This could be awkward. In the period between me deciding to publish The Obituarist online and actually giving it the final go-ahead, someone else published a book of exactly the same name. Aargh!
I don’t know which of us thought of the title first – mine’s been lurking around for ages – getting its first mention in 2009. (Oh yes, that’s how fast I work! Speed of light we’re talking here.)
But annoyingly, it is clear who actually published his first. Him.
So what to do about it?
Well, I had already altered my name so as not to – and not appear to – claim credit off the back of another writer‘s success. So I didn’t fancy changing the title too.
But then – the author of The (Other) Obituarist got in touch! Cue dramatic music.
According to German folklore we should both have immediately dropped dead – or at least have our stories disappear. Isn’t that what happens when you encounter your doppelganger?
According to American Western custom, one of us should be growling that “this town ain’t big enough for the both of us. The stage leaves first thing tomorrow. Be under it.”
What actually happened was that I read his email, titled The Other Obituarist. You can read it for yourself:
I thought I might drop you a line to let you know that I’m an indie author who also just published an ebook called ‘The Obituarist’ on Smashwords and Amazon, about two weeks before you published yours!
This isn’t a ‘cease or desist’ or any nonsense like that; it’s a good title and there’s plenty of room for people to use it. And, to be honest, you use it more accurately than I do; I kept the term but changed the meaning to suit my own purposes.
I’m just writing because it’s a funny coincidence and I thought you might be amused too. If I get any customers who buy my book by mistake instead of yours, I’ll point them back at you; I hope you’ll do the same for me.
Good luck with your book!
How should I react? How would you react?
Given how prickly, paranoid and sensitive writers can be – especially those who have not quite become bestselling sensations just yet (though “this time next year Rodney, we’ll be millionaires”) – I thought it was a fairly generous message.
I replied and asked to use his email. He said yes. So I have and you’ve just read it.
Kendall Barber calls himself an obituarist– a social media undertaker who settles accounts for the dead. If you need your loved one’s Facebook account closed down or one last tweet to be made, he’ll take care of it, while also making sure that identity thieves can’t access forgotten personal data. It’s his way of making amends for his past, a path that has seen him return to the seedy city of Port Virtue after years in exile. But now his past is reaching out to catch up with him, just as he gets in over his head with a beautiful new client whose dead brother may have been murdered – if he’s even dead at all. If Kendall doesn’t play his cards right, he could wind up just as deceased as the usual subjects of his work.
In my reply to Patrick, I happened to mention:
Blackwatertown is the title of a longer book I’m still trying to get published via more traditional routes. Please don’t tell me you have one with the same name up your sleeve.
Guess what he wrote back?
As it happens I lived for a time in a town called Blackwater – but I was about 1 year old at the time, so I have no plans to write about that!
Phew! Okay. I think we can be friends.