Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Titles (already used ones)

Yes, another post on titles but with a slightly different focus.

Some people have wondered, and there have been a few answers on this, if they can use a title they think works for their novel but someone else already has used. Some people advise that when you come up with a title to double check to make sure it's not take.

But can books with the same title be published? Yep.

Titles, as far as I'm aware of, can't be copyrighted. Surprised? But it's true, much like ideas. A full franchise is a little different than just a title, however (wouldn't recommend going for Star Wars, for example). So, it's possible to use a title that someone else has already used because you never know if someone will have the same title. Some of the ones in the examples were published in the same year, sometimes in the same season.

There are many examples of different books by different authors with the same title. Here is a very small list.

"Book of the Dead" - (2007) Douglas Preston, (2007) Patricia Cornwell, (1991) Tanith Lee, (1990) Robert Richardson, (2004) Ashley McConnell
"The Moving Target" - (1949) Ross MacDonald, (1963) W.S. Merwin
"Fallen" - (2010) Lauren Kate, (2008) Erin McCarthy, (2008) Claire Delacroix, (2006) David Maine, (2001) Celeste Bradley, (2009) Laury Falter  [at one point I had a wip novel with this as the wip title]
"The Fallen" - (2006) Thomas E. Sniegoski, (2006) Paul Langen, (2008) Gwen Hayes, (2006) T. Jefferson Parker, (2010) Mark Terry, (2006) Joshua Dragon and Arthur Breur
"The Dragon Reborn" - (1991) Robert Jordan, (2002) Kathleen H. Nelson
"Hero" - (2009) Perry Moore, (2010) Mike Lupica, (2007) S.L. Rottman, (2009) Derwin Gray, [was the initial wip title for my adult mutant novel]
"Aftermath" - (reprint 2010) James Lane Allen, (reprint 2010) Hilaire Belloc, (2002) Peter Robinson, (1999) Charles Sheffield, (1997) Levar Burton, (2009) Scott Campbell, (2007) Brian Shawver
"Against All Odds" - (2009) Irene Hannon, (1991) Kay Thorpe, (2000) Barbara Riefe, (1988) Patricia Rosemoor, (2002) Tricia Pursell, (2000) Russel Keith, (2005) Jasmina M. Svenne
"Taken" - (2009) Anya Bast, (2007) Chris Jordan, (2008) Selena Kitt, (2008) Jet Mykles, (2006) Barbara Freethy, (2002) Thomas H. Cook, (2002) Kathleen George, (2010) Debra Lee, (2010) Chloe Stowe

And these don't include variations on the titles, and most don't include a secondary section to the title either. They have the exact same title.

There are a few things to consider if the title chosen has already been used.
1. When was the book published? Published in 1980 will be less of a problem compared to published in 2010. While this doesn't have to hinder the title, it's something to at least think about. But remember, if the book hasn't been picked up already, it's going to be a few years before it even gets published, so it may not be an issue then.
2. How popular was the novel? The more popular the book, probably the less likely that title should be used. Though that is not a guaranteed rule or anything.
3. Similar to popularity, what do people think of those novels? If you don't want the hype surrounding sparkly vampires and the perceived thoughts of the technical aspects in the writing, then Twilight might not be a good one to pick (aside from the popularity of the novel).
4. Is it in the same genre? For the not epically popular novels, just being in a different genre will mean there isn't a problem in using the title. The title "Against All Odds" was used for romance and suspense type books. They will be put in separate sections of a bookstore and the only issue will be for people who remember the title of a recommended book but not the author.

In the end, if the title works at this point for the novel then I'd so, go with it. If a publisher wants to change it due to others that currently have that title, then it might need to be changed. But can't predict what a publisher will say until the contract gets made and such. For those of us that aren't published, or even contracted, writers, it doesn't matter as much.

Your thoughts?
Ever have a title only to find out someone published a book with it already?


J. D. Brown said...

While it's true that if the book is a different genre, published many years before, and was unpopular, you can get away with having the same title, however, I wouldn't recommend trying it. Especially not for you debut novel.

As a rising author, you're trying to create an image and a brand for yourself and for your writing. You should want to make your debut novel 100% you own - title and all.

Agents and publishers WILL KNOW if there is an other novel out there with the same title as yours. In my opinion, it shows lack of imagination if you can't come up with something different. Not a good first impression on the agent/editor.

Personally, the only exception I would be willing to make is for a book that is part of a series (not including the first book) because the series as a whole will have it's own image/brand, so one of the books having the same title as an other published before it won't be a big deal because it's just one of a series (if that makes sense?)

Anyway, that's just my opinion. I always opt for the "different" and the "unique", wanting everything I make to scream "THIS IS JEN'S WORK!" :D

J. D. Brown said...

Also, I have WIP I was going to title SIREN but there is already a newly published book called SIREN. Doh! I read the blurb for it, it's completely different from my WIP, but I've decided to rename my WIP for reasons stated in my prior comment.

I'm not sure what to call it yet. I'm thinking something along the lines of SING maybe? The main characters are sirens, that's why I want something music-related. Any thoughts? :P

Dawn Embers said...

I still think it's important to do the research and know beforehand if there are other books that have the same titles. I just don't think that staying away from every single one will help. Some of the books with the same title are published at the same time. It happens. Original is great, but there are limits to what will be available. And if it works best with the novel then it is my opinion it doesn't need changed.

As for the sirens novel, I have no clue. I really suck at creating titles. They just tend to come up at random. Might be why I'm more reluctant to change cause each one has been really difficult for me to come up with and can't imagine having to do the hours of pining for a perfect title. lol Good luck finding one cause sirens could make for an interesting book.

L'Aussie said...

I've also read that you can use a title from a book, song, or even a line from either without any copyright probs. Maybe even getting an idea is helpful..:)

Francine said...


Great post.

I love it when authors' use something said [it's a "Gateway to Hell"] character thought ["Blink and Die"] object of desire [Obsession] or even an event [Last Light - Twilight - African Dawn]all taken from within the novel for the title - it adds so much more to the end project.

Other than Last Light and Twilight, I have no idea if the other listed titles exist. They're purely from my imagination. ;)

BTW: have you seen Tessa's Blogontest? It's about writing a piece out of your comfort zone. I chose YA, which is not my thing at all. ;) You catch the blogontest at Tessa's blurb or pick up the link from my blog.


Mia said...

I'm so unknowledgable. I really did sort of assume there was some kind of unspoken copyrighting law that meant it was a no-no.

Good to know that it's not!

Dawn Embers said...

L'Aussie - Getting an idea is helpful. I can't stand having unnamed books even if I know I will have to change the title later. One is better than none in my book. hehehe

F - Thanks for the comment. I did notice the blogontest. Haven't decided if I'll enter because I sort of decided most blogfest type entries would be using the Cinder Story novel, which is in my comfort zone. Also, I've already done the not in my comfort zone thing on many occasions, with the top two being mystery and horror. Both are either two long, or two graphic to post on the blog for it. But I'll keep thinking just in case I come up with something in time.

Mia - copy right can be confusing. I took a class on communication law, which does help a little.

Eric W. Trant said...



James Cameron ripped off The Airbender, bigtime. I got all stoked that Avatar was coming out, but then realized it was just another Cameron movie.


Then The Last Airbender came out and I thought: Why didn't they call it AVATAR!

Only it would be called (The
Real) Avatar

Such a gray area, right up there with naming your characters and other such suchiness...

- Eric

Dawn Embers said...

Eric - yeah, I noticed the avatar thing, though wasn't sure if there was mention of it when they decided to call the blue people one Avatar. I haven't seen the last airbender movie, only just the start of the tv show. Need to watch more. Naming characters is another ball park, but related, for sure.

Anonymous said...

GRRRR All the titles for a novel that i'm writing are already taken. Flight is. Rise is. Risen is. Everything! I'm trying to be creative in the title for my novel but it's proving to be very difficult.