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About Writing Right: The Blog


A writer asked online the other day how to tell if a book title is "available." Here's how I replied.

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Short answer: All book titles are "available". See how much time and trouble I just saved you?


Titles are not copyrightable. Even if you come up with a unique, fascinating, grabby, illuminating, witty, luscious, juicy title all your own, someone else can come along and copy it for his work tomorrow. Most conventional publishers frown on publishing books with the same title as books already on the market for obvious reasons. But doing so is neither unethical or illegal.


Oh, and as a general rule, create a title that will appeal to your intended audience, but don't spend too much time and energy on it. Unless you're self-publishing your book, your publisher will change your title anyway nine times out of ten. Publishers do marketing research to find a title they believe will sell the most copies of a book. They're not always right, of course, but they pay their marketing people a salary to do something with their time. Coming up with titles, then, becomes more of a science than the creative art most writers assume it is.


If you're looking for a unique title for a book you plan on self-publishing, the best way I've found short of spending several grand on a copy of Books in Print is to run a search on Amazon under their "Books" category. Plug in the exact words you hope to use and see what comes up. You can also run a general Internet search to see what happens. Between the two searches, if a book with your title already exists (or ever did!), you should know about it.


As a rule, whenever I entitle one of my books and run a search that turns up another book with the same title already in existence, I'll alter my book's title a bit to differentiate it from the other tome, particularly if that other book is a recent release. If it was published twenty years ago and is no longer in print, I don't worry about it, knowing that my publisher will ultimately change my book's title to something I like less anyway. It's a given.


So, you can spend time spinning your wheels, trying to come up with a title, if you like. Personally, I'd rather see you invest your time in finishing up your latest novel. Until you do ...


Smoke if you've got 'em.

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D. J. Herda is author of the new e-Book series of writing advice, About Writing Right, available at Amazon and at fine booksellers everywhere. His Website is at www.djherda.org. You can also check out his column, "The Author-Ethicist," at Substack. It's free, it's entertaining, it's informative, and it runs weekly. Well, almost weekly. Occasionally weekly. Sometimes weekly. (Hey, he does his best!) 

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