Thursday, February 05, 2009

Potential Problem or Opportunity?

I received word from my publisher that a couple small bookstores are refusing to carry my upcoming book due to the title - "Overcoming Obstacles with SPUNK! The Keys to Leadership & Goal-Setting"

They do not want the book in their store because in England 'spunk' is a slang term with a sexual meaning.

My thoughts on this situation:

First, I am aware of the 'spunk' issue, although the only time I have heard it was someone commenting on my DeviantArt site, which is SpunkOnAStick. However, that is a slang term and not even an American one at that.

Second, who here in America is going to think that? (My husband says only dirty-minded English people.) Even if the book goes overseas, I doubt that will be the first thing that crosses someone's mind. Especially seeing the entire title! Besides, the British still call cigarettes 'fags' even though that is an American slang word for homosexual.

Third, the definition of 'spunk' according to Webster: PLUCK, COURAGE - spunky adj
(In other words, courageous, bold, determined - just as I intended it to mean.)

Finally, what to do about this situation! Do I just ignore these small protests? Or do I capitalize on the 'salacious & dirty' title of my book? Sad thing is, controversy sells, although I have gone out of my way to make sure none of my books, especially the YA fiction, are salacious or questionable. Since there really isn't anything objectionable, would it be wrong to play along for the sake of added exposure? Or would the extra attention make more stores think twice about ordering? Certainly none of the contributors or reviewers have protested! Obviously Quality Books didn't mind the title either.

What would you do?


  1. It's also completely ridiculous. I'm English, and the use of Spunk is as it is in America, unless you are twelve years old, a student or having a few beers with your mates.
    Frankly i'm far more disturbed by the casual use of the term "fanny" in the states.

  2. Thank you! I knew it couldn't be everybody - I'd only heard it twice before, and then it was in reference to my nickname, SpunkOnAStick.
    I will consider the English people spoken for then!

  3. How absurd is that? I'd think it was funny were it now for the negative effect it has on you. What to do? I wouldn't worry - who needs those silly bookstores, anyway?

  4. I'd ignore it.

    Btw I finally got to your book. I started it this morning on the train to work.

  5. Good grief...don't these people have better things to pick apart. I'm sure you book will be a best seller.


  6. I have no idea what Spunk means in England, so I can't say how vulgar it is. But as far as I know, it's not a "dirty" word here in the states. So, I'd keep it for here. If it's sold over there, you could consider changing the title. If it's going to be carried over there, you or your publisher might consider polling some of the bookstores to get their responses beforehand. Are these two bookstores in England? Or in the US?

    Helen Ginger

  7. I know one bookstore was an independent in Georgia...

  8. I think you should do what feels right to you. It's a term I avoid because I heard it a lot in England and not from 12 year olds (at least chronologically), but it's not the definition your targeted audience is probably familiar with.

    Jane Kennedy Sutton

  9. People find the strangest things to protest. Really.

    I knew the alternate meaning the first time I heard the title but I didn't really think twice about it. Thank goodness i'm not twelve anymore. lol

  10. Are you serious? That is absurd and quite silly really! I LOVE the word spunk.

    (Does that mean your site title is considered offensive? lol!)

  11. There are many more book stores out there. If you like it, it's your "brand," keep it.


  12. Oh, really? And I suppose they don't have any titles with "Sex" in them? Still, it is their right, I suppose. You get to say it the way you want to, they get to listen (or stock) as the case may be, or not.

    From a marketing standpoint, this controversey could work in your favor. You're a great marketer so I doubt you'd need it, but if you'd like to consult on how to turn this into free publicity, publicity in your favor, let me know.

    Carolyn Howard-Johnson
    Consulting on all things publishing

  13. PS: This issue isn't whether people know its other meaning--the issue here is censorship, intolerance, bookshops that should be open to giving their clientele information on all issues, censoring for their their customers--probably without their permission.


  14. Absolutely absurd!

    I agree with Carolyn's thoughts about focusing on the censorship issue. A win-win for all--for you b/c of the added publicity; for others because censorship is an issue that is critical to upholding one of our country's core values: freedom of speech.

    Of course, wimp that I am, I'd probably do nothing. Surely it's only a couple of independent bookstores that are reacting this way.

  15. I've been busy doing book reports on books with catchy titles. But I never really had a "bad impression" of the books not unless I've finished reading everything. I don't judge a book based on the title. Content is a lot more important. If those bookstores chose not to accept your book, then do not push it. Just ignore it. There are a lot of bookstores that are more accommodating.