A Story By Any Other Name…

I suppose that everyone here knows that titles cannot be copyrighted. There are any number of books and movies with the same name, and also many songs, ( I can think of four off the top of my head that are named “For Your Love”).

Do you take this into consideration when you search for a title for your books?

Do titles suggest themselves from your writings or storylines, or do you wrack your brain for just the right one?

With so many books out now, especially theme-based cozies, play-on-other-titles is a popular ploy; you just change one word or a few letters and you may truly have something distinct, (our Hound changed the genders from one classic title and came up with a clever version for one of his books), or sometimes they fall flat and just sound silly, (I will not embarrass any writers by giving examples).

To grab readers with a familiar phrase is the idea, and it works.

One of my stories is going to have a title almost the same as a famous song, but the first name in will be spelled differently, and it will be changed to a possessive form. With the original spelling, my version has been used by other books, but mine can really have no other title, because the story ‘written by’ the person, and it does evoke the song, which has been a classic for nearly 60 years. Mine is a diferent twist.

One writer of handiwork cozies asked for title suggestions a few years ago and I gave a number to her. Although technically the particular needle-work mentioned was not included in the story, her manager and her editor both jumped on it because it was a well-known phrase with a double-meaning to a sewing craft and yet, it had previously been unused at all in any other published book title that they could find.

I do have two stories which are in dire need of titles. All that jump out at me have been overused. These are not as important as the novels, but gee, I wish good titles would jump out at me. I usually don’t have a problem thinking of something unique, as I can usually do for my posts here and for other stories or poems which I have written.

Do you check to see how often a title that you have in mind has been used?

Every once in a while something goes around Facebook and other social media asking for the title you’d give to your life story. Years ago when a dear friend of mine was supporting me via emails during a truly trying time in my life, she’d ask me how things were going by sending messages like this: “Please send the latest episode of my own, personal soap opera”. I’d laugh, and give her most, but not all, of what was going on. (Bless her heart; may she pray for us.) She came up with a few titles for the ‘soap opera’ but I came up with one that she said was perfect. Frankly, it’s so good I hate to put it out in public, because I may well use it one day and hate to see it overly used before I can.

On the other hand, one of my novels just screams for one particular title.  The phrase is a commonly known, (although commonly misquoted), line from the Bible. By the most common and misused version, there are quite a number of books using it as a title already. I suppose that I could change it and use the actual  biblical phrase, (in which case there seem to be very few uses as titles). It will do, but it just isn’t quite the same. I may change one word, but still evoke the familiar line .

Decisions, decisions!

Do you think it makes a difference how many books are out there with the same title?

Can you give me some insight as to how you chose your titles?


About Tonette Joyce

Tonette was a once-fledgling lyricists-bookkeeper, turned cook/baker/restaurateur and is now exploring different writing venues,(with a stage play recently completed). She has had poetry and nonfiction articles published in the last few years. Tonette has been married to her only serious boyfriend for more than thirty years and she is, as one person described her, family-oriented almost to a fault. Never mind how others have described her, she is,(shall we say), a sometime traditionalist of eclectic tastes.She has another blog : "Tonette Joyce:Food,Friends,Family" here at WordPress.She and guests share tips and recipes for easy entertaining and helps people to be ready for almost anything.
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7 Responses to A Story By Any Other Name…

  1. Jeff Salter says:

    I don’t recall ever checking whether one of my prospective titles was already “done.”
    Not sure why. My beta reader, however, did check one for me, while we were discussing title possibilities for one of my stories.
    To the best of my recollection, most of my titles have stayed firm through the process of beta reading and editing, etc.
    But at least two of my titles were changed by the publisher: one was condensed, but we kept the main part. The other was completely tossed out and we found a new one. [“Double Down Trouble” was originally, “No Executive Potential” — and you can see that’s an entirely different mental picture.]
    My beta reader helped me realize that the title I’d selected for one novel was really misleading, so we changed “Her Head in the Clouds” to “Stuck on Cloud Eight.”
    All the rest of my titles have “stuck” as I originally conceived them.
    And, about that point: sometimes I come up with a title and write the book around it. Other times, I start writing a story and eventually build a list of tentative titles. As the story moves along, the title options fall away and I’m left with the one that sticks.
    One caveat to all this: my very first full-length novel ms. originally had one name. When I totally overhauled it, tossing out about a third of the story, I used an entirely new title. Alas, it’s still in a box under the bed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am glad to hear your experiences with this, Jeff. A title is all important. I am glad that you have good beta readers on your side.
      I hope that other story is enjoyed by the monsters under your bed and that they tell you in a dream to bring it to light!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. My thinking on this subject is this. As long as there is no other book with the same title PLUS the same name as yours, you’re okay. There are so many writers today publishing books, how can you avoid latching onto an already published title. I title my books from a Scriptural idea from the story, usually taking a verse from the Bible, and including the verse in the front matter of the book. A Very Present Help, Paths of Righteousness, There Abideth Hope, and His Perfect Love, so far. But regardless of how many other books have those titles, they don’t have MY name. When people look for a book by title, they usually look for the author’s name as well.

    It’s near unavoidable to name a book with a title no one else has ever used. Yes, by all means make sure you don’t use a title that is totally overdone. I mean, if I look up titles of books published with the name I want to use and find a dozen or more of the same in the same genre (in my case fiction, Christian Romance Suspense), I’d probably find another title for it. But if it was a good title that fit the book perfectly, I’d probably do something like add a word or two, subtitle it, or maybe change one minor word.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, well, I have THAT going for me, Sharon: a unique name! However, if it is way overused, it’s hard to find. What I failed to mention is that in looking for books by titles myself over the years, it can be hard to find a lesser-known author’s work if more famous authors’ works have like names; they get buried.
      Thank you for making it easier for me to slightly change that I had stuck in my head for so long with the two. Those bees in my bonnet don’t like to leave!
      Again, thank you so much for stopping in with your comments.I truly appreciate it.


  3. Patricia Kiyono says:

    Choosing a title is my least favorite part of writing a book. For a few, I’ve asked for help – and then gone with a combination of two or more suggestions. For the last one, a colleague at the university came up with the perfect title. For my Christmas regency series, titles were based on verses of a song: The Partridge and the Peartree, Two Tutor Doves, Three French Inns, and Four Calling Bards. For those, the titles came first, and the challenge then was to come up with a storyline. I’m truly not sure which is harder!
    As for worrying about other publications with the same title, I do look on Amazon to see if there are other books with the same name. If there is another romance book that’s been released within the last few years, I’ll change mine. There is another book called The Samurai’s Garden, but it’s not a romance and it was published fifteen years before mine.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes! I knew it was a good idea to check! One or two books with the same title I am not worried about, but many, I think it is. And if you will read what I said to Sharon, a writer’s book with a like title can get lost in the shuffle.
      Thanks, Patty.


  4. When I first started writing I didn’t give much thought as to if someone else had used a title that I was wanting to use. However in the past year or so when I come up with a story idea and am jotting down ideas for it, I find myself on Amazon searching to see how many books use the title that popped into my head. If there are a lot I do what I can to find a new title. Coming up with a title has always been the hardest part of writing for me.


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