Sunday, December 18, 2011

Are swear words in book titles appropriate? - Guest Post

Written by Marisa Quinn, author of “Echoes in the Wind” which is scheduled to be released through Champagne Books in March 2012.

Earlier this year an adult humour picture book written by American author Adam Mansbach called “Go the Fuck to Sleep” reached number 1 on Amazon bestseller list a month before its release through word of mouth.

Why? Because of the title. People were shocked and horrified to see that word on the front cover of what looked like a children’s book. Suddenly they wanted to learn more about it. Who would write a book with that word in the title? What could it be about? Do I dare read it to children? What type of parent is the author?

People immediately split into two groups: there were those who thought the title was horrendously inappropriate and actually feared that people would read the book to children and that it would emotionally scar them.

And then there were people intelligent enough to realise that the book was satire and not meant to be read to children and were able to appreciate the book because they themselves were parents and had secretly longed to utter the words “Go the Fuck to Sleep” to their precious off spring at least once while struggling to put them to bed.

I think that Adam Mansbach’s decision to title the book Go the Fuck to Sleep was pure genius and not vulgar or wrong. There are some who think that putting a swear word into a book title is risky, that it could have a negative effect on sales and is a tacky way of trying to attract attention from readers.

And they are absolutely right. If you put a swear word in your book title be prepared that some people will find it offensive and might not even want to stock your book in their shops. You’ll get complaints. Bad reviews. Letters from hysterical parents complaining that their child saw your book in a shop and asked them what that word on the front cover meant.

Bad reviews happen to all authors. If people don’t find your title offensive they will find something else about your book to complain about. I learnt a long time ago not to spend time worrying that my writing might offend someone. Writers should never censor themselves out of the fear that something they write might come across as offensive. Be honest. Not just to yourself but to your book. If you feel like your book should have a sex scene in it! If it needs some it! If it needs a swear word in the title...for fuck’s sake, do it!

Just let yourself write.


Steph from said...

In my first job my manager told me that I couldn't please everybody. It is true everywhere. I am sure every parent, sleep deprived, exhausted and under stress wants to shout that out so very much!

Words also have power. That power is something we give them. I think that the author probably realized the title would raise a few eyebrows. And, result in publicity. Now, if they times the release and publicity right it will be under the tree of every new parent in a few days.

Fangs, Wands and Fairy Dust

Nelson Souzza said...

Hello! My first visit, will visit you again. Seriously, I thoroughly enjoyed your posts. Congrats for your work. If you wish to follow back that would be great I'm at
Thanks for sharing!

Erin O'Riordan said...

Nelson, I can't read your blog; I don't speak Portuguese. Meet me half way and write in Spanish - my Spanish is decent.

If you like this children's book, you might also like 'Goodnight, Keith Moon.'

Nora Peevy said...

My husband and I roared at this when our stepson showed us. Even my 13 year old knew this was satire. I mean, come on, people! It's Sam Jackson! What else would it be? LOL