Worst Book Promotion Ever: “Don’t Buy The F***ing Book”
I don’t talk about the word “f***ing” very often. I’m a polite guy, and f***ing” is not a topic that comes up in polite conversations. Every once in a while though, “f***ing comes up in literary conversations. A few years ago, author Elizabeth Gilbert started a literary debate by declaring that writing was “f***ing great.” A couple weeks ago, Chrissie Hynde told people not to buy her “f***ing book.”
Perhaps some context is necessary. Chrissie Hynde, lead singer for The Pretenders, just wrote a memoir Reckless: My Life as a Pretender and said something controversial in her book that critics disagreed with. I’m not getting into what she wrote or whether or not I agree or disagree because that would be for a different blog post. At any rate, Hynde defended what she wrote in her memoir during an interview when she said:
“You know? I’d rather say, just don’t buy the f***ing book, then, if I’ve offended someone.”
Maybe it’s the kind of thing only a famous person could say. If I said in an interview “…just don’t buy the f***ing book,” a bunch of readers would say “Fine” and nobody would buy it. Maybe Hynde is engaging in reverse psychology. Or maybe she doesn’t give a f***.
I’m not outraged by what she said, but if I were in her position, I’d be thrilled that somebody had actually read my book and was making comments about what I’d written. As an amateur writer, I know it’s tough it is to get people to read your words, especially when they have to pay a few bucks. Maybe Hynde doesn’t understand how many authors would love to write something that gets critics fired up.
Even so, I appreciate her approach to book promotion: act agitated and say something controversial. I just don’t think it would work for most authors. It might not even work for her.
One thing I’m curious about, though: What did Chrissie Hynde mean when she used the phrase “f***ing book”? Is she insulting her own book? Maybe not, because “f***ing” is not always an insult. It depends on how “f***ing” is used.
When somebody uses the word “f***ing,” it’s usually obvious what they mean. Everybody knows what “f***ing” means as a verb. If you don’t know, I’m not telling you, (or drawing you a picture or sending any photographs).
“F***ing” as an adverb usually means “very” or “really.” If somebody comments on my blog saying “You’re f***ing stupid,” I know that “f***ing” means “very.”
It’s when “f***ing” is used as an adjective that its meaning can be somewhat murky. As an adjective, “f***ing” can be very good or very bad. For example, I was once told that I was a “f***ing genius” at work, but before I could develop a superiority complex, somebody else called me a “f***ing idiot” on my blog. “F***ing” can go both ways.
When Chrissie Hynde said not to buy her “f***ing book,” she might have meant “stupid book,” not because she thinks her book is stupid but because she thinks the issue her critics are focusing on is stupid. Or maybe she didn’t mean anything by it. Maybe she called it her “f***ing book” because it sounded better that way.
Add “f***ing” to anything, and it just sounds better. Who cares what it means?
I don’t know if this was the worst book promotion ever. Maybe this was better than no book promotion at all because people like me are talking about it. Maybe no book promotion at all is the worst book promotion. So when I write a book and don’t promote it, I’m actually doing a worse book promotion than Chrissie Hynde.
What do you think? Does “f***ing” have a real meaning? Or do people say it just because it sounds good? Would you buy a book from somebody who said “Just don’t buy the f***ing book”? Is it worse to have no book promotion than telling people not to buy your f***ing book?