Book Rant: I Think We Need a Title Intervention

As a librarian, I see lots of books come across my desk, and lots more titles through catalogs and lists and requests. With so many books, things can get confusing. There are books I’m sure we own because I’ve seen them a thousand times, only to find out we’ve never actually had a copy. There are times when I’m sure a book is already published when really it’s still four months away. There are times when I confuse which author wrote which book. It happens, I’m resigned to it. But then publishers go and do things like this to me:

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On the right is The Furies by Mark Alpert, published in April 2014 by Thomas Dunn Books. On the left is The Furies by Natalie Haynes, published in August 2014 by St. Martin’s Press. One is about troubled teens, one is about witches. Want to take a guess which is which?

Think that’s the only instance of same-title-itis out there? Hah. It’s not even the only instance of books published this year.

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The Visitors, by Sally Beauman published in February by Little, Brown, by Patrick O’Keeffe published in March by Viking Adult, and by Rebecca Mascull published by Hodder and Stoughton.

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Or how about Life After Life, published in both March and April of 2013? That’s a bit more of a distinctive title, but as a reader I still kept forgetting which was the one I wanted to read, so in the end I didn’t read either of them.

Look, I get it. Titles are hard. I usually have way more angst over finding the right words two or five or ten words to title my short stories than I do writing the stories in the first place. But when you are a professional publisher backing a novel, with a marketing department and an editorial team, I’d imagine things work a little differently. Also, I know publication timetables vary, and you don’t necessarily have access to competitor’s catalogs and stuff, but have you heard of this little thing called Google? How hard is it to plug in a title before you put thousands of dollars behind it?

I’m not opposed to books sharing titles. Nothing can be completely original, after all. But when two books sharing a title are published in April and August, or February and March, things can get really, really aggravating.

Not all readers choose their books by author recognition, particularly with debut authors. They may have heard of Kate Atkinson or Jill McCorkle before, but what happens when they go into the store thinking “Oh, I thought Life After Life had a rose on the cover, but maybe it was some other flower?” That reader just got matched with the wrong book. What if they go in to a library asking for a new book called The Furies, wanting to leave with a book they’d heard of about witches, but because they can’t remember the author they end up leaving with a book about troubled teens? An author has lost a potential reader and a potential fan.

Please, publishers. Stop it.


How about you guys? Am I the only one going crazy because of this? Have you ever picked up the wrong book because of a matching title?


1 Comment

Filed under Book Talk

One response to “Book Rant: I Think We Need a Title Intervention

  1. You’re totally not alone – this drives booksellers crazy just as much as librarians. And I know it does me as well because I’m the resource for all my local friends and family when they want to read a book they ask me. And I really only keep track of the Science Fiction and Fantasy books so if I tell them the name and author and description of the cover they could go to the store or library and still end up with the wrong book sometimes. Usually now I ask if I can send them a link to the book so THEY know what it looks like as well.

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