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Can I Use The Same Book Title? Ask Anne

writing confusionHi Anne,

I have written a novel (fiction of course) which I plan to upload in PDF to CreateSpace soon for POD publishing.  I have been working on it for 2 plus years.  I just discovered the title I want to use has been used by another author who has a published a memoir of generations of a farm family, published in 2010 I think.

My story is a fictional coming of age story; it bears almost no resemblance to the published memoir with the same name.  My question is:  Can I use the almost same title? The letter A is the only difference.

I know that titles are not copyrighted, but I don’t want legal problems from the beginning of my publishing career.


Hi MC,

First of all, congratulations on getting your novel written.  Good job.

Second, I am not an attorney, although I might be willing to play one on TV.

You’re right, titles cannot be copyrighted. Once in a while a title will get registered as a trademark, but unless you see a trademark or registration symbol (™ or ®) next to the title there shouldn’t be any legal problem if you use almost the same title.

That said, you say your book “bears almost no resemblance…” Are you sure? Have you read the other book?

What you don’t want is confusion in your prospective audience. Potential purchasers will tend not to buy either book  if they find themselves confused, and you don’t want that.

I’d suggest you consider changing your title – just think about it. You don’t have to change it, but it might be to your advantage to do so.

Another way that might help eliminate any confusion is your subtitle. If you’re book has a strong subtitle that clearly distinguishes it from the other book, you may be okay.

Think like a reader, whose mouse is hovering over the buy button. What’s going to help make the sale? That’s how to approach your title question.

Do you have a question you’d like me to answer? Send an email, with Q&A in the subject line and I may answer yours.


Image from http://www.sxc.hu

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