Saturday, December 13, 2008

Checking Your Proposed Book Title

Have you found the perfect title for your book? Don't get too attached to it. Before you send your manuscript to an agent, do a Google and Amazon search for your title, and also ask your local librarian to search for possible matches to your title.

Titles aren’t copyrighted, but if there is another recent book in a similar genre with the same title, you may want to change yours, or discuss the implications with your agent. While you might get lucky with readers buying your book thinking it is the other author’s, it could just as easily work against you with a good review of your book sending a reader to mistakenly grab the other author’s book. Or a reader might simply assume he’s already read your book.

However you feel about your title, remember that there’s always a possibility that your publisher might want you to change it. As the author you might get the final sign-off, but if you can live with the title your publisher proposes, you might want to give in and save your veto for other issues that might bother you more, like the cover or changing a character’s name, for example.

Read the previous posts in this series:

Part 1: Choosing a Working Title
Part 2: Brainstorming Ideas for Titles

Elle Carter Neal is the author of the picture book I Own All the Blue and teen science-fantasy novel Madison Lane and the Wand of Rasputin. She is based in Melbourne, Australia. Find her at or


  1. Also be careful of a title that sounds similar to a famous title. I had a friend who's first book was similar to another and she showed up for a signing at a B&N and they had the other book, not hers, there.

  2. Hmm - good article and advice. Also agree with Helen.

  3. Ah yes - make sure that you double check that the book store hasn't made any mistakes long before you arrive for the signing. I would always give them the ISBN as well as the title (although that doesn't guarantee that no mistakes would be made).

  4. Finding another identical title might also be an indication that you haven't given much thought to the title. After all, if the book is distinctive, the title ought to be equally distinctive. I have two books with the title Death In Paradise, published in the same year, one by Kate Flora and the other by Robert B. Parker. Except for being mysteries, the books are nothing alike. Both of them are actually quite good, but the titles are as bland as white bread and tell the reader nothing about the story. It's the kind of title that someone who knew only the genre and the setting would have come up with. Parker is a big enough name that he could have titled his book Jesse Stone #3 and not lost a sale, but Flora would have been better served with a title that got to the heart of the story.


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