The Name Game: A Conundrum

What’s in a name? A great deal—when a book is involved.

As I mentioned in my last entry, the title Mantra for Murder  existed long before the novel came into being.  Proof of that lies in the musty, dusty boxes that clutter up our basement. Somewhere in all that moldering cardboard is a cache of Mantra for Murder notes dated 1988. Or 1989. Or thereabouts.

While I may not remember the exact year, I do remember the exact aha! moment when the phrase swam into my consciousness. I was immediately fixated on that title.  Felt strangely connected to it.  Even possessive.

So once the actual writing process was underway,  I began trawling  search engines on a regular basis, fearful lest some other writer might have scooped me and stolen “my” title.  Happily, for more than four years, the only references I could find  related to a phrase embedded in an obscure white paper delivered by a Scandinavian ambassador (no kidding) at a long-forgotten United Nations sub-conference. 

Safe! Or so I thought. 

But I’d forgotten that The Fates have an ironic sense of humor.

You know what’s coming…

I completed the book. Still no problems.  I began sending out queries to agents. That was when it happened.

After a lapse of several weeks, I’d decided to do a title search. And there it was: The Mantra for Murder Series, the meta-headline for a brand new  set of mysteries penned by Diana Killian.

Talk about a jaw-dropping, heart-stopping, fall-off-your-chair moment.

Once I could breathe properly again and had exercised every cuss word that came to mind, I quelled my incipient paranoia,  rolled up my sleeves, started doing research in earnest.  And discovered—amazingly enough—that, except in the case of a few highly specialized corporate publications, titles can’t be copyrighted. 

What to do?  This web site was already up and running. Queries had been sent. Besides which, my ornery DNA was fired up. So of course I refused to part with Mantra.

This is where you come in.

Until now, I’ve held on steadfastly to the title. Still, I’m not entirely comfortable with that decision. For one thing, there are marketing considerations such as the inevitable confusion of books and brands.  For another, it’s more than a little humiliating to be using a title appropriated by someone else—in such a public way.

And what about the rightness of it?  The ethics? (To get a reading on that, I should probably confer with Jeanine DeLay, chief blogger and civic ethicist at

What would you advise?  Hold on? Or let go? Fight? Or desist? Stay with the old?  Or try something new?  Toss a coin? Consult the I Ching?  If you have thoughts on the subject, please share them. I could use some fresh thinking on the subject.



Jill-- Your marketing instincts have always been excellent, so I suspect you're right. (Gosh but it was hard to write that last phrase.) Thanks for being willing to speak a hard truth. As to SEO, there's been absolutely no problem. My web designer is so brilliant that if you google the phrase "mantra for murder," my site appears in the first two slots. Amazing, no? Of course, as my fellow-author sells more books in her Mantra for Murder series, she's making inroads and moving up. Thanks again.
Congrats on your new blog Linda! I have two comments. Although I LOVE your title, i have a feeling that you might have to give it up. ARGHHHHH!!! I just don't see how you can market and fight against an existing product. In your blog, you should link back to your site using the words you want to be found for in search engines. It will get you better ranking in the search engines and increase traffic to your website. I can give you a few pointers if you wanna give me a call... (type "pastel paintings" into a google search....)

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