Wednesday, April 18, 2012

5 Strangely Specific Self-Published Book Titles

The Guardian recently announced the recipient and finalists in the 2012 Diagram prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year. While the winner, Cooking with Poo, clearly won for its ability to provoke juvenile laughter, most of the other top contenders were humorous in a different way, namely, being specific to a level that seems almost absurd.

While I’m sure both Mr Andoh's Pennine Diary: Memoirs of a Japanese Chicken Sexer in 1935 Hebden Bridge and Estonian Sock Patterns All Around the World have audiences in the high dozens, the niche-ness of them is worthy of a couple of giggles and a headscratch.

When it comes to niche specificity, though, the Diagram prize has nothing on the self-publishing houses. In fact, if there’s one thing vanity presses are good for, it’s printing books that don’t have a large enough audience for traditional publishing.

Culled from the great bowels of online publishing catalogs, here’s a selection of ultra-specific titles aimed at the few rather than the many.

Action Karate Quilts  by Kathleen Azeez

A use for your family's old gi scraps, at long last.

Just like your grandma used to sew herself, before she became the sensei of the adult daycare dojo. Instructions are included for using generic head designs or transferring your own photographs of heads for custom versions, so commemorative Ralph Macchio quilt, here I come.

Nail Pullers (With Patent Reference) by Raymond P. Fredrich

For pulling nails, and not your leg.

Collectors are a special breed, so it’s not really surprising that someone collects nail pullers. More surprising might be Fredrich’s mania for the subject, noting that handcrafted nails are such a big deal, “You might even burn your house down and pick up nails in the ashes.” (Keep an eye out for Fredrich’s second book, Pyromania (With Legal Reference).

Federal Prison & Federal Prison Camp: A Beginner’s Guidebook for First Time Inmates by Steve Vincent
Includes pull-out maps and cafeteria ratings!

You buy a travel guide before you go to Martha’s Vineyard, so it stands to reason you would buy this one before you embark on an embezzlement scheme. Beginners, schmeginners, though: Is the advanced level guidebook out yet?

Shoe Exotica & Poems, Volume I by Patrick Sart

Shelve next to your foot-binding Haiku collection.

If you’re a shoe fetishist who likes stream-of-consciousness poetry, you’ve just hit the jackpot with this collection that features original drawings of bizarre shoes with even stranger poetry. (Although, if you are, I’m probably not telling you anything you don’t know. You probably have Sart on speed dial.)

How to Start Your Own African/African-American/Caribbean Products Store Online by The African-American Business Network

This could only be more specific if it were called How to Start Your Own African/African-American/Caribbean Products Store Online, Louise.

At last, a book that recognizes that the methods for marketing clay tagines and pigeon peas are vastly different from those used to sell bamboo steamers or Marmite. It’s just too bad that the three concepts were combined into one book, rather than exploring the inherent intricacies in three volumes.

Have you seen any weird self-published titles that are bizarre in their specificity? Do tell. 


  1. Karate is a bit passe. Tae Kwon Do seems to be the big suburban martial art for youngsters. Still a niche is a niche.

    Wall Street Journal had a front page piece on prison consultants for first time offenders. The target audience is white collar criminals going to the slammer.

    The military miniatures hobby has all sorts of detailed guides on painting the uniforms of soldiers from some pretty obscure wars. I have yet to see one on the Thailand Army units that fought the Vichy French in Indochina (a little side war) during World War 2, but I am sure it is coming.

  2. A beginner's guide to prison. I'm intrigued!


  3. There are (or were) companies that specialized in preparing inmates for their first prison stays. This book is obviously intended for the do-it-yourselfers the future-inmate population.

    If I were writing such a book, I'd call it Now We Are Six to Ten (With the Possibility of Time Off for Good Behavior).
    Detectives Beyond Borders
    "Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

    1. "Now We Are Six to Ten" may win comment of the year. Hi-larious.

  4. I'm stocking up now for those last minute gift considerations.

    Places I Remember
    Wrote By Rote
    An A to Z Co-host blog

  5. Until I read the quote about burning down your house and picking up the nails, I thought the nail-pullers were for fingernails. Really! I was looking at the cover photo and wincing, and thought, "Why would anyone need a device to do that? Why would anyone need to do that anyway, unless they were torturing someone? Is there a medical condition that requires the nails be pulled out? How awful!" And then I clued in and felt like a dummy, although not enough of a dummy to NEVER TELL ANYONE.

  6. I love that the Fed. prison book has cafeteria ratings, as if one had a choice where to dine.

    I have one in my stack called "He Wouldn't Drink the Hemlock: The Firing of Dr. Leisure," a book published by "Dr. Leisure" press detailing the true story how a professor (Dr. Leisure) was fired by his university for being the world's leading expert on "nude beaches." I'm saving it for summer reading.

  7. Action Karate Quilts? Haha. I have a quirky book collection. Two fo my favs are "Why is that Man's Nose So Big" and "Picking up Women in the 90's."

    Both classics.

  8. amazing post :)
    I really love it!!

  9. The karate quilt things reminds me of a group I once found cruising through the lists of groups on Yahoo. I forget exactly how it was worded, but it was for lesbian women who had a particular fetish for other lesbian women wearing white bobby socks. So my reaction was: 1) Really? 2) There's enough of them to have an entire GROUP?

    Next up, quilts for curling enthusiasts, and books on how to handle splinters acquired while pulling out hand-crafted nails from ancient buildings.

  10. I still insist that someone ought to prepare an executive-summary version of the prison-inmate book. You know, for today's executive who is too busy to keep with essential reading but does not want to be left out and make a bad impression in exercise-yard conversations.
    Detectives Beyond Borders
    "Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"