Sunday, September 18, 2022

Publishing Deserves An F


I recently visited my local Barnes and Noble. I freeload-read a book over lunch at the cafe. I figured my space rental warranted it. I then went to buy a book, assuring the store of a profit. While waiting on line, the store tried to last-minute sell me with items that are not normally sought after nor so valuable. But they get snapped up under the point-of-purchase rules of attraction. Magnets, puzzles, gifts, etc. litter the last 100-feet of shelf space that leads up to the cash register. There were also blank journals and notebooks with writing prompts. Several of them had the F-word in the title. 

I went to talk to the store manager to ask why they are marketing to our youth and the vulnerable with the unnecessary usage of a curse word. Keep in mind that everyone is forced to see these face-out titles as they go to check out, including young kids. 

As the words came out of my mouth, I felt uncomfortable. I didn’t want to come off as some right-wing conservative prude who lives in a G-rated fantasy world. But I also see that I am not the anything-goes liberal who doesn’t care what books say or show. I do believe all books have a right to exist; I just question why a bookstore chooses to prominently display certain books that are inappropriately being forced onto young people. 

I know it is an uphill battle to bring morality into the discussion of books. There is plenty of content circulating that is filled with things worse than curse words, from violence and racism to misogyny and hate. Just look at what is said or shown on social media — and the Internet, streaming TV, You Tube, and memes.  

Why do they have to navigate through titles that are offensive and exist just to shock?

Why market this way to the young and impressionable — is there no better or more creative way? 

Cursing just because you can never help. Cursing for anger or humor can be effective, but when it is normalized and used without discretion, it loses its oomph and devalues the message attached to it. 

Words have power and meaning and in the right context a word can cause confrontation, feelings of happiness, or moments of laughter. The F-word can do all of that. So can the N-word. No word should be off limits to anyone but with its usage comes a responsibility. 

Book publishers and bookstores are acting a bit irresponsibly when they flood the market with every other book using the F-word. It is a sad and ugly trend that many adult books already use the F-word, and “bitch” in their titles. Now it is spreading to books for younger readers. 

What is next, picture books with titles like these? 

Curious George Fucks A Friend

1 + 2 = Threesome

Nigga, I Am Not Playin’

Learning My A, B, C’s: Asses, Bitches, Cunts

The Fucking Cat in the Hat 

Get my point?  

It could happen.  

Imagine graphic covers and tasteless titles, a slew of them, face-out, by the cash register where everyone has to confront them. Is this how book publishing wants to make a buck? 

Hey, I am sure some book editors and literary agents are mulling over this very idea. Who will be the first to market? Who will ride this trend?  

Remember a spoof, Go The Fuck To Sleep, an adult version of a classic children’s book? It sold like crazy.  

Maybe I am nuts to think book publishers actually give a crap about the society they are shaping as they look to find the next big seller, no matter how tasteless or harmful the book may be. 

In the end, society decides what is acceptable. If enough people reject something, the producers of such content will think twice about continuing on that path. But, if it becomes trendy to buy trash, publishers will only be urged to mint more of the same. 

I don’t want to side with censors and book banners. I firmly support The First Amendment. I just wish some discretion was applied as to how we market books to our youth.  

Can we insert a little decency, respect, and understanding into the book publishing executives and editors who greenlight books that are titled unnecessarily provocatively and rudely? Can bookstores use a little more common sense in what they sell or in how they display it? 

Fuck if I know.

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Brian Feinblum, the founder of this award-winning blog, can be reached at He is available to help authors promote their story, sell their book, and grow their brand. He has over 30 years of experience in successfully helping thousands of authors in all genres.


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About Brian Feinblum

Brian Feinblum should be followed on Twitter @theprexpert. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog ©2022. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester with his wife, two kids, and Ferris, a black lab rescue dog. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s The Independent.  This blog, with over 4,000 posts over the past decade, was named one of the best book marketing blogs by BookBaby and recognized by Feedspot in 2021 and 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. It was also named by as a "best resource.” For the past three decades, including 21 as the head of marketing for the nation’s largest book publicity firm, and two jobs at two independent presses, Brian has worked with many first-time, self-published, authors of all genres, right along with best-selling authors and celebrities such as: Dr. Ruth, Mark Victor Hansen, Joseph Finder, Katherine Spurway, Neil Rackham, Harvey Mackay, Ken Blanchard, Stephen Covey, Warren Adler, Cindy Adams, Susan RoAne, Jeff Foxworthy, Seth Godin, and Henry Winkler. He recently hosted a panel on book publicity for Book Expo America, and has spoken at ASJA, IBPA, Sarah Lawrence College, Nonfiction Writers Association, Cape Cod Writers Association, Willamette (Portland) Writers Association, and Connecticut Authors and Publishers Association. His letters-to-the-editor have been published in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, New York Post, NY Daily News, Newsday, The Journal News (Westchester) and The Washington Post. He has been featured in The Sun Sentinel and Miami Herald. For more information, please consult:




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