and not even know you passed by a theater.  Each floor features a small theater housing maybe 100-125 patrons.  It is a great, intimate setting to experience live theater.

The play involved two couples.  The talky play reveals universal themes about competitive men and the complexities of relationships.  It used a tennis rivalry among the two men to tell the story.  The title comes from a line yelled out in the heat of a passionate and intense match between the men.

Books, plays, and movies rely on a number of things to sell themselves, including:

1.      Subject matter
2.      Cost
3.      Availability
4.      Word of mouth
5.      Testimonials/reviews
6.      Star power
7.      Timeliness/Newsiness
8.      Quality sampling of content
9.      Trailer/advertisement imagery
10.  Poster/cover visual and description
11.  The title

Titles are still so important.  Let’s face it, we get seduced by names of people, products, places and entertainment content.  We judge based on assumptions.  We make assumptions based on looks, how things sound and what we believe.  A play with the F-word in its title makes us curious.

We are a society that’s used to – and accepting – of cursing and blue language.  In fact, we demand it.  Every show on Showtime, Starz or HBO seems to have to include gratuitous violence, nudity, and coarse language.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but we’ve become not just immune to offense, but almost demanding of it.  Shocking is the new normal.

The only reason more content doesn’t include gratuitous violence, nudity, and coarse language is that conservative stores would suffer a backlash for selling things with curse-filled titles in the windows of Walmart.  Can a movie or Broadway play showcase a title so explicit that it could yield protests?

You don’t expect a play to have an F-word in its title, though it doesn’t sound as shocking as The Vagina Monologues.  Still, because that title had a word that is not typically found in a play’s name, I was drawn to it.  I thought this was a very public sign that the play was saying “Hey, this will be a different experience.”  That title expressed anticipation for me, to expect the unexpected.

Should book titles resort to using dick, ass, pussy and any other blue words just for the sake of getting attention?  Are there other eye-opening titles one can come up with that don’t necessarily express a vulgarity?  We need invention here, but not laziness.

Words matter.  They always have.  Every word has not only a definition prescribed to it but a connotation or interpreted feel to it.  The key for authors is to find a short string of words that can say so much while using so little space.  The title is what initiates an impression, the first impression one will have of a book.

Titles need to make a statement to convey an idea to raise an issue, propose a question, elicit a feeling, conjure a desire, and form an image, just as one’s clothes, hairstyle, body contour, voice, skin color and scent conspire to leave onlookers with an impression of an individual.

Some women are too pretty to look away from. Some athletes are too graceful to avert our eyes from their path.  Some books, plays or movies sound too good to not consume.  It begins with a title.  

What will you name your f**king book?

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog 2016 ©.
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