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This lesson is a part of an audio course Brainstorming a Better Book Title by Marcia Yudkin

Inexperienced business people sometimes take a slogan they've heard, and either use it verbatim for themselves or give it a tiny little tweak. For instance, I can't tell you how many times I've seen online membership programs launched with the tag line, "Membership has its privileges." You probably remember that as a slogan used for years by American Express. Guess what – other people remember that too and recognize your lack of originality.

I certainly don't recommend being derivative in coming up with a book title. Instead, you want to make sure that your book has a title that can't easily be confused with another title. This isn't always possible, because someone else can independently come up with an identical or very similar title to yours and just happen to publish it around the same time.

Nevertheless, make sure you search on both Amazon and Google for your title to see if anyone has used your title yet or something very much like it. As I explained in an earlier lesson, even though book titles cannot be copyrighted, it's not to your advantage to have the same or a very similar title to someone else.

Take the example of a title on local eating. The word "locavore" was coined in 2005 and quickly became very popular. Not surprisingly, then, we can find half a dozen books using the word in their title, including The Locavore's Dilemma, The Locavore's Handbook, The Locavore Way, and The Locavore's Kitchen. If you were driving and heard an interesting interview on the radio with someone who had authored one of these books, would you be able to order the book whose author you'd heard speak and not one of the other ones when you got back home? That seems rather doubtful to me. And for that reason, I would suggest you avoid using that word in your title now. Be more creative.

In fiction, the more well known you already are, the less concerned you need to be that someone has the same book title as you, because a good many readers remember and go by your name more than they remember and go by the book title. In a three-month period in 2007-2008, two thrillers with the title Person of Interest came out, one by Susan Choi and the other by Theresa Schwegel. On the record, both writers said it wasn't a big deal to them – probably since they each already had reputations and fans. Still, it's not something you should knowingly allow to happen.

A final observation is that readers can confuse titles that do not seem to you to be candidates for confusion, because the human mind works in mysterious ways. A blogger named Cait at, for instance, confessed that only at the last minute did she realize that she was about to post something that mixed up two novels that came her way around the same time, one titled Second Star and the other called Catch a Falling Star. "I honestly thought these were the same book," she said. Oops!

We'll look at a few other factors in the next lesson.

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Written by

Marcia Yudkin