July 31, 2009

How Not to Look Like a Copycat.

When I first started writing my "How Not to Look Fat" column in the New York Post in the early autumn of 2004, my editor, Faye Penn, and I picked the name of the column because it's straightforward and kind of funny. When I sold my book to HarperCollins in 2005, we kept the name -- partly because we could do so without copyright problems, since HarperCollins and the New York Post are both owned by News Corporation, but also, because it was really unique as far as book titles go.

In May 2006, when my book was published, it was the only book on Amazon that had the words "How Not to Look..." in the title.

So when Charla Krupp, a former editor at InStyle magazine and currently a contributor at People Stylewatch, who I'd previously encountered in an interview for a story I'd written for the New York Post, titled her 2008 book "How Not to Look Old," I was a little miffed. But whatever, her book is amazing, Charla is a really bright woman, someone I really respected in the industry, someone who I really looked up to and whose career I'd really admired. Her book is gorgeous and it did phenomenally well.

Anyway, I was just on Amazon.com and saw that Charla Krupp has another book coming out in March, 2010. Guess what it's called? "How Not to Look Fat Ever Again."

A quick look at the cover shows that she's printed "How Not to Look Fat" in black and "Ever Again" in white:

Really? Are you serious? I'm kind of thinking this is not cool. I don't even think it's fair. I mean, obviously, we work in the same industry -- and, obviously, she was an editor and is far more senior in the New York fashion/beauty writing business than I am. I've only been working for five years, sure, I get it. The bigger guy always trumps the little guy (steals his lunch money or something).

I know there's no way she's unaware of my book. Before an author picks a book title, and in the proposal process, one of the most important things he/she does and his/her agent has to do is compile a comprehensive list of comparable/competing titles.

I feel like David to her Goliath -- really helpless and not sure if I'm going to get in trouble for speaking up, but I'm seriously confused and dismayed. How can someone do this with clear conscience? I'd be embarrassed to take someone's title like that -- can you imagine if someone tried to publish a how-to-dress book called "What Not to Wear Ever Again" or a makeup book called "Making Faces Forever"? How embarrassing.

Sometimes I forget that there's no honor code in the real world. There's no legal recourse because in the USA you can't trademark titles. It's frustrating when it seems that when someone achieves a modicum of success, it means they can get away with professional disregard for other people. But I'm not calling her unprofessional, because, well, I guess tacking on "Ever Again" to someone else's book title is allowed in publishing.

I guess I'm just calling her a jerk.

And really impolite.

Anyway, I'm proud to have written the FIRST "How Not to Look Fat," even if Charla's book does end up selling more when it comes out in 2010. "How Not to Look Fat" was the first book with the title, my first book. It was a trade paperback, I had the most amazing experience working with editor Kathryn Huck and all the great people at HarperCollins, and I can keep my chin up because I didn't steal my book title from anybody.