Saturday, 9 July 2011

Naming a Novel

With the Indie revolution, the explosion of books has led to a problem that has probably never been so much of a problem before ie. the repetition of titles. A number of threads on Indie sites have been about the frustration of finding that a beloved title has already been used, sometimes by more than one author. Should it be changed or should it be left as it is?
Long, long ago, when I dreamed up the title ‘Treespeaker’ I thought I was being quite original. Then an online competition in which authors were asked to give a summary of their work-in-progress brought me back to reality. Not only had someone else written a novel with a ‘Treespeaker’ in it (though thankfully they hadn’t called the novel that), their premise wasn’t too different from mine either, on the surface at least. I kept going, though, determined that my Treespeaker would make it as it was and be original enough to stand out. 

I didn’t really think about it again until after I’d epublished. Then I began to wonder if that other novel had ever been published.  As far as I can tell, it hasn’t, but I did find another book with the same title as mine, except that the two words are separated. The book is for children and doesn’t seem to be still for sale, so I breathed a sigh of relief. However, Twitter has taught me that Treespeaker is also the name of a character in a rather popular computer game, so searches for ‘Treespeaker’ are always going to bring up links to that. If I were lucky, maybe the fanatics of that game would see my book and buy it, just to see if there’s a connection. From what I can see though, said fans are mainly 15-40 year-old males, who would probably find my Treespeaker far too tame.

All this makes me nervous about naming my other books. The sequel to Treespeaker is on my computer as ‘Forest Child’. Go onto Google and that name brings up a plethora of places where the name has been used, from books, to plays, to blogs. So while ‘Forest Child’ links more closely with ‘Treespeaker’, maybe my other title choice – which includes the name of my mythical creatures – would be better (makes note to self to check that name on Google, too.)

Does it really matter? The answer to that probably depends on a number of things. Is the previous use of the name going to overshadow yours? Is the other book so similar to yours that the two will be confused by readers? It's really up to the author to decide.

If I knew anything about marketing, I’d be able to work out how to use these similarities to my advantage, but I don’t, so I bumble along doing what I can. That’s the main reason why I entered the competition that’s given me that shiny new gold medallion you see attached to my blog. The prize, if I manage to win, is marketing for my book. That can’t be bad, can it? So far, ‘Nominated’ means they didn’t throw my book out on first glance. Now it’s fingers crossed that I might change ‘Nominated’ to ‘Finalist’.  Meanwhile, I’ll keep writing…difficult with crossed fingers, but I'll try.


Anonymous said...

I had the same problem with Yellowcake Springs, Katie, which was originally going to be called Yellowcake until I realised that there were already TWO novels with the same name. So it pays to google before you get too attached to a particular title :)

Shirley said...

I think it's important to come up with a unique title really, rather than one that has been used but as you say it is getting harder and harder to find one. Maybe easier for children's books as you could have a name in the title and make the name unusual ie 'Jeffery Bartholomew and the enormous egg' or something like that!

Kate said...

Guy, are the two other books recent?

Shirley, you're right. That's why I think the name of my mythical creatures in the title might be better. Surely that can't have been used already?

Julia Hones said...

Interesting. I didn't think a title can become a problem, so thanks for sharing this information and good luck with the competition.

Kate said...

Thanks, Julia!

Gail M Baugniet said...

Good luck, Kate, going from nominee to finalist!
Personally, I think the best way to name a book is to let the contents of the completed manuscript suggest the title. Give the WIP a working title, but let the final title rise from the finished story. Just my opinion.