Friday, 7 March 2008

Big Dummies' Guide to Singapore

Maybe I should write a book. It's said that everyone has at least one book in them, although after objective consideration of the slice of humanity I interact with, I lean towards the less ambitious observation by Seth Godin that everyone has at least one blog post in them.

This train of thought was triggered while in the library by a lady sat opposite lady reading one of those yellow and black How To books called "Baby Massage for Dummies". I remember the time when they were the "Big Dummies' Guide to xxx", but perhaps a marketing strategy which belittles your customer's knowledge has limits and the publishers toned it down a notch. The title re-arrangement also avoids the possessive and hence the need for an apostrophe which Lynne Truss made socially embarrassing, is mocked by typographers, has their mis-use cataloged and has a society for their protection.

At least "Big Dummies' Guide to ..." is clearer grammatically. "xxx for Dummies" leaves itself open to syntactically correct possibilities such as "Crash Testing for Dummies", "Standing Still for Dummies", "Modeling Clothes for Dummies". It looks like Wileys, the publisher, had the same thought as there is a "Breastfeeding for Dummies". While I mock the genre slightly, there are over 1,300 titles in the range including Kabbalah, Einstein, Parrots, Adoption, Prostate Cancer & Florida.

I saw the other day that is holding its annual poll for the oddest book title of the year. At #2 was "How to Write a How to Write Book", that is "Writing Dummies' Guides for Dummies"? Note, they do have Technical Writing, Writing Copy, Writing Children's books, Writing A Romance Novel and Screenwriting but there's clearly an opportunity for someone.

Now I suppose you are wondering what the full list of bad book title contenders were? Okay, here they are:

  • I Was Tortured By the Pygmy Love Queen
  • How to Write a How to Write Book
  • Are Women Human? And Other International Dialogues
  • Cheese Problems Solved
  • If You Want Closure in Your Relationship, Start With Your Legs
  • People who Mattered in Southend and Beyond: From King Canute to Dr Feelgood

Tough call.