• Welcome to the Fantasy Writing Forums. Register Now to join us!

How do titles work?


Hey all. I am nearing the release of my first novel (April/May), and I'm curious to know how how titles work.

Example : Can I name my novel whatever I want? Or are certain titles 'Copyrighted' thus I couldn't use it?

Maybe I'm just paranoid :) Thanks all.


Myth Weaver
There are books [and films and songs...] out there with the same and very similar titles but I would guess having a unique title is all but essential if as a new author you want to be found. If you use a title that is the same as something more well know, you are not as likely to be noticed, at the very least. You may get ignored or worse, be thought of as someone trying to hang on to other's success.
I'm not sure about Copyright... but there are definitely Trade Marks that could cause you "problems" legally and with visibility... I'd suggest avoiding anything that is or looks like a trade mark...
[Maybe not apposite but...] I would imagine that if you tried to release a story called "Harry Potter and the..." someone from JKR's published would politely ask you to "cease and desist"... even if none of the character or IP from JKR's work was in the story. In other fields I know that [starting with but not limited to...] Disney, Fox, Sony and probably many others are very pro-active in defending their trademarks...
Was there a Title you wanted to use?
What are the issues you are worried about?
Like Joe says, you want to avoid terms that are trademarked (usually brand names or slogans).

Otherwise, the question is possibly less legal and more about effect. If you call your book "Protagonist name and the Chamber of Secrecy", then everyone's going to pick it up with Harry Potter already in mind, and do you really want that pressure being placed on your book? Similarly, calling it "Welcome to the Jungle" is going to give people familiar with Guns n Roses a certain impression of what your book might be in feel or style or topic area, which might be a bonus (My favourite album!) but might also be a negative (Ugh, my bastard ex cheated on me at a Gunners concert).

You want a title that presents a realistic impression of the book's content. For instance, if the book is a fantasy of manners, you want a title that evokes the gentle restraint of Jane Austen's work. If it's grimdark, you want something with brutal edges. I'm currently reading a novel called "Clockwork Angel", and while I'm not sure whether I like the book, that title is a great "here's what you get": steampunk and supernatural.

I like a title that stands strongly by itself, offering a unique experience that I'm not going to get elsewhere. A title that says "Choose this book, because there's nothing else like it."