Book update No. 13 — possible new title

I just got a call from my editor. She said she woke up at 5am last night with an epiphany for a possible new title. (It’s nice to know that I’m not the only one who’s losing sleep over it.)

She suggested calling it:
Ballhawks: The Legacy, The Obsession, And The Insanity Surrounding the Baseball
The book, as it stands now, is tentatively titled “Five Ounces and 108 Stitches,” but we’ve been considering other titles such as “The Glory of the Baseball” or “The Actual Baseball Itself” or “Cork, Rubber, and Cowhide.” (A friend of mine jokingly suggested calling it “Absorb the Orb” or “The Sphere we Hold Dear” or “Bleed for the Seed” or “The Thrill of the Pill.”)
As you may already know, this book is going to cover all the historical and factual stuff about baseballs (including evidence of the juiced ball controversy dating back to the 1860s), as well as a ton of quirky/wacky/funny stories. There are going to be chapters called “Death by Baseball,” “Foul Ball Lore,” “Foul Balls in Pop Culture,” “Stunts,” and more. There’s going to be a ballhawk glossary at the end. There are going to be blurbs about famous fans and celebrity ballhawks. There’s also going to be a whole chapter about ballhawking controversies, and the final third of the book is going to be a massively new-and-improved “How to Snag” section. This book covers SO much stuff. It’s insane. And yeah, I’m still trying to find the right title for it.
Three months ago, I wrote this blog entry in which I tried to distance myself from the word “ballhawk.” As I mentioned back then, the word has negative connotations. But now I’m starting to think…why hide from it as if it’s a bad thing? Why not own it and reclaim it and show the world that being a “ballhawk” is something to be proud of? The ball is the object that’s at the center of the baseball universe. It’s a cultural and historical phenomenon. That’s why people are so crazy about studying them and collecting them — and why Todd McFarlane paid $3.005 million for one in 1999. This book is a celebration of the ball and (in part) the people who obsess over it. Would a “Ballhawks” title capture that in a positive way? Or would it be too specific and discourage people from reading it? I welcome everyone’s thoughts. Help me tweak the new “Ballhawks” subtitle so that it fully captures the scope of this book. Or feel free to suggest a whole new title. If there’s something on your mind, I want to hear it.
Finally, if you’d like me to email you when the book comes out in March 2011, let me know. I’ll add you to the growing list of people who have requested an official reminder.

32 Comments

Are editors known for marketing skills?

I think the title as she suggests narrows your audience and overall marketing opportunities. It seems to me that many more people will be interested in reading about the history of the baseball than about ballhawks.

Of course, you could still Ballhawks in the title, such as

Five Ounces and 108 Stitches: The History of America’s Most Enduring Celebrity, from Spalding to Ballhawks

Actually, I like just ending with “Celebrity,” but what do I know.

I really do not like that title. As soon as I saw it, I thought of your post that you referenced. And I understand what you mean by ‘reclaiming’ it but I agree that title would take away too much focus from the baseball. Like you said, the book is all about the baseball and that includes ballhawks and others that love them, but to me, that seems like only one part of the big picture. I really like the 5 ounces and 108 stitches title. I like the simplicity and how it is right to the point. I think that’s perfect and clever.

I bought my opening day tickets today! Yay baseball!!!

I agree that Ballhawks in the title – even in the the subtitle -is limiting. Fine to have ballhawks in the book, but not in the title. How about:

THE BASEBALL:
America’s Obsession With a 5 Ounce Sphere

or

America’s Love Affair With
THE BASEBALL

I agree with all comments. If it’s not specifically or exclusively about ballhawks, don’t call it “Ballhawks!” I wouldn’t buy a book about ballhawks, but I would buy a book about the history of the baseball. That sounds interesting and unique. Maybe a combo of the above: THE BASEBALL – AMERICA’S OBSESSION WITH 5 OUNCES AND 108 STITCHES.

how about: 5 OUNCES AND 108 STITCHES, the ballhawk’s National Pastime

EVERYONE-
Thanks for your thoughts. (Sigh.) I got all excited when my editor first suggested this new title, but based on what you’re all saying, it doesn’t seem like it’s the right way to go. But I’d still like to hear what more people think. It’s not too late to get in on the discussion.

FATHER PUCK-
Yep, makes sense, but I don’t think I want to push the “history” angle too much in the title. I think people will be turned off if they think they’re just gonna be reading a bunch of old stuff.

MARYPOLITAN–
It turns out that there are lots of baseball books with numbers in the titles, like pitching books called “Sixty Feet Six Inches” and stuff like that. So now I’m not even sure about “Five Ounces and 108 Stitches.” But I hear ya. Ballhawks are not the focus of the book, though ballhawking is a big theme.

BRADFORDBATBOY-
Thanks for weighing in on this. I like your suggestions for titles.

KAISERTHEGREAT-
I’m nodding as I’m re-reading your comment. Hard to argue with what you’re telling me.

MRESPOT-
Perhaps, although that might be a bit limiting, too, you know? Baseball is the national pastime to more people than just the ballhawks. Hmm…

I concur. I think the title should focus more on the ball and not so much on the hawking. Seems too limiting otherwise.

I hate to pile on, but………… not a fan of ‘Ballhawks’.

Zack,

Just putting my two cents in….I’m personally not a fan of the new title. Like others have stated, I feel it really narrows the book’s target audience. I like the Five Ounces and 108 Stitches title. It shows that the book is more about the ball and everything with it, not, as the revised title would be, centered around the Ballhawk with the ball being secondary.

Hey Zack,
Not a fan of “Ballhawks” in the title, but to focus on all the aspects that you’re examining, I would definitely pick up and read…….. “Legends Of The Ball: The Backstory, Obsession and Legacy Surrounding the Baseball “, obviously a play on Legends of the Fall, which conveniently for you, every October gets a headline published in some newspaper referring to that season’s WS champ (recurring press year after year!).

I think you could also pitch “UnBALLievable: How 5 Ounces Plus 108 Stitches Equals 1 Major League Obsession” or some other subtitle to go with UnBALLievable

I’m with everyone else, don’t like the suggestion of a Ballhawk title. The title should reflect the content, and it sounds like this book is so much more than that.

Maybe you can use that title or a variation of it for the description of the ballhawking/snagging section, and use something more encompassing for the book title.

By the way, check your email soon!!

P.S. any type of prize for the person who helps you come up with (or just came up with!) what ends up being the official title? Maybe a “Watch With Zack” Grand Prize or at least a shout out in the acknowledgments page? You might “inspire” the title out of someone. haha

Your authors title sounds AWESOME!!! It describes the book perfectly!

I don’t like the idea of having “ballhawk” in the title either. I think that to most people the word has a negative connotation. It could discourage some people from buying your book.
Sorry to sound harsh, but that’s my opinion.

-Garrett

VEGANTEMP-
Your concurrence is duly noted.

WRIGLEY REGULAR-
Piling on is welcome. The more people who say that the title sucks, the more it helps convince me that it’s NOT the way to go.

SOXSIDER26-
Thanks for letting me know what’s on your mind.

DANR-
I like “Legends of the Ball” and “UnBALLievable” but fear that those titles might be a bit too gimmicky. Not sure, but I’ll add your suggestion to the mix. I was thinking of awarding a prize. Not sure about doing a WWZ game because what it someone wins it who lives in Iceland? Do I have to then travel there? (Well, not Iceland, but you get the point.) I was thinking of perhaps sending two free/signed copies of the book to the winner of the title naming contest.

STEELCITY9999-
Email be checked. Supercool. I don’t have time to answer it right now, but my brain is processing it.

CHI CUBS-
You mean…my editor’s title? The one with “Ballhawks” in it?

GARRETT-
I like harshness as long as it’s honest. Thanks.

Zack,

I agree with the others, particularly fatherpuck — the suggested title narrows the focus of the book and it will likely turn off lots of people who dislike ballhawks.

I don’t like any of the other suggestions either. Too clunky, too cute, too gimmicky, too unclear, too off point.

The title should tell the people what the book is about. My mom loves baseball (long time season ticket holder), but I doubt she knows that a baseball weighs 5 oz. or has 108 stitches. Given only the title, she probably wouldn’t know what “that” book is about.

I don’t think the title should suggest any particular focus other than “the” focus. Don’t put any sub-title, sub-clause, sub-concept in there that will bring the focus away from “the” focus of the book. Ballhawk, history, obsession, stithes, cowhide, none of those terms tell the whole story, including them without including other sub-concepts does a disservice to the lofty goal of the book.

What are you writing this book about? The Baseball. In fact, if done correctly, this is going to be the definitive book about the baseball. And that is my suggestion:

The Baseball
by
Zack Hample

I would italicize the word “The” but otherwise keep it extremely simple, extremely clean, extremely classic. Timeless.

Those are my 24 cents.
– Todd
http://cookandsonbats.mlblogs.com

Yea, your editor’s title

TODD-
I’d looooooove “The Baseball by Zack Hample” but I’m not sure the publisher would go for it. I think the first part of the title might end up being “The Baseball,” in which case I’m pretty sure that they’d want to add a fancy subtitle to it…and I’d be okay with that. Subtitles can be very helpful when someone actually picks up the book in a store or goes to see it on Amazon. Those few words in the subtitle can convey A LOT of info, and it also helps with Google searches and what not. Anyway, thanks for those 24 cents.

CHICUBS-
Thanks for clarifying. Interesting…

If you are going to go with something along the lines of the original title, I would suggest it being “Five Ounces, 108 Stitches” with the only difference being the comma in place of the conjuction. Also, you could do something like:
Five Ounces, 108 Stitches,
The History of the Baseball
…but it’s just a suggestion.

John 3:21
Zane

I really think Bradford is right on target–

Five Ounces; 108 stitches:
America’s Love Affair With the Baseball

To me, that captures the essence of everything you want to convey and how YOU behave at the ballpark. The title conveys enthusiasm without being corny and would catch my attention in a book store. Moreover, can you get a celebrity to write a 2-3 page forward on the book with that title–on their own love affair–or does that cost way too much money?

At the grandest level, I could see someone like Billy Crystal wanting to write something like that! My only other advice here is don’t get Woody Allen to write it!

Zack whats up glad you liked reading my blog. Hopefully we can set up a day in Pgh, Cle or elsewhere to get to a game. I like the title Ballhawks:The Legacy, The Obsession, and the Insanity surrounding the Baseball most, definitely looking forward to reading it. It will probably be the most worn out copy after Im finished. Well good luck finishing up your book, I will stay in touch.

Definitely add me to that list if you don’t mind Zack. I’m looking forward to the book.

Unrelated to your book title but here is a cool story about a 7’8″ basketball player in West Virginia:

http://insider.espn.go.com/ncb/insider/news/story?id=4927812

Enjoy!

i like the cork rubber and cowhide. i could easily see that being the title of a good baseball book. if i was ever in the baseball section at a book stoe and saw that, id probably pick it up.

and maybe make a title that includes the history of fun facts, as well as modern day stuff. you said you didnt want to turn people off to read about old stuff, so such a title could be good. then, once you have the people captured and reading with the title and facts, they will ALSO be reading about ballhawks and how they arent bad people

I get the negative connonations of the word ballhawk, but im not sure if someone unfamilier with the word would automatically associate it with the negative. So for that reason i like the title Ballhawks: The Legacy, The Obsession, And The Insanity Surrounding the Baseball. I also like the title The Baseball as someone suggested. and you can send me an e-mail when the book comes out.

For my two cents, I’ll say this: if I were giving a title to a book on the history and quirks of the baseball itself and people’s “love affair” with it, I would go with “Five Ounces and 108 Stitches: The Definitive History of the Baseball.”

It’s classy enough that it’s not gimmicky (a la “Legends of the Ball”) and it’s punchy enough that it’s not bland (as in “The Baseball by Zack Hample” – sorry, but that just sounds like the title of a 5th grade report!).

It sticks to the topic at hand, which is, of course, the history of the baseball: how it’s made, what happens to it before game time, different styles of balls over the ages, etc. up through modern-day ballhawking and stories of fan/ball interactions. To any common sense person, that’s a history. And considering that you’re the first to write a book like this, it’s a DEFINITIVE history.

As for “Five Ounces and 108 Stitches”… well, that’s a title which would get my attention, which is what you want. The subtitle is for people who pick it up after seeing that part of the title, and want more info. “The Definitive History of the Baseball” tells the reader exactly what they’d be getting into.

I say keep it simple. But one thing I think everyone here has thus far agreed on: since this is not a book about ballhawks, don’t use that in your title!

I like “The Sphere We Hold Dear” the best. Also wouldn’t that other title be 6 ounces and 108 stitches? I’m pretty sure a baseball weighs 6 ounces, not 5. Please let me know if I’m wrong.
http://readbetweenthevines.mlblogs.com

ZANE-
Cool, thanks.

FATHER PUCK-
The thing about getting someone else to write a foreword is that it’s up to ME to find the person and pay for it, if necessary. Same thing with getting a quote for the cover. So I’m not sure how that’s all gonna play out. It’s really tough.

COUGAR914-
That’d be cool to meet up again somewhere this year. Glad to hear you’re looking forward to the book. Thanks, and yes, let’s definitely keep in touch.

AARON.SOMERS-
Will do.

BEACH71389-
Thanks! I love stuff like that.

GOISLANDERS4-
Thanks for your input, fine sir. Makes sense.

SMF7293-
Okay, I’ll email about the book, and thanks for letting me know that you like both titles.

DBACKS1985-
I like your idea for a title very much, and everything you said makes sense…except…this book has SOOOOOO much funny and wacky and controversial stuff in it…and I don’t think your title (classy as it is) coveys that. I mean…this book is going to make people’s jaws drop in some places, and it’s gonna make people crack up in others. And the rest of the time, I’m hoping that people will simply be entertained/fascinated.

READBETWEENTHEVINES-
The ball is *currently* supposed to weigh between 5 and 5.25 ounces, but there’ve been times throughout history when it was both accidentally and intentionally more/less.

i’ll read the other comments later. . .
For now– i hate the subtitle fad. Sick of it!
i like “Five Ounces and 108 Stitches”.

Booker says hi to your picture– he says you’re in a “Base-Tub”.

JGK363-
Yeah, I like short, crisp titles, too, but from a marketing perspective, I think that the subtitles can be very effective. Anyway, hello to the Bookmeister.

good work on the book keep it up check out my blog
http://everythingbaseball.mlblogs.com

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