What if your book shares a title with one published?
“Oh, no!” is probably a common thought when you search Google or Bing or Yahoo! for a book title, praying nothing comes up, only to find out something else is titled under the same name. The next thought is probably, “Now what?”
Well, according to Circular 34, works as short as book titles cannot be copyrighted, which technically means you are able to use it. This can be confusing for your audience, however, as well as the audience of another author. This might seem exciting if you have a book with a similar title as a more successful author, but do you really want to subject yourself to hiding under their umbrella? For that matter, do you want to risk the loophole that could get you in a lot of trouble?
Yes, this exists. If something is unique enough, a title series for example, it can be trademarked. I wouldn’t try using “The Hunger Games” as your title, for example. It’s a series. It can be trademarked since it symbolizes an entire series, and it’s likely that it has been. This is an important thing to note because series are subject to a lot of things and are likely attributed to an author who has been recognized along with that title.
Don’t risk it.
But it fits . . .
It’s hard to think of another name for your book when the one you have fits so well, and that makes everything much more challenging. But, consider the true theme of your book. The main characters. Your hidden topics/themes/symbols. There’s always something. Again, if it’s not a series, you can technically use it, and many books have the same name, but I don’t suggest testing it if the name has a series attached to it or if it’s the name used by a successful author. For the latter end, I say not to risk it because the fact is, do you want to concern yourself with a possible lawsuit? This doesn’t mean less successful authors will do this, but their titles are known to be under no ties to the author, so you’re usually safer.
Again, always consider the alternative if possible.
If the author has a proper case, you could be in trouble.
IF you title your book to match another on purpose, the court might see that initiative. If a book is titled Crossroads and Pickles with Cream and you decide to do the same because it has good reviews and yours is about a man in the country who loves pickles and eventually falls in love (or something), court might find initiative. Because infringement isn’t okay, and it will be addressed to protect the author with the original name.
Rights of Writers addresses this entire issue in great detail, and I encourage you to look at the page if you want more information. But, you need to consider whether you want your book to stand alone or stand beside something that was original. Consider your own ethical response. Your own integrity. You’re an author, and you can decide for yourself. This doesn’t mean in any way that you’re wrong for claiming a title similar to another; if your book and another book are both titled Secrets of the Bedroom or something, it would be unfair to say it’s wrong when one is a children’s book and another . . . isn’t. Or if one is fantasy and the other is erotica. If they’re different, it won’t be assumed that it’s by the same author or a fellow author. It’s not an unusual name.
So, simply watch yourself. Take things into account. Consider your options and your own morals. Again, you have an option and I won’t tell you whether you’re wrong or right because you’re neither. Point is, you could get in trouble if you’re not careful, and you could risk losing credibility as well if you risk a unique title.
Be careful, good luck, do research, and trust your gut!