Saturday, March 23, 2019

There's another me out there with a similar title

I have a pen name picked out, and I have a project that will be the first one I ever query. I just did a preliminary search to see if my pen name and my MS title are already out there. There is a published author with both a similar name and a similar title. Think: Janet Reid’s sci-fi book Query Shark vs M.L. Janet’s YA book Shark for Queries. I saw a kerfuffle online about a similar issue between authors of the same genre, and it has me wondering: How close is too close? Where is the boundary between “I also thought of this myself” and “I’m trying to ride your coattails for recognition?” Is genre a big enough difference? Will the agents being queried see those similarities and think I’m unoriginal? Which is more important: changing the title or the pen name? Many thanks for any of your time! 

Notice that you saw a kerfuffle among authors, not agents.

This is not something to worry about at the query stage.
Nothing is public yet.

If your name is Lee Child and your book is called Reacher Goes Wild, you're going to get a name and title change pretty quickly.

We'll talk about this at the representation offer portion of the year's entertainment.
I'm not going to worry about your name or your title until I have a real reason to do so.

I'm telling you it doesn't matter but if you're absolutely convinced I'm wrong, change your title before your change your chosen pen name. A publisher has final say on the title so it could change between acquisition and publication, but I've never had a publisher ask for a name change because it was too similar to someone else's. I'm sure there are instances of that but my guess is they are rare.


Carolynnwith2Ns said...

You'd never know it but I used to be J.K Rowling and then Sara Gruen. I finally changed my name to James Patterson. Yup, look for new works from me, Jimmie P.
I traded my 2Ns for 2Ms.

Julie Weathers said...

When I start querying again, I'm going to do so under the name J.R.R. Weathers. I'm convinced the double RR is the secret to success.

I changed the name of my fantasy because someone had self-published a space porn with the same name and it wasn't even good porn from the excerpts I read.

I'm sure an agent will sort it out, but there are published books with exactly the same name and they survive.

Chris Humphreys' latest book was Chasing the Wind, though he has a new one coming out now. There are also nine other Chasing the Winds out there and it didn't seem to hurt him as his book did pretty well. (As it should. It was a fun read.)

D.H. said...

And just like that, I need to read "Reacher Goes Wild" by Leigh Child.

Konnie Enos said...

Since I have a rather unusual name (thanks to my father and dear husband) it isn't a problem I've even considered, but my twin sister has faced it head on since her name is rather common. She found there is already a B.L. Hamilton with several books though all of them appear to be mysteries. My sister doesn't write mysteries. I did however once consider taking on a pen name, for the privacy. Someone told me not to mess with perfection. My name is so memorable and so easy to find in google. I've been told it's a plus. Now to build my platform.
Konnie Enos
Smile. Make the day a brighter day.
Find me on Instragram @ konnieenos

Julia Ergane said...

I see this in the noms de plume in a certain genre (which are, I will admit, "comfort reads"). I do not like it. It is not ethical; however, many of the novels are self-published so there is no way to police the practice in addition to the occasional plagarism. As a former English teacher (as well as being a librarian), I have an immense memory for things that I have read. Writers cannot get by me usually. This is the short way to make me despise you. Author names for me are easy to handle -- I don't buy. They are trying to cheat and I will not abet them. Plagarism, however, is much harder. I put writers on a permanent no buy list after the first instance. I may send a note if I am feeling generous.

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

I regret the title of my second book: HOOF PRINTS: Stories From Proud Spirit. There are dozens and dozens of books with Hoof Prints in the title.

Marie McKay said...

I write flash fiction- hopefully a novel one day- under Marie. But my stuff is quite dark so I thought I'd put my picture book material under the name Elaine. However, I'm not sure whether it was really necessary to do this or not, and perhaps it might even have been counterproductive.

John Davis Frain said...

I just googled and it appears Beth Sellers is available for a pen name. Or, maybe Bess Sellers would be better. Either way, you might first consider selling a freelance piece to the New York Times, so you can thereafter introduce yourself as New York Times' Beth Sellers.

Alternatively, write a captivating story.

Panda in Chief said...

Marie McKay: I have heard that where kid lit is concerned, it's not a bad idea to use a pen name for one or the other, if you write, say, picture books AND dino porn. You don't want to risk assaulting innocent minds with books that are wildly inappropriate for them. Or so I've heard. I'm sure kids today could teach me a thing or two about dino porn.

Uncompliant said...

Hey Janet:

Just a quick word to say "thanks." Just found your site recently and have been enjoying your posts and information. Very much appreciated.

Craig F said...

So much celebrity here, we've even got a Jimmie with 2Ns

My queen said it all. The publisher will make the decision; smile and act pleased when they do.

Ginger Mollymarilyn said...

JDFrain - too funny! Needed that laugh, thanks.

Marie McKay said...

Lol, Panda in Chief, I know nothing of Dino porn either. Yeah, that was my thinking. My flash stories/short stories are often about dark/dysfunctional domestic situations which is obviously completely different from the material I would write for a picture book.

AJ Blythe said...

Hah, your comments have cracked me up. John, Beth Sellers is brilliant.