What's In a Name? Or a Book Title?

Ever try to come up with an original title for you latest book, one that isn't used by a dozen other authors? Let me tell ya, easy it ain't.

Not long after my first book, Duty, came out in 2012, former U.S Defense Secretary Robert Gates published his autobiography called, you guessed it, Duty. At the time I thought, "Cool. Maybe readers will look for Gates' book and buy mine instead." Well, that never happened, but ever since then I've noticed how a large number of books have similar or even identical names.

This came to mind again when I was looking up thriller author David Morrell's novel, The Shimmer, on Goodreads. While Morrell's book title was the only one I saw with that exact wording, my query returned 16 pages of books with similar names, including at least 14 named Shimmer.

When I named my noir mystery Empty Places, I thought it would be an exclusive name. After all, who writes about empty places? Since then I' be learned there are at least four other novels named Empty Places and dozens with variations on the name.

I wasn't surprised when I queried Goodreads and found 340 pages of books with some variation of my sci-fi novella's title, Eden. After all, the Bible is a pretty popular book. I was surprised, however, to see thirteen books with the same title as WWII hero Audie Murphy's classic autobiography To Hell and Back, including one written by the performing artist Meatloaf.

Out of curiosity, I began searching various titles on Goodreads. As I did, an advertisement popped up for Paula McLain's novel Circling the Sun. I popped that title into the search query and voila! Four other books with the same title, and dozens with variations on it.

Of course, most title similarities are innocent coincidence, but not all. Following the success of E.L. James' Fifty Shades of Grey, there has been a flood of similarly named erotic novels. One, 50 Shades of Gray, not only has a nearly identical title (50 vs Fifty, and Gray vs Grey) it also has, according to the cover blurb, a similar plot – similar enough that some of the reviewers apparently thought they were reading James' book.

Altogether I found 11 pages of titles on Goodreads similar to James' book, including Fifty Shades of Gray: Zombie Sex Dungeon, Fifty Shades of Dorian Gray, and my favorite, Fifty Shades of Grey Pussy Cats.

I did have one pleasant surprise in researching this post. When I searched Goodreads for the title of my military mystery thriller, The Killing Depths, I found only my book had that title.

Well, at least for now.