Monday, January 14, 2008

Book Title Confusion

I groaned when I spotted the fiction review in a recent issue of Publishers Weekly. The third novel in Melanie Wells series of thrillers from Multnomah Books (a division of Random House) releases next month and bears the title, My Soul To Keep. Why the groan? Because I knew the title would be confused in the marketplace.

Over the Christmas holiday, I read an excellent novel from Davis Bunn called My Soul To Keep (Bethany House Publishers). The Bunn novel came out in August 2007. I loved this novel and believe it is powerful storytelling and wrote a brief review on Amazon.com to support the book.

It’s often said in publishing that you can’t copyright a title. While true, publishers often do lots of checking to make sure they have selected a unique title. Even those people with the best intentions make mistakes from time to time but the result is simply market confusion.

Several years ago, I recall sitting in a title meeting where we were batting around different possibilities for one of our books for the publisher. The group settled on the title, Leap of Faith. I raised the issue that Queen Noor had a new book with the exact same title. These books had different subtitles but who goes into the bookstore and asks for the book with a subtitle? No one.

The objection I raised was quickly dismissed that the Queen Noor book would long be gone from the public by the time the publisher book was released. (It wasn’t and even came out in paperback with roaring success.). In fact, if you search on Amazon for “Leap of Faith,” you will find a number of books including a novel from Danielle Steel with this title.

Do publishers make mistakes in this area of publishing? Absolutely and because in traditional publishing, the publisher selects the title, often it is outside of the author’s control. Here’s another little bit of information I remember from when we selected Leap of Faith for the title. This particular author did not propose a “must have” title. She threw some words on the paper of her proposal without real strong reasons for that particular title. It sent the team into a search for the perfect title instead of rallying around her pre-selected title.

The best course of action for an author is to create the best possible title for their book along with several alternatives of equal attractiveness. It will give your book title the best possible chance of making it through the various stages of the publishing process. It’s unfortunate when two books have the same title because in my view it confuses the market.

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3 Comment:

At 7:39 PM, Blogger Cheryl Barker Left a note...

Thanks for the helpful advice about having several alternative titles. Great idea that I will keep in mind for current and future projects.

At 6:21 AM, Blogger Kristi Holl Left a note...

It also helps to remember this angle when your title gets changed inhouse. Even with all our market research, the publishers have access to upcoming titles that I don't know about. A couple times I wasn't too happy with title changes my publisher made--until I later saw that a nearly identical title was released just before mine. I have become less "attached" to my titles now!

At 7:24 AM, Blogger Terry Whalin Left a note...


I have met numerous authors when I've interviewed them for a magazine story and the first thing they've said sabotaged the new book they were promoting. They said, "That's not the title I would have chosen." When you come to that situation, you need to get behind the published title and market it no matter what--whether there are others like it in the market or not.

What a good perspective that you've checked the title and seen the publisher has kept you from this headache. Thank you.



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