I Share Your Name*

Books With the Same TitleOne of the most challenging decisions authors and publishers make is what to title a book. Titles need to be short enough so that readers can easily remember them. The best titles also have something to do with the story. Titles really are tricky, especially when you add in the need to make a title unique – something readers will remember.

It doesn’t help matters that there are already thousands of crime novels out there, any of which could already have the same title the author may be considering. It’s true. There really are a lot of books out there with the same title. That makes it hard for the author/publisher, and certainly difficult for the book buyer. There are a lot of examples of ‘matching titles’ out there. Here are just a few.

Both L.R. Wright and Michael Robotham wrote books they called The Suspect. Wright’s novel is the story the murder of eighty-five-year-old Carlyle Burke. From the beginning of the story, we know that eighty-year-old George Wilcox is the killer; what we don’t know is the ‘why.’ As RCMP Staff Sergeant Karl Alberg learns, it’s one thing to be fairly certain that someone murdered someone else. It’s quite another to find the motive. Robotham’s novel is different. In that story, London psychologist Joe O’Loughlin gets involved in a murder investigation when the body of a nurse and former patient Catherine McBride is retrieved from Grand Union Canal. Detective Vincent Ruiz takes an interest in O’Loughlin as a suspect, since he knew the victim, was near the scene when the body was discovered, and has other connections to the case that come out as the story unfolds. O’Loughlin is going to have to find out the truth, if he’s going to clear his name. He’s also going to have to find a way to work with Ruiz.

Both Lisa Unger and Steve Robinson have written novels called In The Blood. Unger’s features college student Lana Granger, who rather reluctantly takes a job as a sort of after-school nanny for Rachel Kahn’s eleven-year-old son Luke. It seems like an easy enough job. And it’s in Lana’s chosen field of psychology, since Luke has severe social and emotional problems. Lana is uneasy from the start, but she’s soon distracted when her friend and roommate Rebecca ‘Beck’ Miller disappears. Matters get even worse when it looks as though Lana may know more than she’s saying about what happened. Robinson’s novel, on the other hand, is a genealogical mystery. Jefferson Tayte is hired to trace the lineage of Walter Sloan’s wife as a gift. The trail leads to Cornwall, so Tayte travels there. When he arrives, he locates some modern-day members of the family. He also finds that the closer he gets to the truth about that family, the more danger there is for him. Someone is willing to kill to keep certain facts hidden…

Deadly Tide is the title of a Sandy Curtis novel featuring Samantha ‘Sam’ Bretton and Brisbane copper Chayse Jarett. When Sam’s father is implicated in a murder case, she decides that she’ll have to skipper the family fishing boat Sea Mistress herself. Besides keeping the family business going, she wants to find out the truth about the murder. Jarrett’s been assigned to look into the same case, and goes along undercover as a new deck hand. Together they discover that the murder is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg, and is connected with some very dangerous international smugglers. One of George East’s novels is also called Deadly Tide. This one, the second in his Inspector Jack Mowgley series, begins with a gruesome discovery. An exclusive designer bag filled with heroin, a cache of money, and two arms have washed up on a beach. Mowgley and his assistant, Sergeant Catherine McCarthy, are just working on that case when they learn that a cleaner on a cross-Channel ferry has found a torso in one of the ferry’s luxury cabins. To get to the truth, Mowgley and McCarthy will go up against some very nasty drugs dealers, and the Russian Mafia.

Karin Fossum and Erica Spindler have each written a book called Don’t Look Back. Fossum’s features Oslo Inspector Konrad Sejer and his assistant Jacob Skarre. In this novel, they investigate the death of fifteen-year-old Annie Holland, whose body is found by a tarn near her village. It seems odd that someone like Annie should be killed. She was well-liked, and not the target of bullies. What’s more, there are no signs of rape, so that wasn’t the motive either. Sejer and Skaare will have to uncover quite a few local secrets to find out the truth. Spindler’s novel, on the other hand, is the story of Kat McCall’s return to her home town of Liberty, Louisiana, after a ten-year absence. She left after the murder of her sister Sara – a murder that was never solved. Everyone in town believes that Kat is responsible, and they haven’t forgotten. She is determined to find out what really happened, and works with Sergeant Luke Tanner to discover the truth.

There’s also P.J. Parrish and Sam Brandon. Both the Parrish writing duo and Brandon have written books called Dead of Winter. Parrish’s novel is the story of police officer Louis Kincaid, who takes a job with the Loon Lake, Michigan police. He soon learns that the job opened up because his predecessor was murdered. When he gets permission to re-open that case, he learns that the victim was killed during an investigation, and that there are plenty of people who do not want anyone else looking into that case. As Kincaid keeps digging, he finds that several people he’s met are not what they seem. The real action in Brandon’s novel begins when successful New York lawyer Roger Cornwell hires Tom Cavalier to find out whether his daughter Katherine died in the September 11, 2001 attacks, or whether she simply went missing. Cavalier is reluctant to take the case, but he’s a good choice. He’s an ex-military and psychologist, whose specialty was finding soldiers who’d gone AWOL.  Now he’s hung out his shingle in his home town of Rockland, Maine. Cavalier isn’t eager to return to finding missing persons, but Cornwell convinces him that this case is worth investigating.

As you can see, these books do have certain similarities, and one could trace common themes. But they really are quite different stories, written in different styles, and featuring very different characters. And of course, they’re written by different authors. And yet, they have the same title. I don’t really know what the solution to the title challenge is. I face it myself. I do wonder at times how many people accidentally borrow or buy one book when they mean to get another that happens to have the same title.



*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from the Go-Betweens’ Dusty in Here.


Filed under Erica Spindler, George East, Karin Fossum, L.R. Wright, Lisa Unger, Michael Robotham, P.J. Parrish, Sam Brandon, Sandy Curtis, Steve Robinson

36 responses to “I Share Your Name*

  1. Katie Leif has a novel called “Don’t Look Back” too, if memory serves. I don’t know about you, but I try to do endless searches before titling one of my books.

    • Thanks, Sue. I hadn’t known about the Leif one. It just adds to what you’re saying about searching carefully before titling. I do the same sort of thing. It doesn’t always work, but I try.

  2. My favorite title that is used a lot is NEMESIS. These authors have written books by that title: Jo Nesbo, Bill Pronzini, Agatha Christie, Lindsey Davis. Plus Philip Roth and Isaac Asimov. And a lot of others that I don’t recognize. I have not read any of them yet.

    • Oh, my goodness, yes, Tracy! That’s an absolutely pitch-perfect example of exactly what I had in mind with this post. It’s not hard to see the appeal of that title, but a lot of authors sure have opted for it!

  3. Col

    I don’t get confused with same title books, as much as I have done with an author’s book getting reissued under a new title. Sometimes the US title varied from the UK title and I’ve ended up with the same book twice in error!

    • Oh, that is frustrating, isn’t it, Col? I’ve done the same thing. In some cases, there are good reasons for changing a title. But in other cases, it doesn’t make a lot of sense, at least not to me…

  4. I once got to chat to Colin Dexter at a book signing and I asked him if the title of his Morse novel LAST SEEN WEARING was inspire by the Hilary Waugh classic of the same name and he was gracious enough to say yes and how much he admired that book 🙂

    • Oh, lucky you, Sergio!! And how gracious of Dexter, too. Thanks also for mentioning Last Seen Wearing, a novel I should have included here but didn’t. Thanks for filling in the gap.

  5. I wish I’d read your post before I chose my last title, Margot. I neglected to check at online sellers and discovered too late that “Dead Wrong” had been used many times before. I’ve learned my lesson, and I bet a lot of other authors have also learned the hard way.

    • Oh, it’s most definitely not just you, Pat. You’re right that a lot of authors have done the same sort of thing. It’s actually a bit hard to avoid, with so many good books out there…

  6. On the blog I have two “The Stranger” – Harlan Coben and Camilla Lackberg – and also another “The Dead of Winter” – this time by Rennie Airth. And, for me, the title “Don’t Look Back” belongs to Daphne du Maurier. I just had a quick look at Amazon and there are roughly twenty books listed as “Don’t Look Back” with different authors – that must surely be one of the most used names of all time! And currently there are two “Little Black Lies” doing the rounds – Sharon Bolton and Sandra Block. I found that one surprising because it’s an original play on words (unlike say “The Stranger”) and yet used twice within a couple of months of each other. I’ve read half a review sometimes with increasing bafflement before realising it’s not of the book I was thinking about. And now Jane Casey’s new one is called “Hide and Seek” which for me will always be associated with Rebus.

    It’s a difficult one for authors – there’s a finite number of names out there really, and sometimes a title just seems perfect for the book. I only really find it confusing if the books come out at roughly the same time. But I’m sure it affects occasional sales – if someone said to me “You must read Little Black Lies” I’d reply “I’ve read it” rather than “Who by?”.

    • That is odd about Little Black Lies, isn’t it, FictionFan, especially given they came out so close to each other. And you’re right about Don’t Look Back, too; it’s been used so often! Your other examples are terrific, too. It really goes to show you just how often different authors think the same title will be the best choice for their books. It’s interesting too how we associate certain titles with certain authors, even if others have used those titles (e.g. Hide and Seek with Rebus). I’ll have to think about that one…
      As you say, it is a bit of a tough one for authors. The author wants to choose the perfect title for a book, but there really are a lot of other books out there, and the odds of being the only one who’s thought of a given title are steep. I think it does make the whole thing more confusing if you have too books with the same title come out at the same time. Fortunately that hasn’t happened too often to me, and not with the books that I’ve written (yet!). It’s definitely a consideration though.

  7. I do a Google search before choosing a working title for a novel. However, there may be no way to avoid this problem entirely. 🙂

  8. Our book club was reading Little Black Lies so I ordered it through my local bookshop, read it & discovered when I attended the meeting that it was the wrong book – Hah. Well this was a first.
    So confusing, even the author names are so similiar & they both have the same initals.

    • Oh, that must have been confusing, Anne! And frustrating. As you say, the author names are similar in that case too, which makes it all the more difficult. It’s a great example of happens when books share the same title.

  9. Margot: I am about to read a book where the author has re-worked the first book in a series and is publishing it under a slightly different name. I understand the first is difficult to find but the process ultimately seems to invite confusion.

    • Oh, that is interesting, Bill. It’s understandable the author would want to make some changes – that happens. But changing the title can indeed be confusing, and possibly annoying for those who’ve already read the book under its former title.

  10. I was looking for a new release called ‘The Good Neighbor’ by A J Banner but accidently now have a book by the same name by Amy Sue Nathan – also a new release! I was only commenting recently how many of the books I’ve read this year have the word daughter in the title – it is easy to get confused. I’m delighted with your choice of In The Blood which were both excellent reads and ones that I thoroughly recommend.

    • Oh, I’m sorry to hear that you didn’t get the book you wanted, Cleo – that’s annoying. I’m glad you enjoyed both of the In the Blood novels. Interesting that they’re such different books. It is indeed easy to get confused when there are several books that have such similar titles. And you give a really clear example with the word Daughter. That really has been in a lot of titles (maybe even worth a post in itself at some point).

  11. I recently had such an experience, where I could only remember the title not the author and was searching for the book on Goodreads – and discovered about ten books with the same title (some in plural, some in singular, though, but since I didn’t know the exact title either, that didn’t help).
    And that’s without even jumping on bandwagons of success. I’m still searching for a title for my second one, by the way. Maybe something like ‘The Girl with Lies who Jumped off the Train and Disappeared in the Sea’ – sorry, nothing to do with the storyline, but it covers all the bases!

    • I’ve had the same problem as MarinaSofia – read a book when I was in my teens which I vaguely remember being called ‘Dead of Winter’, a sort of creepy/crime novel probably written in the fifties, but when I searched there were dozens of books with that name and none was the one I was looking for!

    • I love that title, Marina Sofia! It’s certainly distinctive, and what a great mental picture, too. It really isn’t easy to choose the best title for one’s book, is it? I have to really think about it (‘though I’ve not come up with one as clever as yours…). You’re right, too, that with so many books out there with the same or similar titles, it’s hard to find exactly the one you’re looking for unless you know the author’s name.

  12. Margot -a great post. I find it more confusing when the covers of completely different books are the same (I have come across that twice this year). Now that is confusing and I wonder how they can happen – stock photos perhaps?

  13. Margot, I know I shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, or its title, but I’d be put off by books with same titles. I fail to see the logic no matter how apt it’d be to borrow the title of a previously published book. I’m drawn to novels with unique and intriguing titles, such as those of many of Jack Higgins’ thrillers — “The Savage Day,” “The Last Place God Made,” “Sad Wind from the Sea,” “Hell Is Too Crowded,” “A Candle for the Dead,” “The Eagle Has Landed,” “A Fine Night for Dying,” and “A Prayer for the Dying.” Those imaginative titles are one of the reasons why Higgins (Harry Patterson) remains one of my favourite authors.

    • Oh, those are unique kinds of titles, Prashant, and you’re right they are more attention-getting (and appealing) than a book with a sort of bland ‘everyone uses it) sort of title. It does take work to choose the right title for a book, but the careful author/publisher can find something that sets it apart. It’s not easy, though…

  14. I’m with Bill Selnes. There is a Camilla Lackberg book that is going round in two editions with different names. A Goodreads author (whose name I forget) self-published, did well and got taken up by a publisher who edited and re-titled his book. I think that’s unfair to fans of the authors concerned. It’s like sucking a sweetie, spitting it out and re-wrapping it for resale. On the other hand, if you buy a book with a ringing title it’s best to check you’re buying the correct author.

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