Title Twins: What Happens When Your Book has the Same Title as Another Book?

Authors want their books to have a unique and memorable title. I know a lot of authors who will not even tell anyone the name of a work in progress until it is published because they don’t want anyone to steal their title.

It’s easy to understand why authors would feel that way. You can’t copyright a title and sometimes finding a good one is harder than writing the freaking book. That causes two things to happen:

1. A lot of books have the same title as at least one other book; and

2. A lot of books have bizarre titles that are hard to remember, like The Return of the Revenge of the Curse of the Son of the Bride of Vampire Ninja vs. Robot Space Monkeys, Part II.

So it is not that terribly surprising that Stephen King has a book with the same title as that of another author.ย  Emily Schultz published her debut novel, Joyland, in 2006. Stephen King’s Joyland was released in 2013.

What I do find surprising is that the coincidence seemed to result in a sales spike for Ms. Schultz. According to The Telegraph article, a lot of those purchases were made by people who thought they were buying the King book. I guess I can see how someone might make that mistake. Still, the author’s name on the cover should be a clue.

Even more surprising are the reviews Ms. Schultz received from people who allegedly read her book and still thought it was written by Stephen King:

Although some who reviewed Shultz’s book on Amazon liked it on its own merit, most still thought this was a King book. Some thought he had taken a brilliant new direction, such as reviewer Sheila Peebles from Ohio, who wrote: “Probably one of the best books written by Stephen King. Not the usual King story but instead a warm wonderful story”.

It is pretty easy to buy the wrong book with one click. I guess I can even see some people beginning to read the book without realizing they had bought the wrong one. It is a little harder to believe anyone could read the whole book and still think it was written by Stephen King. I find it very difficult to believe that any great number of people could could make such a mistake.

I think it much more likely that a few people read the correct book and wrote their reviews about the correct book, but posted them on the wrong book. We have no way of knowing how often this happens, but we do know it has happened. It seems more likely to happen with books that share the same title.

Many customer-written reviews are vague enough that it cannot be stated with certainty which book they actually read.ย At the time of this article, Joyland by Emily Schultz had 13 reviews on Amazon. Let’s take a look at a few:

Not up to Steven King standards. Boring and boring. No suspense. The characters were interesting, but not exciting. Did not like the ending.

~

I have always loved Stephen King novels. However, this one was a rambling, stream of consciousness mess. I had to go back and read over the last pages again and again to try to understand what was happening. For a person who reads several books a week, this is annoying, to say the least. I will still read his next book, if there is one. He fascinates me with the way he thinks, generally. This book was not my favorite, by any means.

~

I bought both these books for my grand daughters birthday, which was the 20th, she just loves Stephen King, he is her favorite author

It is impossible to state definitively from these reviews that the customers read the wrong Joyland. The third one up there isn’t even really a review. I have read a number of Stephen King books and while many are excellent, even a golden goose lays a clunker every once in a while. The statements made in those first two reviews above could easily and accurately reflect how I felt about the King book, Gerald’s Game.

So, let’s look at some of the reviews for King’s Joyland:

The main character was whiny, the nostalgia was cheesy, the mystery was too easily solved, and it ended with a literal deus ex machina.

~

….one star, and only because I’m in a good mood! I only finished it because I’m a tight-wad and hate to waste money. Silly…but there it is!

~

Being a Stephen King fan for so many years….I was dumbfounded by this story. When I got to the middle of the book, I thought, ‘okay, it’s gonna get good now’….But it never did. Lame story. Boring. Absolutely NOTHING exciting about it. I am SO disappointed. Wish I could return this book and get my money back!!!

Which Joyland did these people read? Is it possible King ended up with some of Schultz’ reviews? Sure, that is possible. Is it possible some King fans just didn’t care for his latest offering? Also possible. We may never know the truth.

Do you have a book that shares a title with another book? Have you ever gotten a review that seemed like a real outlier? It could be that you’re getting another author’s bad reviews. Worse yet, they may be getting your good reviews.

Let’s hear about your experiences. Better yet, what steps do you think Amazon could take to prevent this kind of confusion?

Author: Stephen Hise

Stephen Hise is the Evil Mastermind and founder of Indies Unlimited. Hise is an independent author and an avid supporter of the indie author movement. Learn more about Stephen at his website or his Amazon author page.

33 thoughts on “Title Twins: What Happens When Your Book has the Same Title as Another Book?”

  1. A reviewer said once she really liked my book because she always was fascinated by Alaska. None of my books mentions Alaska. I’m still wondering what book she read that she confused with mine.

  2. We researched our title and at the time, there weren’t any others out there. but very quickly there were several published with Kai’s Journey as the beginning of the title. But the rest of the title, Kai’s Journey, The New World Chronicles, and Kai’s Journey to gold mountain are completely different and hard to mix up. Others have Kai’s Journey through Cancer, depression, etc. No matter how hard you try to come up with a new and unique title that is also memorable. Others will follow. Good to know about the Stephen King book though! good article~

    1. Coming up with a title that is unique at the time does not protect you from somebody using the same title later, though (as Emily discovered). I almost feel bad now about titling my next book The Shining. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  3. Good points Stephen. But how about sharing the title of your book with a rock band like my Wilderness Heart does. At least I think they are a rock band. lol. When I come up with a title, I do a research for the title I want to use to see if its been used before. It is has, I look at the type of books it’s been used on to decide if it will affect the use on my book. If it is a title that has been used a lot, then I go back to the drawing board.

  4. Stephen! You just solve a mystery for me! It did not occur to me that a couple of my reviews on two different books sounded strange because they might not have been written for my titles. One is almost word for word in one of your examples. One reviewer said the book was great except for all of the “F” words. I have never used the ‘F’ word in my sweet romance books. There are 15 novels with the same title as one of mine. Seven or eight published after mine. I am not changing my title. But I’ll do more research before I chose a title for a new book. It is all a learning curve. I seldom noticed duplicate titles in book stores because those books were often shelved in different areas. But now with every dang title on Amazon–I notice.

    1. And we have no way of really knowing how often it occurs with good or bad customer reviews. Some reviews are just so generic you cannot be sure they are talking about your book.

  5. When I wrote Back From Chaos I wanted to use Assassin’s Quest but it was taken. I agonized over the title for a long time as I wanted one no one else had. I now wonder if that was the right decision.

  6. If you use common words, and not many of them, you’re going to run the chance of twins. Each genre has its own list. If you use strange words or long titles, nobody remembers. The trick is to find something unusual but memorable. Warning; be careful about using punctuation marks inside titles. I used an ellipsis in “A Sword Calledโ€ฆKitten?” thinking how creative I was, but Amazon search engine doesn’t recognize ellipsis’s (ellipse?) Well, at least there are no twins ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Great article, Stephen. I changed the original title of Serial Date–which had been Pieces of April–for just that reason. Although, it would have been a lot more fun to use…in a dark, twisted sort of way ๐Ÿ˜€

  8. It is pretty crazy that someone *can* actually post a review on the wrong book. You’d think Amazon would have some safeguards for that. I would imagine that being able to post a review after reading the book directly from the Kindle would cut down on that, but I don’t understand that technology enough. Maybe it would be worse than it is if people couldn’t do it that way. I don’t know, but I will be calling my next book “Revenge of the Kangaroos in Cheap Suits” to make certain it doesn’t happen to me.

    1. It seems to me the responsibility to get the right review with the right book lies with the reader, not with Amazon. I understand that buying with 1 click makes it all so easy, and readers might not expect to see more than 1 book with any given name, but how about just reading the author name? Checking to see if the cover is the same? Maybe, Stephen, this post will serve to simply bring the possibility to mind so people will be more aware. This whole scenario is really kind of a funny accidental experiment.

      1. I agree that the responsibility lies with the reader to place the review with the right book, but it is the author who suffers the consequences (or maybe reaps the rewards) of misplaced reviews. It also does not further the purpose of customer reviews to have them on the wrong product. I would think Amazon would want to address it from that concern alone.

  9. Yikes. And people think I’m overdoing it when I brainstorm up hundreds of possible titles. I had to change my working title for “Don’t Tell Anyone” (originally “The C Word”) because it was being used for at least a dozen cancer memoirs. And it’s ridiculously hard to get a review intended for someone else removed from your page. I’ve seen a friend go through that. I guess the reviewer, who’d read a book with the same title, just searched the name of the book and didn’t notice that he was putting the review (a really bad review) on the WRONG one.

    1. Yeah, Amazon is not very cooperative with getting a review removed even in cases where it is obviously assigned to the wrong book. I don’t get that. It seems like that reduces the marginal utility of customer reviews overall.

  10. This is a subject I examined when naming my book ‘Terra Nullius’. I actually saw some plusses to having the same name as an in depth nonfiction book by respected historian Sven Lindqvist. I figured that I might at least get one or two having a look because of the title similarity, and perhaps get one or two serious students of history to check out the alternate, extremely valid point of view that I put forward in novel form. I see now that there are two more, different books on Amazon (one French book and one German) named Terra Nullius and yet another called โ€˜People of Terra Nulliusโ€™. I havenโ€™t had any mix up with reviews, yet.

    Excellent article, Stephen.

  11. “Scorched Earth” is such a great title that there are a ton of books out there with that name. However, they all seem to be either nonfiction or thrillers, so I felt pretty safe using the name for an urban fantasy. So far, no mistaken reviews. But we still have plenty of time – the book only came out a couple of weeks ago. ๐Ÿ˜€

    1. Even if there is never any confusion with those books by the same title that preceded yours in publication, there is still plenty of time for the confusion to happen with books by the same title yet to be published. But remember, it swings both ways. It may be that your book never receives a review that should have gone to another book. That doesn’t mean that another book (or several) might not get reviews intended for yours. *cue maniacal laugh* ๐Ÿ˜‰

  12. My fantasy novel “The Stone Dragon” has two or three other novels of the same title. I was pretty shocked when I realized that but still felt the title was good for the book. My young adult novel, “Love Ya Like a Sister,” has one other same title publication, but that book is a non-fiction. I haven’t noticed any switched reviews, but I suppose you’ve given me something to look forward to!

    I think you just have to put out to the best of your ability the best product with the best title. Knowing others already have (or can have in the future) the same title is good to know, though. That knowledge might lead one to a different choice.

    Actually, when it comes to searches online, my name is more confusing. Search “Kepler” and what pops up is information on Johannes Kepler, the mathematician from the beginning of the 17th century. Maybe I should write a story about the orbits of the planets. That would really confuse everyone!

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