May 26, 2010

A good title is a good title ….


So you’ve written a book and think you’ve got the perfect title. Then you see there’s another book coming out with the same title. Problem?

The answer, of course, is clear-cut: Maybe, maybe not. Which breaks down to a brief but interesting-enough discussion in this blog post called “Drowning in the Title Pool” at Editorial Ass. (“Ass is short for ‘assistant,’ but also describes more accurately what exactly is thought of an editorial assistant, and what their job description entails.”) As the proprietor recalls,

I got a book into production that had the same title (same genre, slightly similar plots) as another book at a much, much larger company. We had both announced our deals in PW, and just missed each other through neglect. At the last minute, the big house called me and tried to bully me into changing my title–but we were already close to press, and so we won (they had to change). There is no moral to this story, really; it only proves that it could come about that no one ever notices your title match.

Okay so the conversation doesn’t go much deeper than that — neither the, er, Ass, nor any of his/her correspondents offer many examples or discuss knowledge of any actual repercussions involved in cases of matching titles (although someone does write in to point out to the, er, Ass, that someone else had already posted an article using the same title).

But in this old conversation at Library Thing, discussants offer numerous examples of matching titles — such as Sanctuary, by William Faulkner and, also, Edith Wharton; The Homecoming, by Harold Pinter and Ray Bradbury; and, appropriately, The Double, by Fyodor Dostoevski and Jose Saramago.

Or how about Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer, not to mention Meg Cabot, Cate Tiernan, and Elie Wiesel.

Then there’s Night Shift, by Stephen King, Jessie Hartland, Nora Roberts, Rick Kirkman and Jerry Scott, Valerie Sinason, Brad Curtis, Henry Brewis, David Belbin, Carl Hanni, Greg Biehle and Martha Moore, Maria Gitin, Dermot Bolger, Maritta Wolff and George Salter, Mark Murphy, Margot J. Fromer, Dave Shive and Michelle Lovric, John F. Kirch, Mike Staier, Inez Holden, Zondervan, Lowell Ganz, and Marc Blitzstein … so far ….

Dennis Johnson is the founder of MobyLives, and the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House.