Straight Up

Straight UpI’ve been crashing on the page proofs of my new book, Straight Up:  America’s Fiercest Climate Blogger Takes on [the] Status Quo Media, Politicians, and Clean Energy Solutions.  That and three speaking engagements are why I haven’t been blogging quite as much as usual over the past week.

And yes, I just noticed there’s no “the” before “Status Quo Media.”  Does that seem right to you?

Plus I’d love any suggestions for marketing the book, which will come out sometime in early April.  Book cover ideas are welcome, too — the image at the right is what you currently see at Island Press (where you can go to see a book blurb, if you don’t know that it’s a collection of the best 1% or so of my blog posts).

Now, about that title contest I held last year with its more than 200 entries (see “Contest: Come up with a title for my book“).

Many of you were the inspiration for picking a title that focused on the bluntness of the blog.  As I wrote in October:

I do think this collection of blog posts accomplishes what I try to do on my blog “” save readers time, cut through the crap and focus on what’s important in climate science, solution, and politics (with a hefty dose of old-media critiques).

As an aside, we decided to make old-media critiques a somewhat bigger focus of the book — new media vs. old media.

There was no contest outright winner, but Hugh McClean is going to get the free book (woo-hoo) for offering these two:

“Joe Romm’s Straight Goods on Climate Change”
“Joe Romm’s Straight Talk on Climate Change”

My wife also gets a lot of credit for urging suggestions along these lines.   We finally settled on “Straight Up,” in part because of the doubling meaning — emissions are going straight up, too.

I try to put at least one figure of speech in my book titles, and puns are a figure — paronomasia!  And, of course, I’ve always wanted to name a book after a Paula Abdul song!  [Note to anti-science crowd — that last line is a joke.  Mostly.]

Titles are only one driver of many for book sales — but then again my best-selling book of all time probably had my catchiest title, The Hype About Hydrogen.  Still, it sold only about 10,000 copies — No Eat, Love, Pray or Hot, Flat, and Crowded here — so I’d consider anything above that a big success.

The subtitle comes from the label Rolling Stone came up with when it put me on its list of 100 Agents of Change — “America’s fiercest climate-change activist-blogger.”

Anyway, I can always use good suggestions for marketing.  If you’d prefer to keep your ideas private — and, frankly, good ideas for marketing books are very precious commodities — email me here.

Straight Up.

36 Responses to Straight Up

  1. Andy Bauer says:

    Add ‘the’. As in The Media, or The Mainstream Media. Looking forward to it.

  2. espiritwater says:

    Joe, the first thought that came to my mind when you asked for ideas about the cover of your book, was this: (Don’t know if its a good idea, or not; it just popped in my head)– A picture of you, with your arms crossed and looking defiant.

  3. espiritwater says:

    With the Arctic melting in the background, the polar bears in distress and the permafrost emitting methane gas.

  4. greg says:

    I am late to the book discussion here, so this comment may be useless (and may even be useless on its merit alone), but I wanted to share a thought about the title. The phrase “Takes on” implies a fight against some person, or establishment, and this meaning is reinforced when followed by “Status Quo Media” and “Politicians.” Therefore, the title leaves me feeling as if you are implying that you are “Taking on” or fighting against “Clean Energy Solutions.”

    [JR: Thanks. Yes, that’s been noticed. But “Takes on” also has a double meaning, so Island is ok with it, as am I.]

  5. John says:

    I reckon it’s probably better without the “the”in the title. Saying “the status quo media, politicians, etc…” sets yourself up against something a bit more totalizing and rigidified, whereas without the “the” in there it feels like what your up against isn’t quite as fixed (ie it’s just some loud and crazy nutters), and implies a greater opening for change? Plus, adding that definite article is an easy way to set up a straw man argument, by which people might knee-jerk react against when their (albeit ridiculous) arguments might be classed under a homogenized norm alongside something else they might not agree with.

    Just my two cents. Plus, I’ve never got the chance to rant about the world “the” before. Good luck!

  6. espiritwater says:

    I agree with John (above). Better without it.

  7. mike roddy says:

    Book marketing is a mystery to me. Hell and High Water is a far better book than Friedman’s, so maybe it is in the title.

    I like your no prisoners style, but have noticed that you also have a good sense of humor- especially in some of your posts about the likes of Tierney and Will. Think about incorporating it into both your title and the text (if it’s not too late). People are stressed over climate change, and it’s a rich field for humor.

    It worked for me. My recent little piece got reprinted on over 40 internet magazines and websites, mostly because people got some laughs out of the deal.

  8. joe1347 says:

    How about some sort of photoshopped ‘group photo’ that includes all of your adversaries – in not too favorable a light for the cover? For example, the anti-global warming gang doesn’t seem to like polar bears. So how about a picture of the anti global warming ‘gang’ sharing a sinking ice flow with a few hungry looking polar bears.

  9. espiritwater says:

    Straight up: America’s fiercest climate blogger takes on the Establishmment– status quo media, politicians, and energy

  10. James says:

    I think you should include ‘the’ in the title. Otherwise my mind shifts to an image of Joe taking on a British rock band. (Yes I know that there are words after ‘Status Quo’ in the title but people tend to focus on the start of a book’s title)

  11. Tony H says:

    A good image for the cover would be you with arms crossed as suggested above, in front of, or imposed over Mann’s hockey stick chart giving an immediate connection with climate change in the prospective readers mind before they read the subtitle; a demonstration also linking the main name ‘Straight Up’ with the increasing temperatures as well as emissions.

  12. Lore says:

    Although releasing your book with the use of a traditional publisher may seem like the respectable and traditional way to publish. I believe “America’s Fiercest Climate Blogger” has enough clout to self publish. The book market is undergoing a drastic change. Even the big-box book stores are feeling the pinch.

    With the greater acceptance and popularity of electronic book readers and a considerable amount of people now ordering both electronic downloadable, or books in print from online sources, I would concentrate my future efforts in marketing and online book promotion just through Amazon. You’ll be able to publish more, get the message out faster and reap bigger benefits.

    My advice is to go immediately to Amazon and order Aaron Shepard’s book “Aiming at Amazon.” Probably the single best guide out there on self publishing. At the very least it will open your eyes to what you may be missing.

  13. Lore says:

    Oh;… almost forgot my suggestion for the cover for Straight Up: America’s Fiercest Climate Blogger Takes on [the] Status Quo Media, Politicians, and Clean Energy Solutions.

    I think everyone has had it with pictures of polar bears and shrinking glaciers. How about something a little out of the box, a bottle of bourbon with a glass half full, no rocks of course, and etched in the title “Straight Up”. A background to pull it into the subject and a byline that mentions “sober” talk and “living (drinking) responsibly”.

  14. Gary says:

    Good Day……
    Enjoy your political (editorial) cartoon postings. We subscribe to
    “Funny Times” and February’s edition front page by cartoonist Joel Pett
    “What if it’s a big hoax and we create a better world for nothing?”
    is terrific! Deserves maybe a posting and there might be a title
    in the message there. Take a look….Hats off to the planet’s best blog.

  15. espiritwater says:

    I agree with Tony, #11, and was just about to post that: the graph in Al Gore’s movie of the temperatures going off the paper, along with your photo (arms crossed, etc.)

  16. espiritwater says:

    As for the title, I agree with what someone else said about it sounds like you’re against clean energy. The title isn’t very clear. I think it needs more punch, also. They are not just “status quo”. They’re purposely deceptive, corrupt and evil.

  17. zach says:

    i would leave the “the” out of the title

  18. Nathan says:

    Im a huge fan Joe, and I’m here every day, but I think your book title is not great. This would not make me grab it off the shelf. What seems to work better is something simple and inspiring. In my opinion your current title seems complicated and slightly depressing this is not what the majority of people want to feel when they think of the climate problem. I think you will have much better success with something Simple and Inspiring.

    [JR: You are conflating the title (somewhat important to sales, though probably not much with my kind of books) with the subtitle (could not possibly be less important). The title is simple. And I hope inspiring in its way.

    Not even my mother, who has edited multiple drafts of every book I ever wrote, could tell you even a few words in the subtitle of any of my books. There are a million books in this space now, so you must have an off-beat title and a unique angle.

    It’s a good title for me because I can repeat it during the interview easy and it’s memorable. The best-selling book/movie in this space is probably “An Inconvenient Truth” — talk about an awkward title!]

  19. espiritwater says:

    “Straight up: America’s Fiercest Blogger takes on Anti-Science Sink holes” (Ha! ha! Just kidding)

  20. espiritwater says:

    …oops! I meant,

    “Straight up: America’s Fiercest Climate Blogger takes on Anti-Science Sink holes”

  21. Groo says:

    Book cover idea:

    ‘angry elephant’ as in

    needs some photoshopping though

  22. A very good title.

    Without the ‘the’ the subtitle kind of implies that the clean energy solutions are status quo, which is not what you mean, I think.

  23. Geoff Henderson says:

    Joe it is the IMAGE on the cover that gets first bite of the observer, then they read the title. Get a good image. An image of Rome burning whilst Nero fiddles is perhaps an analogous example. Adapted of course to our propensity to ignore climate issues and “business as usual” policy.

    Whatever the book is titled, I look forward to reading it. Best of luck.

  24. Dean G. says:

    Glad the book is close to coming out.

    “Straight up” is pretty good, although it trails associations of Paula Abdul. How about —

    Straight Up and Hot:
    “America’s fiercest climate blogger” takes on the status quo media and shows us the real way out of Hell and High Water

  25. David B. Benson says:

    Standard editing ditty:

    When in doubt, strike it out.

  26. Wit's End says:

    “Straight Up” will get noticed. The connection with an undiluted drink is inevitable, but must be done without the negative connotations of alcohol.

    How about “Straight Up – The Undiluted Facts of Climate Change Science and Politics from an expert, Joe Romm.”

    And a photograph of you looking stern, with a background of some sort of iconic photo – a graph of rising temps or a crashing ice shelf into the sea.

  27. PurpleOzone says:

    No “the”.

    I thought of the temperature curve, in red. Or a fevery earth with a rising thermometer stuck in its mouth (like a Frank and Ernie cartoon).

    No polar bears, it’s been overdone. Most people don’t know a polar bear. I wouldn’t miss them if they vanished — it’s the rest of the world that I worry about, including my descendants.

  28. Jim O'Rourke says:

    How about: Deniers Fiddle while Romm burns!

  29. RyanT says:

    I kinda like the idea of a hockey-stick-like rise somewhere in the background, but I wonder whether it’d look too dramatic with a fevered Earth teetering at the top. Something like this that shows some variation in color (this one’s based on the AR4 A1B scenario, not exactly “business as usual”):

  30. K. Nockels says:

    How about the Doomsday Clock or a Climate version of same with the hands set at two minutes to midnight for the cover. Seems very appropriate to me.

  31. Chris Winter says:

    espiritwater wrote: “Joe, the first thought that came to my mind when you asked for ideas about the cover of your book, was this: (Don’t know if its a good idea, or not; it just popped in my head) — A picture of you, with your arms crossed and looking defiant.”

    Hey, it worked for Peter Norton for a number of years… ;)

  32. Chris Winter says:

    I don’t know the publishing world, but FWIW this title and subtitle work for me:

    CLIMATE STRAIGHT UP: America’s Fiercest Climate Blogger Takes On the Status Quo Media, Politicians, and Old-energy Barons

    Also, if you’re considering a photo montage for the cover, I think a combination of some rising temperature graph such as we’ve seen on the blog lately plus some scene from the Netherlands: Perhaps the floating houses at Maasbommel that Elizabeth Kolbert wrote about in Field Notes from a Catastrophe (which I’ve just read) — or perhaps a photo of the Maeslant Barrier, two giant floodgates which are supposed to protect Rotterdam.

  33. Mark Shapiro says:


    Good! my comments:

    1 — With the forceful title “Straight Up”, you’ll have to be prepared for a thousand inane variations of “but hasn’t it been cooling since 1998?”

    2 — Leaving out the extra “the” makes your subtitle shorter, stronger, and punchier, and makes the construction more cleanly parallel.

    Now let’s put some wind in the book’s sales.

  34. Jay Alt says:

    The straight talk / honesty theme is very good, just what ‘the doctor’ ordered. The title is improved by leaving [the] out of it. The subtitle is a bit confusing but as you say, barely noticed.

    But here’s something else. I rarely puzzle over your post titles or the allusions used, but this time I simply didn’t get it. Straight Up has many meanings. I know the phrase but I don’t hear it used that way often now. The slang aspect (needed to catch meaning) was hidden by the length and seriousness of the subtitle. Maybe it’s just me but the publisher might want to test that out with an unfamiliar audience. Cover art could help clarify it. Or the theme could be reinforced/clarified on the dust jacket with the endorsement quotes on the back or the notes inside.

  35. Richard Brenne says:

    Joe, some suggestions:

    “image not found” – could be improved, as could current graphics

    “Straight Up: The Paula Abdul Story” – probably not what you want

    “Straight Up: America’s Fiercest Climate Blogger Takes On Status Quo and the English Rock Band Is As Confused as Paula Abdul and Joe’s Mother, Who Doesn’t Read These Subtitles Anyway and By the Way, Mrs. Romm, You Wrote the Best of All the Woodstock Retrospectives I Read” –

    Regarding #22 – What does Bill McKibben know about books?

    Okay, I’m done kidding (and actually it turns out Bill knows a lot).

    I also had a problem with your “taking on” “clean energy solutions.”

    From many different ideas above (kudos to Chris #32, etc):

    “STRAIGHT UP: America’s Fiercest Climate and Clean Energy Blogger Takes On The Status Quo Corporate Media, Spineless Politicians, Old-Energy Oligarchs, Myths and Deceit – in roughly that order”

    With this example you’re stating what you stand for in your title, mentioning the power of corporations in the media and by inference elsewhere, calling out spineless politicians (right and left), illumining how old energy oligarchs and their many minions use myths and deceit, adding some humor at the end (although “in roughly that order” can easily be removed) and creating a salad shooter, doggy treat and breathmint in one (sorry I got carried away).

    Or, keep “image not found” if you want. . . :-}

  36. Larry Gilman says:

    “Media” is plural so it works either way. And if works either way, go parsimonious. No “the.”

    Godspeed to your book!