Are Book Titles Copyrighted?

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Although book titles are not copyrighted (and thus give you the right to use any one you wish, including those that may have already been used multiple times), you may not want to use a familiar title in order to avoid confusion by readers. However, more and more, authors are using portions of well-known titles in order to attract consumers. 

Consider the following:

Gone Girl.

Girl from the Train.

Pride and Prejudice.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret.

Are You There, Vodka? It’s me, Chelsea.

Catcher in the Rye.

Catcher in the Box.

Notice Anything?

These authors have taken part of the title of well-known books and reworded them for use in their own titles.

Why?

Because books that have sold well, have been typed in searches many times and have been marketed well, almost become household words.

In other words, they are FAMILIAR—both to readers and the infamous “web-crawlers.”

Whether you choose a title for your book with the words Girl or Zombies in in it, or you copy the complete title of a well-known book and simply change a word or two, chances are your book will come up in more Google searches, etc.

This is smart—if your book is in the same genre and basically on the same subject.

You are free to use these techniques to get a little more exposure for your books. A word of wisdom, though: don’t go trying to rewrite the original book—plagiarism, or even the hint of it—will get you in a lot of trouble. Here, we are simply talking about book TITLES.

More intriguing information about book titles next week…

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Reel Them In

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Contrary to popular opinion that a book’s cover, title, and back cover blurb are all-powerful in convincing a consumer to buy your book, may I suggest that there just may be something almost as powerful that some of us have been overlooking?

I say “may” because I have not tried this—yet. But, it IS intriguing. 

Although not necessary, chapter titles present another chance to reel the reader in, and once the purchase is made, they may keep your audience turning pages well past midnight.

First, though, I’d like to mention the positive roles that chapter titles can play for the author. That’s right. Chapter titles can help you, the author, to focus on the mission/purpose of each chapter while you are writing, making sure that each one aligns with the story’s premise.

Secondly, you can use chapter titles to help build the cause and effect relationship between the preceding chapter and the next.

Thirdly, creating chapter titles serves to attract your audience. For instance, Annie Proulx’s maritime stories use them very cleverly. Some of them are: “A Rolling Hitch,” “Strangle Knot,” and “Love Knot.” 

I read a book once, entitled “A Day in the Life of…” Each chapter—yes, all 24—were the hours on a clock, advancing from midnight forward throughout the entire day. Another book, I remember, used song titles.

If you are halfway through the writing of your book, using chapter titles might not benefit your writing. However, if you are just beginning to write and could use extra help in aligning your chapters with your story’s premise, you may want to consider using chapter titles.

Creating chapter titles may be a fun way to add interest and organization to your own writing, while attracting readers that appreciate the extra effort.

When the Timing is Right

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Over the past few years, we have talked about HOW to write, discussing “rules,” trends, methods, etc. We have talked about WHERE to write to be most productive. We have even touched on WHY we write, WHO is called to write, WHAT topics we might write about, WHEN the optimum time of day to write might be.

We have covered a lot of ground.

Although we may have skirted around it a couple of times, at no time do I think we’ve talked about the timeliness of addressing certain topics.

In fact, there are some things that are best if left unsaid. 

While I may feel that I have valid thoughts to share on a number of subjects. (And, believe me, I DO believe in freedom of speech. This is NOT about that.) And even though I might even feel that some people might profit from hearing what I have to say—that some might even welcome my opinions or insight—the timing isn’t always “right.”

For example, an acquaintance of mine passed away this past year. She died from an overdose of prescription medications. Although I had some strong feelings about this subject, the timing would not have been good, if I had shared my thoughts when the minister asked those attending the memorial to come up to the microphone and speak.

Nor, did I feel it appropriate to get on Facebook and articulate my position…

Sometimes, feelings are just too raw, or the unfortunate incident still too fresh in the minds of the audience. Writers need to be mindful of the timing of some of their comments and consider how readers might be affected.

If you write BOOKS, a current event might have lost some of its painful aspects by the time a manuscript has been written, edited, and published. Ideas that were once raw and perhaps not completely thought out, may profit from this lapse of time. They may have germinated…and GROWN into more polished, fruitful, and expanded truths that will benefit a vast audience of readers. In some cases, they may even become movies or get adopted by a non-profit.

The question, then, is not, “Will you say it?”

It is, “When will you say it?”

Your answer may well be the difference between being insensitive and rude or acting as a thought-provoking visionary…a catalyst for change.  

The Art in Writing

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They say a picture is worth a thousand words.

And words, skillfully put together, paint word pictures. 

Just how detailed should a writer’s word picture be?

Should settings and other descriptions be in-depth and intricate? Should they follow the example of realism, like the famous artists Jean-Francois Millet and Honore-Victorin Daumier and, thus create a word painting that “looks” real—like it would in real life?

Or should descriptions lend themselves to the more abstract, placing more of an emphasis on visual sensation, as did Picasso and Van Gogh?

My personal opinion, is that this is a matter of writing style— and as yours evolves, you will find that you prefer one over the other. 

But, remember:

Readers, also, will have a preference as to which authors they like to read. Some love to read flowing prose that uses up word count with lots of descriptive elements. Others may prefer minimal descriptive words, freeing them to fill in the gaps with their own imaginations.

Myself? Well, I find that I prefer to write—and read—somewhere in the middle. Give me enough description so that I understand the “big picture,” but not so much detail that it slows me down. I want to focus more on the action—the story—and let my mind fill in the descriptive blanks. I’m an abstract/realist.

Some genres may use more description than others. For instance, Fantasy and Sci-fi need more detailed descriptions because the writer is creating a world totally unlike our own earth. A large part of what makes those genres so interesting IS the description of the settings and characters in those alternate worlds.

Romance novels also use a lot of description because the reader has to find the characters desirable, so they will want to keep reading to find out if the “guy gets the girl” in the end. Thus, the reader must believe they are worthy of pursuing and being pursued.

So, should you paint your picture using a thousand words?  Probably not.

It is fun—also a challenge—to see how well you can describe something using a minimal amount of carefully-chosen words.

When you do this, you spark the imaginations of your readers so that they can actively participate in interpreting the word pictures you paint.

 

Searching Through the Archives

 

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I recently read a book on writing that was published twelve years ago.

Why did I spend my time reading a book that old? I mean, haven’t things changed so much over the years that the information in the book is obsolete?

While a lot of it IS DEFINITELY NOT HOW WRITERS WRITE “TODAY,” there are some real gems that can be garnered if one takes the time to search for them.

I have noticed that a number of new followers have started to spend time in my website’s (www.brendapoulos.org) archives. There, they are finding posts readily available on a variety of writing-related topics.  

I am not an expert. I simply share what I am learning along the way. Many other authors do the same.

So, let me encourage you to visit my website, as well as the websites of several different authors on a regular basis. There, you can read from a treasure trove of past articles/posts.

If you get my regular emails, it can be as easy as clicking on the link to my website after you read my current blog post. Then, scroll through the archives until you come to a few others that interest you. 

Please sign up to receive my blog posts (delivered to your inbox each Sunday afternoon), if you haven’t already done so. That way, you can also contribute information, ask questions, or suggest topics for future posts.

Punting…

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Here I sit with not one good idea for my blog post.

What is the expression when you don’t know what to do? Punt?

I don’t like football, but I am desperate. So, here goes:

Today, I want to talk about encouraging other writers.

My overall purpose in writing this blog is to encourage you.

There is a saying that goes somewhat like this: People won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

So…you won’t hear my encouraging words—they won’t be as meaningful to you—unless I form some kind of connection with you.

One way I try to connect is by using a story about myself to which you can relate. On my other blog, today, I wrote about being caught in a storm. It’s likely that others have had similar experiences, or at least known someone who has had. From there, I can take the reader on an encouraging “journey.”

I often use humor. Mine is very dry, but even dry humor helps to develop a bond with readers, much like public speakers do when they share a joke or amusing story at the beginning of a speech.

Consistently blogging, or sharing information via emails or on a website is yet another way to stay connected. Once content is delivered, I look forward to encouraging others to use it.

Inviting my readers to ask questions is another way to encourage, especially if you feel free to ask about my life, struggles, experiences of being a writer, and so on.

But, sometimes, I just have to flat out tell things as they are—and that can be encouraging, too, because I think you are primarily looking for good content, sprinkled with a little encouragement here and there. 

Do you have additional ways in which you encourage other writers? 

Please feel free to write in and share your ideas. 

Authors, no matter at what stage in the writing process they currently are, need the encouragement of a committed community of writers.

Get Back in the Saddle

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Several years ago, I started two websites. Every Sunday afternoon I write a blog post on each one. Up until now, I have been proud to say that I never missed blogging even once…

Until now.

We moved from one city to another over the course of a little over a week—quite a feat in Arizona’s 115 degree heat.

It really took a toll on our bodies—and literally all of our time.

So, last week, for the first time, I did not write on either of my two websites.

I know what I am going to say is self-imposed, but I felt like a total failure. I’d been super-busy before and still managed to write, but I just couldn’t get it done this time. 

There are enough failures in life without going around and beating oneself up over things that aren’t even on the grid. (I mean, did anyone even notice I hadn’t written???? Probably not).

I think we often stamp big “FAILURE” on our foreheads for any number of reasons for which we should give ourselves a pass…letting ourselves be human once in awhile.

I have been known to belittle myself for not:

writing my required number of words per day.

suggesting we eat out, yet again, when I feel should be making my husband a nice, home-cooked meal.

spending an entire day writing and then scrapping the idea at 6 p.m., and relegating nearly a ream of paper to the trash.

choosing the “easy way” over the longer process, even though I know I won’t be happy with the finished product.

So, my point is that no matter what little things may come up in your week ahead, grant yourselves a little grace. Tell yourself that you are worthwhile…have value…have people who care about you…and that in the big picture of life, your tiny “failure” isn’t worth beating yourself up over.

As a cowboy friend of mine might say, “Dust yourself off and get back in the saddle again.”

Yee-ha!