They say that doing business without advertising is like winking in the dark.  I recently discovered just how true that is while I was in the stacks.

It used to be when you were looking for a particular title, you turned down the aisle corresponding to the first letter of the author’s last name, cruised until you found where the author was located, and then simply looked for the title on the spine of the book.

Old Style

It now seems that the ONLY thing you are going to see on the spine of the book is the author’s name in great big letters!  You have to either squint to see the tiny letters at the bottom to make out the title – or pick up the book and flip it to the front to read it.

This is how you see it on the shelf.

The author’s name is on top and labels are pasted over the title.

You have to pull out the book to read the title.

Is this because:

(1) Author’s have bigger egos than they used to?

(2) It’s good marketing strategy?

It could be both, but I think it is probably Number Two.  Creativity without strategy is called “Art”. Creativity with strategy is called “Advertising”.  Advertising (or the lack thereof) is why so many talented artists starve and why so many “hacks” succeed.

Dale Brown is on top.

Dan Brown only went on top AFTER the success of his first book.

Danielle Steel is on top.

So is Anne Perry.

If our reaction to this advertising is a form of literary criticism – and it is – then my reaction is definitely atypical.  It would seem that most people seek out their reading material by either grabbing something recorded on the latest best-sellers’ list,  or looking for a particular author.

We have tons of Nora Roberts!

WHO – it turns out – is also publishing as

J.D. Robb

I prefer to browse and choose at random.  To me this is like going into a grocery store, heading toward the fruit section and selecting Red Delicious apples every time.  They’re good and lots of people like them, but why limit yourself to just them?  There are other varieties too – like Fujis, MacIntosh, Rome, Gala, and Granny Smith.

In fact, there were once more types of apples available than you can think of!  Now, however, in the name of efficiency, modern production has streamlined our choices for us. Too bad! A healthy environment for both us and the planet depends on diversity to thrive.  Obviously this is a topic for a different post.

Meanwhile, title placement is a mixed bag.

While scooting along reading the titles on the shelf, the next thing I noticed was the abundant number of “weird” titles.  This practice must be the result of market research too. Who picks up a bland sounding book?

Mysteries, usually referred to as “cozies,” I find to be the most creative.  Cozies are crime fiction where the violence is downplayed and there’s no profanity or sex.  Your Great Aunt Tilly can read them and sleep peacefully afterward with no disturbing dreams of bloodshed or sudden wanton desires.


‘Mater Biscuit  by Julie Cannon   [This is Book 2 of a series. The first book was Biscuit Eater. Need I say more?]

Rest in Pizza  by Chris Cavender      [Hold the anchovy, please!]

Knit, Purl, Die  by Anne Canadeo     [Black Sheep Knitters!]

Bagpipes, Brides, and Homicides  by Kaitlynn Dunnett     [A wedding fiasco in Moosetookalook, Maine. Seriously!]

The next genre with remarkable titles is Romance.  They’re not just any old romance though, these are reserved for “Strange” Romance.


Cowboy Daddy  by Carolyne Aarsen     [No, it’s not what you’re thinking. This is a “Christian” romance – which is an unusual sub-genre that approaches love with the naivete of an 11-year-old girl.]

Vampire Sheikh  by Nina Bruhns     [Another one of those COLD lovers, this time with a turban.]

Jailbait Zombie  by Mario Acevedo     [Oh, those rotten kids!  You just have to laugh.]

Gangsta Bitch  by Sonny F. Black     [Apparently there’s a market for this, but I don’t see it.]

The Dewey Decimal System of Love  by Josephine Carr     [The cover of the book says “If you like sex and books though perhaps not in that order.”  Now THIS one appeals to me because… I like research.]

Peel My Love Like An Onion  by Ana Castillo     [What’s cookin’, good lookin’?  Ha! Ha!]

Next we have a group of “Novels” (meaning Fiction=Not True) whose titles read AS IF they are about to impart knowledge on a variety of subjects.  They don’t.  It’s entertainment.   Because there’s so many, I’m inventing a new genre and calling it …


The Many Aspects of Mobile Home Living by Martin Clark     [I don’t suppose there are really all that many ways to look at it.]

The Pig Did It  by Joseph Caldwell     [Of course he did! Don’t get upset, this is about a REAL pig! They are surprisingly smart.]

47 Rules of Highly Effective Bank Robbers by Troy Clark     [Too many rules for me!]

Life Is Short, But Wide  by J. California Cooper     [I can attest to that!  BTW, do you think he was TOLD to use his first initial and spell out his middle name as a marketing tool?]

Wrong Information Is Being Given Out At Princeton by J.P. Donleavy    [We know this is fiction because Princeton graduates include: Eugene O’Neill, Thornton Wilder, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Booth Tarkington, Anthony Burgess, Toni Morrison, Jeffrey Eugenids, Seldon Edwards, Joyce Carol Oates, Ian Caldwell, Haruki Murakami, Jodi Picoult,  and Jennifer Weiner.  You can check out their books at CPL!]

Chairman Mao Would Not Be Amused by Howard Goldblatt     [Who is Howard Goldblatt and how would he know?]

The Midnight Plan of the Repo Man by W. Bruce Cameron    [If he openly chooses to use the name “Bruce”, then I wonder what the W. stands for?]

Seeing Calvin Coolidge In A Dream by John Derbyshire      [Wouldn’t that be a nightmare?]

 I’m not laughing.


Funny As A Dead Relative  by  Susan Rogers Cooper     [Not Funny.]

Does Cupid Do Takeout? by  Kathryn A. Coulter   [With two you get eggroll.]

The Cursing Mommy’s Book of Days  by  Ian Frazier     [OMG]

Murder, Suicide…Whatever by Gwen Free    [Apathy is funny?]

Not Now, But Now by M.F.K. Fisher     [When they told him to use this as a title he was probably too ashamed to use his real name. However, this IS what a boss usually says to you when they want you to get something done, so it might be a little funny.]


Yo!  Here are some titles that give you ZERO insight concerning the topic of the book.


Shampoo Planet by Douglas Coupland     [Lather, Rinse, Repeat.]

The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie     [The Lone Ranger found out what “Kemosabe” means!]

Fractal Paisleys by Paul DiFilippo     [Is this a math book or how to make quilts? Sorry, it can’t be either – it’s fiction!]

Neveryona by Samuel R. Delany     [Is it a place or a person?]

My Favorite?

Murder at the P.T.A. by  Laura Alden     [At last, one I can identify with!]

Zombie Haiku submissions now being accepted.


Born to read, forced to work.

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3 thoughts on “Winking in the Dark

    1. And that was only authors A through G! I’m sure there are many, many more located H-Z. Let us know what you find!

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