The Importance of Book Titles, Part 3: THE OMINOUS WARNING, or Don't Read this Blog!
January 28, 2013
In our ongoing look at book-titling methods, we’ve covered the "stating the obvious" and the "yes, I, the author, am totally awesome" schools. Those methods don’t leave much to the imagination. And what gets people’s imaginations fired up? FEAR. Giving your book an ominous warning for a title is sure to make a potential reader stop and take a second look. This particularly effective titling technique can be summed up by Edgar Wright’s brilliant fake horror movie trailer from the movie Grindhouse: DON’T.
Perhaps there is something that you really shouldn’t do. Whatever you do, DON’T DO IT! You know you want to do it, now, don’t you? If I tell you NOT to read my book, you’re going to read it. Because you’re a REBEL!
- Don’t Read This! by Margaret Mahy. Does this mean the cover, or the book?
- Don’t Read This Book! By Jill Lewis. Much clearer, the book itself must not be read.
- Don’t Read This Book Whatever You Do! by Kalli Dakous. Control yourself! Don't read it!
- If You Like Strawberries, Don’t Read This Book by Diana Noonan. I'm guessing that either A) strawberries get treated very badly or B) there is something very disgusting about strawberries.
- This Book Is Full of Spiders: Seriously, Dude, Don’t Touch It by David Wong. The sequel to John Dies at the End* and yes, I succumbed to this title. There are spiders. From outer space. And they're in YOUR BRAINS.
Now, maybe you’re worried that potential readers might take the above advice too seriously and not read your book. Why not give them an ominous warning about what might happen if they don’t read your book?
- Don’t Stand Too Close To A Naked Man by Tim Allen. Don’t worry, Tim, I don’t intend to.
- Don’t Make A Black Woman Take Off Her Earrings by (Tyler Perry’s alter ego) Madea. I imagine that naked men standing around probably would likely cause Madea to take her earrings off and tell said men to put some clothes on, or else feel the wrath of her handbag!
- Don’t Hassle the Hoff by David Hasselhoff. Or else he'll make you watch this. Warning: what has been seen can never be unseen.
- Don’t Go To The Cosmetics Counter Without Me by Paula Begoun. Two words: rouge poisoning.
- Don’t Say I Didn’t Warn You: Kids, Carbs, and the Coming Hormonal Apocalypse by Anita Renfroe. The mere mention of a hormonal apocalypse is truly frightening.
- Don’t Get Eaten: The Dangers of Animals That Charge or Attack by Dave Smith. The lesser known dangerous animals that charge or attack include the honey badger, which just doesn't care, and the sloth, which attacks very, very slowly. So slowly, in fact, that you may not know you are actually under attack. UNTIL IT'S TOO LATE.
These warnings may be too specific. Perhaps you just want to instill a sense of general paranoia and fear in your reader.
- Don’t Get Too Comfortable by David Rakoff. OK, I’m not.
- Don’t Look Down by Suzanne Enoch and also by Jennifer Crusie and also by Tima Smith. Three separate people are warning me. I wonder what's down there...
- Don’t Turn Around by Michelle Gagnon. Why? Is there something behind me?
- Don’t Close Your Eyes by Lawrence Kelter and also by R.L. Stine. Again with the multiple warnings. Really, what’s going on?
- Don’t Blink by James Patterson. Stop it! You’re freaking me out!
- Don’t Scream by Wendy Corsi Staub and also by R.L. Stine and also by Joan Lowery Nixon. AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!
Alternatively, maybe there’s something that "you don’t know" or that sinister forces "don’t want you to know." And that thing you don’t know is probably very, very bad.
- What Men Don’t Want Women To Know: The Secrets, The Lies, The Unspoken Truth by Mike Smith. Or maybe that's just what he wants them to think...
- Family Secrets: What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You by John Bradshaw. Just ask Dr. Frankenstein (that's Frank-en-steen!) about this one.
- What You Don’t Know Can Kill You by Fran Arrick. Wonderfully vague. It could be just about anything: rogue asteroids, the Ebola virus, the Sumatran Rat-Monkey, homicidal Roombas, sloths...
- What You Don’t Know May Be Killing You! by Don Colbert. With! Exclamation! Point! For! Added! Urgency!
- The Roswell UFO Crash: What They Don’t Want You To Know by Kal K. Korff. For they, substitute your sinister organization of choice: the US Air Force, the CIA/NSA, S.H.I.E.L.D., the grey aliens, the Men in Black, the Smoking Man and Agent Krycek, the Observers, etc.
- The Great Bird Flu Hoax : The Truth They Don't Want You to Know About the "Next Big Pandemic" by Joseph Mercola. Who are they? Birds? I assume that’s who’s behind the bird flu hoax. Perhaps they just want to be left alone. Those birdwatchers are creeping them out.
- Natural Cures “They” Don’t Want You to Know About and Debt Cures “They” Don’t Want You to Know About and The Weight Loss Cure "They" Don't Want You to Know About by Kevin Trudeau. You really know “they” are out to get you now, because “they” even control punctuation marks.
And finally, here are a couple of titles that creatively employ DON’T to great effect.
- Don’t Bump the Glump! by Shel Silverstein. I don’t even know what a glump is! I must read this book in order to avoid colliding with one, which I can only assume would be disastrous.
- Your Body's Many Cries for Water : You Are Not Sick, You Are Thirsty! Don't Treat Thirst with Medications!: a preventive and self-education manual for those who prefer to adhere to the logic of the natural and the simple in medicine by F. Batmanghelidj. This 2 for 1 combo combines DON'T with "why read the book when you can just read the title" for maximum impact.
- I Don’t Want to Kill You by Dan Wells. And I really don’t want you to kill me either, Dan! I’ll read your book if that calms you down!
- How People Who Don’t Know They’re Dead Attach Themselves To Unsuspecting Bystanders and What To Do About It by Gary Leon Hill. I definitely don’t want to be an unsuspecting bystander with people who don’t know they’re dead static-clinged all over me. Likewise, if I’m dead, I want to know, so I don’t become a spectral remora.
In our final post on effective book titling techniques, we will look at several other methods including the Puntastic Title and the Anime/Manga Word Salad technique.
On the lookout for sloths and people who don't know they're dead,
* The film adaptation of John Dies at the End by Don Coscarelli, cult horror filmmaker extraordinaire (Phantasm, Bubba Ho-Tep) is in theatres now, but not anywhere in the KC area. THIS IS AN OUTRAGE!