Excuse Me But…Is This Name Taken? By Angela Hoy

One statement I often hear from new authors is, “Oh no! My book has the same name as another book!”

This is actually a common problem. There are lots of books with identical names. While you can’t copyright a name, you can trademark a name or phrase. Not many authors go to the trouble of registering a trademark. And, honestly, registering a trademark is pretty expensive so I wouldn’t advise doing it, unless you plan to roll out an entire business or line of books using a phrase from your title (i.e. Chicken Soup for the Soul).

We once published a book called The Joy of Soy. A few months later, we and the authors received a “cease and desist” letter from the owners of “The Joy of Cooking” trademark. The authors had to immediately pull their book from the market and rename it. That was years ago and, if you now google “The Joy of Soy”, you will find that term is used by numerous individuals and companies. It looks like “The Joy of Cooking” trademark owners will be very busy with those cease and desist letters!

One of my favorite books of all time is Swan Song by Robert McCammon. Years after I read it, I wanted to buy a copy for Ali to read. I went to Amazon and purchased Swansong. It arrived by mail and I felt pretty dumb when I pulled Swansong…by Richard Francis out of the box. Yes, it was a completely different book. I should have paid attention while ordering but…oh well.

A few weeks ago, a new author submitted a manuscript to Booklocker.com. It was about a group of people who perform anonymous good deeds. The group was called “The Finders.” I was intrigued by the name and googled “The Finders.” Turns out a group called “The Finders” really does exist. Unfortunately, some consider them a cult and they have been accused of child abuse. See:

I relayed my findings to the author and he went back to the drawing board, so to speak, to come up with a new name for his book’s group. Boy oh boy, if I hadn’t googled that name on a whim, imagine how embarrassed we and the author would have been! And, then there would have been the expense of changing the book’s title and text after it was already in print… Ug!

All of these examples teach a very simple and valuable lesson. Try to come up with a completely unique name/phrase for your book. Then, long before you publish your book:
1. Google your book’s name or any other important name/phrase you use in your book
2. Type the name/phrase into Amazon’s search box
3. And, finally, type it into the United States Patent and Trademark Office database to see if anyone has already trademarked your term.

Performing these three simple steps will save you a great deal of time and money (and even possible embarrassment) later.