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How To Write a Best Selling Book-Profanity in the Title!

August 27, 2018

WARNING- The following essay has uncensored profanity! Do NOT continue if you are easily offended!

There are a lot of ways that an author can write a bestselling book.

A person can become a celebrity first and THEN write a book, such as Magnolia Table by Joanna Gaines and 12 Rules for Life by Jordan B. Peterson.

A writer can write a negative book about a current president (it doesn’t matter who the president is; a negative book automatically attracts readers who are mad that their side lost), such as Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff and A Higher Loyalty by James Comey.

A writer can coauthor a book with James Patterson, such as The President is Missing by Bill Clinton and JAMES PATTERSON!!!!!!!

An author can work as an editor/associate for a publishing company and then have that publishing company publicize the heck out of the author’s book (while calling it “the next Gone Girl), such as The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn.

All of these strategies are effective in some way.  To me, the most annoying strategy is putting profanity in the book title.  Right now two books in the top ten of the Bestselling Books of 2018 (so far) have profanity in their titles.  One is You are a Badass by Jen Sincero, and the other is The Subtle Art of not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson.

Some might say The Subtle Art of not Giving a F*ck isn’t truly profanity because the publishing company put an asterisk in the Fuck.  That’s lame because everybody knows F*ck means Fuck.

If anything , putting the asterisk in the title hurts the author’s credibility.  If the author truly didn’t give a fuck, then Fuck would be in the title instead of F*ck.  Maybe the publishing company wouldn’t print the book with Fuck in the title, and the author didn’t give a fuck what the publishing company did as long as the book got published.

It’s funny that an author who supposedly doesn’t give a fuck works with a publisher who does.  That’s how creative people sell books, I guess.  The creative guy(gender neutral) teams up with an uptight perfectionist.  Even in that scenario, the book is based on a lie.  If the publishing company gives a fuck, it shouldn’t put out a book called The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck.  This is just another example of why I don’t trust institutions.

The book You Are a Badass is also built on a lie.  To its credit, it doesn’t fake-hide the word ass, which admittedly isn’t as bad as fuck.  It’s not super brave to put ass in a title.  The word ass is usually an insult, but sometimes it can be a compliment.  If you call someone an ass, that’s an insult.  Asshole is an insult.  Jackass is an insult.  But badass is a compliment.

The flaw with a book titled You Are a Badass is that a true badass will read the title and say, “Yeah, I know,” and walk off.  Only somebody who’s not a badass will read the book.  Somebody who is NOT a badass will read the book to see what makes a badass.  A badass either know he/she is a badass or subtly doesn’t a give a fuck.

Most of the time, profanity in a book title is a shameless (maybe desperate) way to sell books.  SHI*T My Dad Says by Mark Halprin a few years ago was okay, but the sequel was boring without much of the dad.  Go the F*CK to Sleep by Adam Mansbach was an okay idea, but it really wasn’t better than most meme humor.   Tough SH*T by Kevin Smith was the worst because it was written by a celebrity.  Any celebrity who uses profanity in the title to sell books is beyond selfish.  If you’re a celebrity and you can’t sell books without putting profanity in the title, then you suck and shouldn’t publish books.

I even told Kevin Smith that at a book signing.  I said (in my monotone voice), “I think it was very selfish of you to put profanity in your title.  You should let that be reserved for struggling first-time authors who can barely get book deals.”

You know what Kevin Smith, the author of Tough Sh*t, said to me?

I bet you could never guess what the author of Tough Sh*t said in response.

He said, “Go fuck yourself!”

Then I said, “You should have said ‘Tough SH*T,’ you overrated hack!”

And as I was getting escorted by security out of the book store, I shouted “AND YOUR BATMAN COMICS SUCKED TOO!!!”


I’m kidding.  That never happened.  I’d never buy a book from a celebrity who put profanity in the book title.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’d love to write a bestselling book, but there are certain things I’m not willing to do to achieve my goal, and that includes putting profanity in my book title.


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  1. This bright orange turd of a cover really stood out in the pile of a dozen or so books lugged from car to car by a Mumbai traffic vendor in the damp and polluted air.

    • It reminds me of the cover of Catcher in the Rye when I was a kid, an ugly orange/brown with the title and that’s it. I guess the publishers hope readers will judge the book by its title and not the cover.

      Or they didn’t give a f*ck about the cover.

  2. Well, if they had not used the *, Amazon’s algorithms would refuse to list the title. It’s as simple as that. Amazon has once refused to publish one of my titles because the ASIN assigned by Amazon (!) included that “obscene” (Amazon’s word) letter combination. I still keep a screenshot of that!

    • Ha! That’s why I don’t trust algorithms either. To an algorithm, there’s a huge difference between f*ck and fuck. To a normal person, f*ck means fuck.

  3. I think there might be some laws about not putting the word “Fuck” and the like on public displays – like bookstore shelves and windows. If so, a publishing company might not have a choice in the matter either.

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