So, I am still making my way through a pile of self-help books (not really!), while actively procrastinating the completion of the final edits to my YA novel, The Rain Catcher. The more I learn about myself, the more I start to wonder if I need to make yet more changes to the novel… But enough about that. What I really wanted to talk about was the dilemma many face when purchasing books with “exposing” titles at brick-and-mortar stores.
Self help books often have embarrassing titles that spell out personal problems — think divorce, low libido, panic attacks, bankruptcy — and then you have to go up to the counter and hand those books to an actual person, who will glance down at the book and then know that YOU probably have that problem! It’s like buying condoms or pregnancy tests, which effectively tell the cashier, “Yes, I’m having sexual intercourse!” Or buying Milk of Magnesia — “Yes, I have constipation!!” Or romance novels with the heroine’s clothes half off on the cover — “Yes, I like to read risqué literature!”
Worse is considering where to put the book when you get home. You can’t leave Finding Your Perfect Alpha-Male or How to Be a Real Bitch on the coffee table for your 10-year-old nephew to see (or your mother). Placed on a bookshelf in a “public” room like the living room, there’s always the risk of your brother-in-law scoping out your copy of Explosive Diarrhea Explained, waving it in the air, and announcing in a really loud voice, “My grandmother has this, too!” My embarrassing books are discretely placed between similar-sized books so they’ll blend in. And I don’t clump them all together; I space them out, perhaps one per shelf. As soon as I’ve had enough of the books, I donate them to Good Will — the evidence is gone!
Perhaps self-help authors should think about this dilemma before picking out a title. Would it hurt sales to have something a little less explicit on the cover? I don’t know. Are you more likely to buy a book entitled, Kick that Cocaine Habit! or Dependency and You? Yes, I know… probably the first!