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What to Do When Another Book Has the Same Title as Yours

Heidi Thorne is a self-publishing advocate and author of nonfiction books, eBooks, and audiobooks. She is a former trade newspaper editor.

If another book has the same or similar title to yours, should you be concerned?

If another book has the same or similar title to yours, should you be concerned?

What Would You Do in This Situation?

A self-published author I know was recently concerned to discover that a new book with a very similar title was appearing before hers in Amazon's search results. She feared that this other book would take away her visibility on Amazon and Google searches, even though her book was published much earlier. Were her fears valid? Was there anything she could do?

Here's my advice for this situation.

Similar Titles Doesn't Mean Similar Content

The Avengers, Twilight, The Fast and the Furious, Notorious, Bad Boys. What do these all have in common? The same title for very different books or movies. If you have any familiarity with these similarly titled works, do you think there’s going to be any confusion? I don’t.

In the opening example, the two similarly titled fiction books were in different genres. That made it less likely there would be confusion between the two, even if they both showed up on the same search results page on Amazon. As well, the two books had different subtitles and/or series names, making it even more unlikely that readers would be confused.

As of today, under United States copyright law, creative works can have the same title and not infringe upon each other’s copyrights. But that doesn’t mean you should intentionally title your book the same as another. Another author’s similar title may also be trademarked, e.g., Harry Potter, and you’d be in even more hot water. Always do your research and due diligence on your potential book titles prior to self-publishing.

But if another author publishes a book with a similar title and content to your already published book, you need to carefully weigh the risks and potential rewards of making a legal claim for infringement.

Consult an attorney who specializes in intellectual property with any questions about book title and copyright issues.

In the opening example, the author was concerned that the similarly titled competitor’s book would outrank her in search on Amazon and Google. Indeed it might. And when I checked it on Amazon, indeed it did. But both books had almost the same amount of customer reviews.

So why did one book appear before the other in search results on Amazon? The Amazon algorithm is extremely complex and the search methodology is not shared with the world. Plus, it is constantly being updated. I’ve seen that sometimes newer titles appear before older ones. That’s what could have been happening here.

For Google search, the situation is similar. No one outside of Google knows the algorithm and it is constantly changing, though often priority appears to be given to more recent entries that fit the user’s search query. In this example case, both authors’ books appeared on the same results page when I typed the title into the search box, the newer book listed first and the other book second.

The bad news is that there’s not much you can do about this because this is beyond your control.

The bigger question is why do you care? When a reader types in your book’s title in a search query because they’ve learned about you or your book on social media or elsewhere, they are looking for you or your book. They’re not going to look at all the similarly titled books and say, “Hmm, I see three books with the about same title. Eeny, meeny, miny, moe. Which one should I read? They’re all the same, right?” Of course not!

Consider, too, that often readers may search for the author's name and not the book's title. So even if there are books with similar titles, if they're searching for you, they'll see your books. And why will they be searching for you? Because you've built your author platform, or fan base, on the likes of social media, blogs, podcasts, and YouTube to create demand for your books.

Amazon and Google search is not where your book and author visibility are built. Those are just “last mile” channels where your fans will go to find out more about your book or actually buy.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2020 Heidi Thorne


Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on August 30, 2020:

Adrienne, I think as long as authors aren't deliberately infringing on another book's title, it's less of an issue. However, I do understand that it can be quite emotionally unsettling for an author, even if unintentional.

Thanks for reading and thoughtful comments! Have a wonderful day!

Adrienne Farricelli on August 29, 2020:

With so many books coming out, it's not surprising that a book may end up having a title that it strikingly similar or even the same, as it can happen after all with titles of movies, names of stores, websites etc. Your tips are helpful. Although I would be a little upset if I came up with a very original title and somebody used it as well shortly after me, you make good points as to why it shouldn't be considered a major problem.

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on August 16, 2020:

Hi Marie! Similar titles are not infringement, but it does depend on the nature of the work, trademarks, and such. In general, there can be same or similar titles, even though it's not advisable to purposely use another title. Too risky and won't work to the author's advantage.

Thanks for reading and commenting! Have a lovely day!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on August 16, 2020:

Doris, that's an aspect I didn't think of! Yes, when authors use titles that are similar to some already on the market, it does increase readers' time to sort through them all. That's why research and due diligence are so important during the book writing and planning phases.

Thanks so much for adding that angle to the conversation! Have a lovely day!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on August 16, 2020:

Linda, I could say the same for your articles! We never stop learning, right? Thanks so much for your support. Have a beautiful day!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on August 16, 2020:

Liz, I'm sure you're not alone with questions! Glad I cleared that up. :) Thanks so much for reading and commenting. Have a lovely day!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on August 16, 2020:

Peggy, I agree. Once readers read the book description, they'll figure it out. But I know that this can be very concerning for authors. Thanks for chiming in and have a lovely day!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on August 16, 2020:

Pamela, I think we all can remember some same-titled books! And, yes, people do read the descriptions. Luckily, now that we have Amazon, we can easily figure out which of the "twins" we really want. Thanks for chiming and have a beautiful day!

Marie Flint from Jacksonville, FL USA on August 16, 2020:

I figured same or similar titles shouldn't be an issue but decided to read this article in case there was a finer detail I could learn. It's nice to know that the copyright office doesn't consider same titles an infringement.

Thank you for sharing.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on August 15, 2020:

I always learn something new by reading your articles. Thanks for sharing some more useful information, Heidi.

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on August 15, 2020:

I had noticed that, Heidi. I found that out when I was searching for a particular book and ran into several books with that title. I think all the subject matter was different. The only problem was that it made my search much harder because apparently the subject matter wasn't as popular as the others. I'm glad to know that it really doesn't make a big difference in book sales.

Liz Westwood from UK on August 15, 2020:

This is a very helpful and reassuring article. Your title raised questions in my mind, which you answered well and reassuringly in the article.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on August 15, 2020:

Your advice is concise and to the point. The descriptions of the books, beyond the title, should clear up any confusion.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on August 15, 2020:

This article is very interesting; I have seen the same book titles also, but I always read wht the description of the book. I wondered about the plagerism issue, which you answered very well. Have a good weekend, Heidi.

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on August 15, 2020:

Hi Heidi, I don't have a QAP challenge at the moment. What I'm trying to point out concerns another hubber. But somehow, the last paragraph of my message, it seems was not saved when post as system crash. Much thanks.

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on August 14, 2020:

Flourish, I think the differences in same-titled books are usually pretty obvious, too. What's the saying? There's nothing new under the sun? Yeah, it happens all the time with books.

Thanks for adding that perspective to the conversation! Have a lovely weekend!

FlourishAnyway from USA on August 14, 2020:

I’ve seen multiple books with the same title but they often had very different content and it was pretty obvious from looking at the author and general book description which one was the sought after product. I’m sure people think their titles are unique but there are only so many descriptors. Good advice here.

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on August 14, 2020:

Bill, yeah, it's something like that. ;) I just can't get all worked up about this stuff. I know that I'm not intentionally trying to use someone else's book title. And if someone wants to duplicate mine, well, I feel I'll win that game. I'm not worried.

And no one--no one!--would be confusing my books with others. Although weirdly my book title "SWAG..." often shows up with books on drapery swag. :-D Again, I don't care because people who want my book are going to look for it intentionally.

Hey, Happy Weekend to you, too!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on August 14, 2020:

Hello Miebakagh! Yes, similar titles with very different content do happen.

Do contact HubPages if you're having issues with the QAP. I've found them to be helpful if I ever had questions.

Thank you for your comments and have a great day!

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on August 14, 2020:

You have clear the many comfusion here. I had not known that same titles would have different content. Thought I have not read such works. Coincidentally, a newbie try publishing a story with a book title here not long ago. The issue was how to pass QAP.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on August 14, 2020:

We are in total agreement, my friend, but that's no surprise. I have always loved your no-nonsense style. We are two peas in the same pod, or something like that. lol

Happy Weekend to you!