Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Working titles

Last week, I was reading the issue of WritersWeekly when one of the letters to the editor caught my eye. In the letter, the author thanked Angela Hoy for her piece on the importance of watching out for trademark infringement in our work. The writer noted that she did research on her book’s title and discovered that another book out there already has her title. She therefore proceeded to change her book’s title, just to be on the safe side.

This reminded me of my own ongoing love/hate relationship with book titles.

Several years ago, I wrote a novel (unpublished) with the title Dead Ringer. The manuscript caught the interest of an acquisitions editor at a publishing company but, unfortunately, the editor didn’t do anything with that manuscript for 5 years. (There was no contract; she did express interest in it and wanted me to rework it before a contract was signed.) During this time, the popular bestselling novel with the same title by Lisa Scottoline came out. I was devastated because now I’d have a title problem if my own book came out. So I got to work finding a new title for my novel. Fortunately, I was able to come up with one, but I was still steaming because I liked the original title best. (And everyone tells me they like the original title of November’s Child best, too, but the new version of this novel, which will be published in the near future, must have a new title, so there’s not much I can do about that. At least the new version does have a “part” of the story called “November’s Child.”)

But it was no huge loss, really. That novel remains unpublished (never got the contract with that publisher after all) and so there’s no harm done, really. I’m not upset over this anymore and I look forward to fixing up that manuscript and submitting it when that time comes.

This still had me thinking about the whole title thing, though.

So the next thing I did was a little research on proposed titles I have for WIPs (works-in-progress). One title was already taken and the scary thing is that, when I read this book’s description, it sounded a lot like my WIP with the same title. (This book was published in 1989 and written by a psychologist.) I had never read this book. Never seen it. But here we were with a book eerily similar to mine. So I’ll have to not only change the title of my own WIP but also check out that book JUST to make sure mine is not the same as what he wrote. (Gosh, I hope not! But, I’m not a psychologist, so maybe my approach as a layman can benefit this work.)

With this in mind, I decided that maybe it was best to remove proposed titles I have on my web site, on the “Current Projects” page. No title is set in stone, and I just may change a book’s title when it’s time to submit it. So I removed all titles from that page on my site, saying only what the book was about. (I also removed the title from Martha’s book, which I am helping her out with. I never asked her if it was okay to share that title, anyway. I don’t know how she feels about that.)

While it’s true that two books can end up having the same title, I think it’s best if the author tries to have a title for their book that stands out. Something that can stay with the browsing customer. Something that is a little bit more different than the competing title. You can’t copyright a title, true. Just as you can’t copyright an idea. But I think it’s better to try to have a new and “fresh” title for your book all the same. After all, your book is different from that other book, and having a different title than its competitor is just one way to let readers know they won’t be reading the same thing in your book as the other book that has what used to be the same title.

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  • At 4:16 AM , Blogger Unknown said...

    I've seen some books with the same title, but there are usually years in between their publication dates. I, too, have been disappointed when I found the "perfect" title for a book only to find someone else beat me to it. But oh well, maybe it's a sign that there is a better title out there waiting for us.

  • At 6:17 PM , Blogger Dawn Wilson said...

    That's a good way of looking at it! :) Perhaps it is for the best. And thanks for sharing your opinion about this, Poppy. I have figured out how to fix my title problem so it's not the same as the other book. What a difference two words can make. :)

  • At 6:44 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I wish you had written this post before my book was published. Oh well, I really liked the title I chose anyway. Good post.
    Writer Chick

  • At 8:42 AM , Blogger Pamela Waterman said...

    Two other people have used the title of my book (still very much active) in the six years since mine came out. I could wish they had done research and chosen something else, but an online search intended to find the others still lists mine first - not a bad result.

  • At 9:33 AM , Blogger Dawn Wilson said...

    Thank you for commenting, Writer Chick. The important thing is that the author is happy with the title of their book, even if it is not the original title they wanted.

  • At 9:34 AM , Blogger Dawn Wilson said...

    Thanks for the comment, Pamela. It's kinda awkward when there's more than one other book with your title but I'm glad your book comes up first in search results. That is a good thing! :)


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