Language is such a funny thing because it morphs and changes, and what was once unacceptable becomes acceptable. Rules change over social groups, over time, generation-to-generation, and even within our own lives.
Case in point
“Irregardless” is a word now! Shocking, I know, but so many people were using it — a word that never was a word — that it has now become acceptable to use. I never will, but that’s just me. Forget about all my editor friends. They’ve only just begun to complain about it.
The point is, language changes and it goes through trends just like anything else.
Another case in point
There was a time when swear words were unacceptable in polite society. However, no doubt you have noticed how popular they have become on the cover of many books in recent years.
I’d include a list of them here but I’m sure I’d offend everyone — including myself — but if you were to research books that have a swear word in the title, you’d be amazed!
I have no idea why this became such a big trend, and I have to tell you, as a publicist it creates plenty of problems for me, the author, the media, etc. Oh sure, bloggers and podcasters don’t care so much. After all, using swear words may be a big part of the blogger or podcaster’s brand. In that case, it would be acceptable and even expected.
Not so much in other forms of media.
Media outlets who are bound to Federal Communication Commission (FCC) guidelines, which you can read about here, are not allowed to write or say those words, so when a book and an interview are pitched to them and there is a swear word in the title, immediately there is a problem. They’ll often say no on that fact alone. If they can’t say the title of the book in the piece or during the interview, who does this help? Not the show. Not the outlet, and certainly not the author.
For authors who only want to sell their books to their own networks and affiliates, you can use any words you want in your titles, as we touched on above. However, if you want coverage in media outlets owned by media companies, both online and offline, it’s a no go.
The trend of putting swear words in book titles is finally on its way out. If you were thinking about publishing a book with a swear word in the title, I’m afraid that ship has sailed. Anyone doing it now is late to the party, and that’s OK with me. It’s a trend I never liked in the first place so let’s move on.
And, by the way, I don’t really care if people swear. I’m not mentioning this out of some kind of righteous sense that we all must speak properly and avoid using colorful language. I’m looking at it through the lens of a publicist and it’s hard to get coverage with outlets who are not allowed to print or voice such words.
More on book titles
As you’re formulating your own book title, it’s good to do some research and see if you can determine current trends, and also discover what book titles grab your attention. The best titles usually are a hook in and of themselves. You want to use language that is going to grab the reader.
Do your best to stay away from titles that are too passive. Titles like, “How to live your best life: Common ways to live the life you love,” is pretty bland and overused. As a publicist and the booking producer of a major podcast, Something You Should Know show, you need a title that stands out. It matters, so do your best to make it pop.
Another thought about language
I’ve found the language used to discuss a couple of highly visible books coming out now to be rather interesting. One of the books is by John Bolton and the other by Mary Trump. Now, I’m not here to get into either of those books or the politics behind them, but I do want to comment on the language being used when media talks about them.
I’m hearing language like, “We got our hands on a leaked copy of the book and what we can tell you is this . . .” Or, “We managed to get hold of an early copy . . .” the implication being that it was hard to actually get a copy or that something underhanded and secretive took place in order to get the book into the hands of the media early.
I’ll be the person behind the curtain who says: That’s just not how it works and it isn’t nearly as intriguing as one might think. There’s nothing underhanded, secret, or sneaky going on. Here’s the scoop:
A reviewer and long-lead media campaign is a significant part of the publicity process with regard to books. The publisher wants to get attention for the title at publication date and that means the media has to have an advance copy in order to 1) know if they want to cover it, 2) have time to cover it.
The fact that media gets an advance copy, or galley as they’re called in the industry, is a normal part of the publishing process. Usually at around 3 months prior to a book’s publication date, galleys are mailed out to reviewers (not customers who review on Amazon, that’s different) who will read it and publish their review at the same time the book comes out.
Long-lead media, top-tier media, and any other important influential media will receive a galley copy to do with what they will. My point is that it’s nothing as provocative as “a leaked copy” but it is actually a normal part of the book process. Sorry if I’m disappointing anyone.
The fact that NBC, The New York Times, or whoever got an early or leaked copy of a book is quite normal. That’s all. But they sure make it sound like it’s something very unusual and difficult to get. (Language again.)
And as they often do in various interview programs here are some . . .
Takeaways from today’s post
- Language changes and it matters.
- Book titles with swear words are now passe.
- Make your book title pop.
- Galley copies are sent out in advance of publication date. They aren’t leaked.
Language is a fluid and changing thing. Some changes we’ll like, and others not so much, e.g., it’s OK to use “them” when referring to “him or her”. Use language to your advantage by paying attention to trends and use it well when writing and promoting your books.
To your success!
P.S. In an increasingly complex world, but sure to stop and take time to recharge your batteries. Here is a video I shot during my early morning walk the other day. I hope you enjoy it. If you can’t see it, it may mean we need to be friends on Facebook. Click the link below and let’s do that!