Amber Skye Forbes

Writing Words With the Tips of My Toes

The Madness of Unique Novel Titles

StarsEarlier I was discussing with a writer friend of mine the importance of having an original title for a book. Yesterday, I found a soon-to-be-published novel with the exact same title as her unpublished draft. I mentioned that she should change the title just because it looks plain bad for your book to have the same title as another book. It took a bit of persuasion, but I think I got her to see her book from more of a marketing perspective and less from a writing perspective. Self-publishing authors really need to be business-minded people, and while titles are there to give your work a name, they also exist for the purposes of marketing.

While titles are not copyrightable, they should be unique enough that they can stand out in a search and not drown in a sea of other similarly-titled novels.

I suppose it’s fine to have the same title as another book, so long as the main content differs, but don’t you want to stand out? I sure as heck do, which is why it took me five title drafts to come up with When Stars Die.

 

  1. When a reader mentions the title of your book to someone, you don’t want that someone to think of a different book with the same title. You want that person to think of your book.
  2. You want it to be easier to find your book in a search engine. For example, if you have the same title as someone else and that someone else happens to be doing better than you in terms of sales and searchability, you might not even show up in a search at all. Or, if you do, you won’t be on the front page. This is important because word of mouth is important. If a potential consumer doesn’t remember your name but the title of your book, you can still be found, assuming your title is original. Said consumer also won’t be confused by going on to Amazon and finding other books of the same title but having no idea which one is yours because said consumer can’t remember your name.
  3. Readers do like to look up reviews. If you have the same title as someone else, finding reviews for your book is going to be that much harder, especially if your book doesn’t have as many reviews compared to the other book of the same title.
  4. You don’t want people to think you’re unoriginal, especially editors. You want your title to be fresh, new, and exciting. Having the same title as another book kills that experience and just looks unprofessional anyway.
  5. Creating your own title is a lot more satisfying than recycling one that’s already been used.
  6. Ultimately, it is about marketing. If you’re going the traditional route, editors might change your title anyway, so you might as well come up with an original one editors are less inclined to change. The same should hold true for self-publishing. Ask yourself if you think an editor is likely to change a title. If yes, change it. Editors might not be marketers, but they still have experience in the field, and they will change the title of your book if you have the same title as someone else.

 

Ultimately, your title needs to be a perfect fit for your story.

 

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11 comments on “The Madness of Unique Novel Titles

  1. karmicangel
    June 16, 2013

    Many good points here… I was thinking about this just this morning when I woke up with a new idea for a book about Sappho. The first thing I did was go to Amazon and look for fiction books about the lovely poet, and discovered to my astonishment only a few. The most popular is called Sappho’s Leap. I have grabbed it for my Kindle, but I have to say, that is not a very compelling title (sorry to author Erica Jong).

    • amberskyef
      June 16, 2013

      I agree with you. Sappho’s Leap isn’t too compelling. I like for my titles to be somewhat literary in nature, in the vein of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars.

  2. katemsparkes
    June 16, 2013

    Unique titles are good, as long as they’re easy to remember. I read a blog post not long ago featuring two books with interesting titles… but if someone gave me a verbal recommendation for either, I’d never remember them to be able to look them up. Even after reading a blog post ABOUT the titles, I still can’t remember them. I think “When Stars Die” has a good balance; unique, but easy to remember, with fairly obvious meaning that helps imprint it on a reader’s mind.

    I hate having to talk about a book when all I can remember is “Something Dog in the Nighttime Case thing” or “Something about a Girl who Circumnavigated something with fairies.” I could still easily find those books just knowing those few key words, but I don’t like having to do that. 🙂

    The books I’m working on have one-word titles for now, and not words that no one has used before. I’d be open to changing them if something absolutely perfect came along, but it took me years to come up with anything that was a perfect fit for my story (and the titles are absolutely perfect). I’ll decide later whether complicating matters and sacrificing simplicity are a price I’m willing to pay to have something different. 🙂

    • amberskyef
      June 16, 2013

      I like simplicity as well. Long titles are mind numbing, in my opinion. But simplicity can be done I tandem with originality.

      Titles are just very difficult to come up with regardless, especially trying to create short, snappy titles that don’t echo a book similarly titled.

  3. sknicholls
    June 16, 2013

    This is a thought provoking post for an author. I had no problems with Red Clay and Roses. It was a given from the read, two consistent themes. I even looked it up on Amazon and found only one other book with the words Red Clay in the title. I still like it, but getting the wordpress name for a blog didn’t work out so well. When I signed on, the address for redclayandroses was already taken and I thought, “Crap!” When I googled it the words’ “Red Clay and Roses’s blog” came up. (I had not googled Red Clay and Roses). I used redclayandroses1 instead and found that I could make the name of my blog Red Clay and Roses, but that didn’t seem right either. I plan to write more books. I needed something more generic. My husband accidentally came up with the name for my blog and it stuck. It was a joke that he played on me while I was reading articles on branding. I was thinking of titling my next book Southern Exposure, as it is an autobiography and is so very fitting…there are tons of books by that title, and many with subtitles, so I thought about Southern Exposure: From New York to Nudism…I am still working on it …I would appear on the same page as many others with Southern something in the title in some searches. I thought it would be unique, but I think I still need to work on it…agreed?

    • amberskyef
      June 16, 2013

      I certainly agree in this case. It’s my opinion that you want your novel title to stand on its own and not compete with other similarly-worded titles. By the way, I very much like the title ‘Red Clay and Roses.’ It’s very grabby and demands to be read!

  4. mrschmoe
    June 16, 2013

    The hardest part is creating a unique novel title. I think I stink at the novel title department

    A novel title should grab you by the shirt. Almost dragging you to the computer screen. while saying, hey check this out. or in rare times clobber you, when you’re teetering to edge of consciousness it will caress and direct you the title of someone’s novel.

    • amberskyef
      June 16, 2013

      I think all novel titles should clobber. It’s just a very amusing image to me.

      It’s hard coming up with a unique title. It took re-reading When Stars Die to find a passage that summed up the book perfectly and thus created the title.

  5. Michelle Proulx
    June 17, 2013

    It’s not just novel titles that have this problem — its character names as well. I’ve run across several self-published authors who have given their characters names that are already very famous in another, much better known book. You want your character to be the next Harry Potter or Aragorn — you want their name to be remembered through its association with your book. And you can’t do that if you’ve given them the same name as another, more famous character!

    • amberskyef
      June 17, 2013

      Good point. So you’re telling me self-published authors have characters with the same first and last name as a character in a much better, popular book???

      • Michelle Proulx
        June 17, 2013

        It wasn’t first and last name, just first … the character was named Jace, which is already the name of an extremely famous character (Jace Weyland in Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series). And Jace isn’t a terribly common name, so … best to avoid associations like that if possible, I think. Others might disagree, of course 🙂

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