12 February 2010

Choosing Titles

New author question paraphrased: Every time I think I find a great title, it has already been taken...sometimes many times over and recently. How do you choose titles without confusing readers?

Titles cannot be copyright. They can...in some cases...be trademarked. But you're right, it's nearly impossible to find a title that has never been used before and won't be in the near future. Assume that literary references (written in the stars, body electric, and so forth) are all taken. Assume common associations (bonds for mating or marriage, blood or night or dark for vampires, heart for romance, etc.) are all taken. If you use it too... Oh, well. But...I have some cautions about that below.

There are ways to make your title stand out.

1. If you're writing spec fic of some sort, use a world word. If someone comes up with Schente Night, I'm going to want to know how they did that, since "schente" is a word I created for my alien world. Up side? It's unique. Down side? It MAY be hard for readers to remember or spell.

2. Use a character name as part of the title, especially if it's an unusual name. Same up side and down side. Again, if someone comes up with Fion's Daughters, I'm going to want to know how. Fiona...sure...but Fion?

Nightmare situations?

1. Always avoid using a title that has an author name similar to yours. I could choke this author that came along after me with a similar pen name to mine and has chosen (so far) to copy not one but TWO of my titles. I'd almost swear she's trying to cause confusion. That annoys me to death. You never intentionally cause confusion with a more established author. You just hack off readers that way.

2. Make it clear to your publisher that you will change your title rather than chance two books from the same publisher with the same title. This is one I could choke one of my old publishers for. I had a book called WRITTEN IN THE STARS...yes, taken many times over. They never told me it was a problem, but I found out just before release day that they had a reprint from a NY author with the same title...coming out within a month of mine. Had I KNOWN, I would have changed mine...hers being a reprint and all.

If the other titles aren't with your publisher, by another author with a similar name, and don't have a similar blurb, go for it. If those things clash, pick something else, IMO.

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