What Would You Do?
I have a dilemma. Two, actually. And I could use your advice. But first, a little explanation. Some years ago, a writing colleague and good friend gave me some free advice. “When it comes to your stories, keep them close to your heart. Treat them just like your babies…because they are your babies! Authors are notorious for stealing ideas and calling them their own.”
I didn’t want to believe her. Who wants to live in a world where people tell you lies, cheating and stealing the things that are yours? But I had no reason not to believe my friend; I knew she had only my best interests at heart. Plus, she’s a NYT Bestselling Author and obviously knew what she’s talking about. And so I heeded her advice. Over the years, I’ve released very few details of my stories as I’m writing. I’m also careful not to give away my titles and/or cover designs. It’s served me well… until now.
Which leads me to my first dilemma: my new book's title.
When I started writing Don't Open The Door, I’d already settled on that title. Not only did I love it, but the idea behind the title itself is an integral part of the storyline. I wrote the first paragraphs of Don't Open The Door on Oct. 20, 2020, and it’s taken me nearly three years to finish. Last week, when I sent the manuscript off to my editor, her reply caught me by surprise. “I don't know if you're aware, but Allison Brennan, a best-selling romantic suspense author, just recently (last month maybe?) released a novel with the title you want to use. I don't know if that sort of thing matters to you, or if you'd even want a new title…because it does fit your story very well.”
Holy cow! What do I do now? This title-thing is causing me great anxiety. I have no desire to try and compete with Allison Brennan. She’s a fabulous author, very popular, with a huge fanbase of readers. But we write in widely different genres (she’s Romantic Suspense; I concentrate on Women’s Fiction) and our readership is vastly different. I doubt Allison Brennan cares one way or the other what title I use. Plus, I checked out her new book. Whew! While it sounds fantastic, the plot is nothing like mine.
So, given my druthers, I’d prefer to keep the title exactly the way it is. Plus, I know that a title cannot be copyrighted. The U.S. Copyright Office has determined that titles are not intellectual property and as such, may be used for different books. For years, my novel Fatty Patty (2012) was the only book published under that title; today, numerous books carrying the same name are available. The only time I’m bothered by it is when I think about new readers intent on finding my earlier works first having to sift through newer versions of the same title before they eventually land on my book.
Meanwhile, it’s my second dilemma which really has my anxiety soaring. I’m referring to the book’s cover.
One of my all-time favorite authors is Stephen King. I’m an avid fan and I’ve read nearly all his books. His novel 11/22/63 is a masterpiece and is on my list of Top 5 Books of All Time. King has a new release coming out in early September. Titled Holly, it’s a thriller about a private detective named Holly Gibney, one of King’s beloved recurring characters. I’m looking forward to reading the book. I heard about it on June 22nd when Stephen King himself announced it would be coming out. Since his Twitter feed didn’t reveal a cover, I searched for it on Google. And the minute I saw it, my heart and hopes collided in a huge THUD.
King’s new book is eerily similar to the “sample cover art” I designed in April 2023 for Don't Open The Door. I was fooling around on a graphic design website to which I subscribe, and I stumbled across some existing artwork which I immediately fell in love with. I didn’t have to do much to make it my own. And while I never planned that my version should end up as the cover for my latest book, I had planned to submit it to my graphic artist as “a perfect example” of how I envisioned the cover. But now I'm left wondering if I should do so.
In no way, shape or form is my book similar to King’s novel Holly. The plots are wildly different. Plus, I have no illusions. While King’s writing soars well past the limits of our literary solar system, my own literary skills are well grounded in gravity and barely achieve lift-off. But as authors, King and I (and let’s not forget Allison Brennan) have something in common. All we’re trying to do is offer readers a good story. And for me, getting readers to pick up one of my books and give it a “look-see” must start with a great cover and a great title.
Which I thought I had…up until now.
What do you think? Do I keep my title? Do I submit my cover?
Or do I start all over again?
I'd love to hear what you would do. Any and all comments are much appreciated!