Ask the Book Doctor: Are Book Titles Protected by Copyright?

Q: I’m considering a title for my novel that is already being used on another book. Can titles by copyrighted?

A: Titles are not eligible for protection under current copyright law (a search on Amazon will often reveal many different books all sharing the same title).  However, titles can be trademarked if used to cover more than one item in a series, such as a cluster of seminars based on a book of the same name. Or try self-publishing a book with “Harry Potter” in the title and get ready to hear from some lawyers.

<Image of Harry Potter not shown below, due to copyright…>

red candle
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

While you can legally use a  book title that has been used by someone else, a better idea is to change the title and make it different, so people who search for your title will find only your book, and not others.  This is your chance to come up with something memorable and unique, and you’d be a muggle if you didn’t take advantage of that opportunity.

Bobbie Christmas, book doctor, author of Write In Style (Union Square Publishing), and owner of Zebra Communications, will answer your questions, too. Send them to Bobbie@zebraeditor.com. Read more “Ask the Book Doctor” questions and answers at www.zebraeditor.com. This article republished from the Self Publishing Advisor Archives.

In Your Corner: Preparing for NaNoWriMo!

That’s right, it’s almost #NaNoWriMo time!

For those who’ve seen the acronym around but haven’t yet been read in on what the deal is, National Novel Writing Month is an annual tradition among writers looking to kickstart new projects through a dedicated month of drafting. While you can read more about NaNoWriMo’s origin story on the nonprofit organization’s website (www.nanowrimo.org), suffice it to say this has been a big deal for a very long time. As the NaNoWriMo website puts it, “before there was the Beyhive, or Nerdfighters, there were Wrimos” (participants in NaNoWriMo). The community has built up since the early days of the Internet to create a diverse set of resources for those interested in participating—or maybe in learning from the process even if writing 50,000 words in a single month is a bit much.

nanowrimo

There are two kinds of Wrimos: pantsers and plotters.

Pantsers are those who go through NaNoWriMo “by the seats of their pants” or however that expression goes, and plotters are those who prepare, or plot out their book outline, extensively beforehand. I myself have participated in NaNoWriMo several times, once as a pantser, once as a plotter, and once or twice just casually taking part in the prompts and sprints and group writing sessions without aiming to get to the 50,000 word mark by month’s end. These days I fall somewhere between these Wrimo alignments, as many writers do.

nanowrimo plotter pantser

With only two weeks remaining between now and the beginning of NaNoWriMo (my next post, for context, will arrive on the day before NaNoWriMo begins), I feel as though now is the time to encourage those of you who are plotters or plantsers or otherwise in-betweeners to start digging deep into the resources you will need in the month of November. Even those of you who are pantsers or who are not at all interested in participating in NaNoWriMo on any level might find it valuable to tap into the extensive writing-related resources that Wrimos have compiled over the years. These are the kinds of resources anyone can turn to at any time of year, not just during the official NaNoWriMo period.

First, I want to point you to the NaNo Prep 101 Workshop, which is hosted by the organization that really started it all. It can be completed at any time of year for free and provides tips on the following:

  1. Developing a story idea
  2. Creating complex characters
  3. Constructing detailed plots or outlines
  4. Building a strong world
  5. Organizing your life for and around writing
  6. Finding and managing your time

You can find out more about that workshop here.

I also want to point you to NaNoWriMo’s incredible collection of author pep talks, which include several from self-publishing successes like Andy Weir as well as a number of traditionally published authors whose names you might recognize (James Patterson, anyone? Neil Gaiman? Sue Grafton? No?). Those are all available (again, for free) at the link.

I also really recommend that you spend some time looking into all of the many other excellent resources that writers all over the world have compiled on their own blogs and websites. Every author’s experience is different, and chances are that any author you meet is going to have opinions about the usefulness (or lack thereof) of NaNoWriMo to their own process. It’s pretty definitely proven, though, that there are many amazing books in the world that wouldn’t otherwise have been self-published (or traditionally published for that matter) without that core group of writers and organizers who got together and made NaNoWriMo a thing.

So, will I be participating? I’ll let you know … in two weeks. I honestly haven’t yet made up my mind, and I’m okay with that.

You are not alone. ♣︎

Do you have ideas to share? Please don’t hesitate to drop us a line in the comments section, and I’ll make sure to feature your thoughts and respond to them in my next post!

Elizabeth

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Director of Sales and Marketing for Outskirts Press. The Sales and Marketing departments are composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

Self-Publishing News: 7.2.2019

July

And now for the news!

Some highlights from this month in the world of self-publishing!

We really do.

Maybe that’s all we need to say about this article?

But in all seriousness, Matthew Field of Go! And Express is onto something here when he writes that “It could be argued that we are living in a golden age for self-published writers. While it is true that traditional publishers are declining somewhat, it is also true that there are now a plethora of tools out there that allow writers to completely by-pass them if desired.” Self-publishing companies as diverse and varied as Outskirts Press and Amazon’s own platform offer readers and writers of indie books myriad opportunities to publish and discover new works, and the smaller companies are often on the cutting edge of developing ever-better ones. “Self-publishing is still viable today, probably more so than ever before, and the scene is ripe for upcoming writers to make their mark,” writes Fields, referencing various options available throughout the self-publishing process. Overall, Fields’ piece serves as both a bit of a manifesto for indie authors as well as a brief overview of the process for newcomers looking to, as he puts it, ‘make their mark’ in the self-publishing field.

And there are plenty one might choose from, especially as authors seek to take on more elements of the publishing process—from designing covers to formatting pages to editing manuscripts to selecting printing options—and are held to as high of a standard as traditionally published authors with the full force of their marketing and PR teams behind them. Writes Ashley Stahl of Forbes, “So, what do you do if you have a book living inside of you, and you don’t have such assets to sell yourself to publishers? How, in short, is the person with the story to tell but a lack of tools to tell it, supposed to take advantage of the fact that publishing a book pushes careers into the stratosphere?” In conversation with the CEO of one small(ish) self-publishing company, Stahl hammered out some of the biggest pitfalls to be avoided, including the oft-mentioned ugly cover and manuscripts riddled with errors, the less-often-mentioned limitations of an ebook-only release and refined category keyword selection process, and one new one we hadn’t stumbled across before—a warning not to have family and friends review your books on Amazon. Wait, what? Stahl warns that Amazon has developed an algorithm that scans reviews for bias and will actually remove those reviews that it identifies as being such. We’ll be looking more into this in the days to come. In the meanwhile, Stahl’s advice seems sound!


spa-news

As a self-publishing author, you may find it helpful to stay up-to-date on the trends and news related to the self-publishing industry.This will help you make informed decisions before, during and after the self-publishing process, which will lead to a greater self-publishing experience. To help you stay current on self-publishing topics, simply visit our blog each month to find out the hottest news. If you have other big news to share, please comment below.

icon logo self publishing advisor

Self-Publishing News: 5.28.2019

May -wooden carved name of spring month. Calendar on business office table, workplace at yellow background. Spring time

And now for the news!

Some highlights from this month in the world of self-publishing!

This week, Publishers Weekly contributor Matia Burnett profiles indie success story, Gurpreet Kaur Sidhu, who wrote her first book in the seventh grade (heavily inspired by Harry Potter, like many of us!) and who always found in writing a way of both retreating from and reframing her relationship to the off-the-page world. Writes Burnett, “As Sidhu came of age and pursued a career in business management—serving as assistant manager at a Fortune 500 company—she continued to find a haven from life’s stresses and disillusionments through writing creatively.” Burnett allows us a closer look at Sidhu’s latest book, a self-published title simply titled Storm. Her journey was, as with many indie and self-published authors, far from straightforward:

Sidhu set out to publish her novel traditionally. “In the very beginning, I was dead set on getting an agent and having my work published through a big publishing house,” she says. But she was pragmatic in her approach, weighing the pros and cons of traditional publishing and self-publishing. The latter won out.

“After getting rejected over 50 times, I decided that if I wanted the world to read my work, I wasn’t going to wait around or be dead by the time they discovered Storm,” Sidhu says. She also recognized that she’d need some expert advice in order to effectively navigate the world of self-publishing and hired an editor and a publicist—a move that she strongly recommends for first-time authors.

In an age of plentiful gadgets and gizmos, finding useful expertise to navigate all of the options is indeed a move that we here at Self Publishing Advisor could get behind, as well. You can find out more about Sidhu’s book by following the link to the Publishers Weekly article, above.

(Hint: Step 6 is to self-publish.) Tarun Varshney writes a straightforward what-to (a necessary prequel to any how-to) in this week’s Entrepreneur that provides, if only as a final flourish, an endorsement of self-publishing for those authors struggling to find publishing homes for their manuscripts. Writes Varshney, there are definitely some structural and sentence-level work that can be done to render your work more appealing to traditional publishing houses, but there are also some manuscripts that are better suited—whether in content or form—for an indie approach.

Rejection doesn’t mean: your book is bad. There could be other reasons:

a. publisher doesn’t know how to sell your book and fears to invest money
b. publisher’s book publishing target for the year has been completed
c. a literary agent is fully occupied
d. a literary agent is not active at that time

So, do not think about the flaws in your work. Your work is in the best possible shape if you have followed steps properly. Go for print-on-demand model. So you can invest along the way based on the response from readers.

Varshney also reminds readers of Entrepreneur that ultimately, the polish and shine isn’t what brings a book financial success—it’s connecting with readers. And connecting with readers, as Varshney puts it, is “all about awareness about you and your book.” Boosting awareness requires as much time and energy as writing, but there are ways forward through the workload—as we have written about on this very website!


spa-news

As a self-publishing author, you may find it helpful to stay up-to-date on the trends and news related to the self-publishing industry.This will help you make informed decisions before, during and after the self-publishing process, which will lead to a greater self-publishing experience. To help you stay current on self-publishing topics, simply visit our blog each month to find out the hottest news. If you have other big news to share, please comment below.

icon logo self publishing advisor

Self-Publishing News: 5.21.2019

May -wooden carved name of spring month. Calendar on business office table, workplace at yellow background. Spring time

And now for the news!

Some highlights from this month in the world of self-publishing!

This week, Forbes came through for self-publishing authors in a big way, with this article by ForbesWomen contributor MeiMei Fox bringing a bit of sunshine into our lives. Fox’s premise is fairly self-explanatory, given the article’s title, but her content is well worth a deep read or two. “These days,” Fox opens the article, “aspiring authors don’t have to rely on the miracle of finding a literary agent and securing a deal with a traditional publishing house. Self-publishing makes it easy to get your words out there – the tricky part is ensuring that your work gets read. That requires self-promotion.” She touches base with three bestselling self-published authors who happen to be women, all three of whom “have built highly successful careers […] while also being sure to create entire brands around their literary creations to generate income and further secure their fan base.” Those authors are Crystal Swain-Bates, an accomplished children’s book author dedicated to closing the diversity gap in publishing, Kristen Ashley, successful author to numerous romance novels that embrace body positivity and a richer perception of womanhood than is common in the genre, and Penny Reid, who first got into self-publishing because traditional publishers rejected her romance work as having “too many thoughts and used too many big words,” which says a lot about what publishers think women want and are capable of digesting. Each of the authors Fox covers provides some strategic advice to authors (of any gender) looking not only to get into self-publishing but to market their books successfully. Fox’s article closes with a list of eight suggestions on how to do just that.

While many self-publishing authors who are not male might bristle at this article title, this article provided by Prime Press to the Good Men Project opens with a statement of fact: “According to a study published by ResearchGate, men cover at least 72.62% of all the published books recorded since 2010. In the digital publishing world, nothing much will surprise you as well.” Publishing has been growing more diverse of late, of course, and self-publishing provides a democratizing influence over the process as it makes room for diverse authors, women authors, and voices from the margins—but it’s true, men are still in the lead when it comes to overall quantity of voices. As Prime Press puts it, “a whopping 31% of e-book sales on Amazon’s Kindle Store are self-published books, with at least 51% of it written by male authors. This is not surprising since literature spent centuries being a male-dominated arena. There are more male authors receiving recognition, financial success, and hold positions in relevant associations.” But that percentage—51%—is a lot closer to parity than in traditional publishing! The article goes on to profile a number of male self-publishing authors, including Mitch Miller, Robert Gallent, Paul Halme, and Brad Gilmore, each of whom has had great success in self-publishing. Well worth a look!


spa-news

As a self-publishing author, you may find it helpful to stay up-to-date on the trends and news related to the self-publishing industry.This will help you make informed decisions before, during and after the self-publishing process, which will lead to a greater self-publishing experience. To help you stay current on self-publishing topics, simply visit our blog each month to find out the hottest news. If you have other big news to share, please comment below.

icon logo self publishing advisor

Self-Publishing News: 5.14.2019

May -wooden carved name of spring month. Calendar on business office table, workplace at yellow background. Spring time

And now for the news!

Some highlights from this month in the world of self-publishing!

In this recent article for the Irish Examiner, contributor Margaret Jennings converses with Frank Kelly, a printer who provides services to self-publishing authors. Kelly, who often partners with older authors looking to publish for the first time after retirement, pushes back against the lingering threads of stigma still tied to the process, especially when it comes to older writers. Writes Jennings,

You don’t have to “have a creative bone in your body”, he says, to witness the joy of seeing your name in print. Memoirs, biographies, family histories, local historical society compilations, are also all very popular projects and demand the focussed [sic] application of collating information in a chronological order.

All this is very good for the ageing process, he says.“It’s great for our whole well-being and longevity: it exercises the brain; it gives you a purpose in life, and a sense of achievement. We should always have something to look forward to, that’s my own personal philosophy — it’s the simple things that keep you going in life.”

For positive brain-ageing, writing focuses the mind, but also encourages the self-discipline to sit down and write a few pages every evening, he argues: “Instead of sitting down and watching a box-set, like a couch potato, in the evening, do a chapter a day, or write four pages a day; make a commitment to do something.”

In addition to the benefits associated with writing, Jennings (and Kelly) also note that publishing, separately from writing, has its own advantages: publishing provides a legacy, while promoting a new book with a launch party gives the author a specific time and place to boost their connectedness within their own community. Sounds pretty good to us!

In this week’s issue of the University of Melbourne’s Pursuit, Dr. Beth Driscoll digs into the development of what she calls microgenres, or “ultra-specific tags and categories” which are affixed to various books as they are published in order to render them more easily findable by readers. According to Dr. Driscoll, while “Genre has never been a very stable concept […] that hasn’t stopped it shaping the book industry and driving readers’ choices,” and the rise of microgenres isn’t all bad. Writes Dr. Driscoll, “they have effects that are social, textual, and industrial. Genres prompt social gatherings like cosplay at conventions. Genres influence what happens on the pages of books”—and “In an industry where all publishing is to some extent digital, microgenres, categories and tags all feed algorithms and make titles discoverable.” This is good news for readers. But what about self-publishing authors? As someone who has gone through the process herself, Dr. Driscoll knows a bit. “It’s often authors, these days, who choose how to categorise their own books,” she writes; in order to explore just what the experience looks and feels like, Dr. Driscoll and her fellow researchers co-wrote a comic erotic thriller about self-publishing and then … self-published it. Under a pseudonym, of course. They picked their codes and microgenres and then released into the world. The project is ongoing, writes Dr. Driscoll, but some results are already in:

As author-publishers, we have found that ultra-specific tags and categories can feel limiting, like putting creative work into ever-tinier boxes. But they can also feel generative and exciting, as they suggest new pathways for a book to travel along.

What our self-publishing adventure highlights is that microgenres help books and readers find one another in a global, digital age. Microgenres feed the algorithms that can push books towards niche bestseller charts or reading communities, and then springboard them into wider readerships.

Despite, or perhaps because of, the challenging instability and adaptability of ‘genre’, it is an ever-more powerful tool to help books circulate.

As you write and publish your own works, it’s worth keeping the power (and pitfalls) of microgenres in mind.


spa-news

As a self-publishing author, you may find it helpful to stay up-to-date on the trends and news related to the self-publishing industry.This will help you make informed decisions before, during and after the self-publishing process, which will lead to a greater self-publishing experience. To help you stay current on self-publishing topics, simply visit our blog each month to find out the hottest news. If you have other big news to share, please comment below.

icon logo self publishing advisor

Self-Publishing News: 5.07.2019

May -wooden carved name of spring month. Calendar on business office table, workplace at yellow background. Spring time

And now for the news!

Some highlights from this month in the world of self-publishing!

In keeping with its power to assist in democratizing literature, self-publishing has always provided a home for authors traditionally locked out of the traditional publishing process, including authors who are women, people of color, LGBTQIA+ folks, and people without access to great resources. This week, at least one of those groups is seeing themselves and their works reflected on the awards circuit: women took home all of awards for all six of the categories of the second annual ‘Pen to Publish’ contest, sponsored by Amazon India, that recognizes “and celebrates self-published digital literary works across several Indian languages,” according to this article in India’s Business Standard. Barriers to women in publishing exist internationally, and so it’s really quite nice (to put it mildly) to see six Indian women recognized for their skill and craft. Totally worth a look!

Did you know the American Booksellers Association runs online marketing meetups? Neither did we! Now that we do, we’re super excited to hear from BookWeb a little bit about their most recent meetup, the first in a series of tree focused on IngramSpark, Ingram’s print-on-demand and e-book distribution platform. Ingram is one of the major companies to keep in mind when attempting to sell your self-published books through retail locations, including both the biggies (like Barnes and Noble) and indie bookstores. Barnes and Noble, of course, has its own thing going on with the Nook platform, but indie booksellers—and libraries!—rely heavily on Ingram for their purchases, and some will only stock books if they’re available through that platform. Emily Behnke of BookWeb points out a number of the meetup’s highlights, and provides a summary of the IngramSpark offerings. Definitely worth checking out!

In further exciting news for gamers, as the headline from GBATemp makes clear, Platinum Games is breaking into the self-publishing market. As GBATemp‘s Krista Noren says, Platinum’s CEO “Inaba hopes to spend 2019 preparing Platinum Games for a future where all its games will be self-published.” That’s pretty cool! We’ll be watching as the self-publishing phenomenon continues to make inroads into the gaming sector.


spa-news

As a self-publishing author, you may find it helpful to stay up-to-date on the trends and news related to the self-publishing industry.This will help you make informed decisions before, during and after the self-publishing process, which will lead to a greater self-publishing experience. To help you stay current on self-publishing topics, simply visit our blog each month to find out the hottest news. If you have other big news to share, please comment below.

icon logo self publishing advisor