Can I Use a Symbol in My Title?


Dear Darin…

Using a symbol in the title could be an issue for your book long after query stage: How will people type the title into their search engines? How will the symbol translate in databases like Goodreads and Amazon, considering databases are notorious for converting non-letters to random symbols? Even simple apostrophes in titles can get warped in email subject lines for launch announcements, etc. Is the trademark symbol vital to understanding the concept of your book and thus worth the potential hiccups in online promotion and book listings? Consider leaving it out of the official title and using it only as a design element on the final book cover. Can you skip it during submission, at least? You can discuss its necessity with your editor and marketing team later. If it must stay in the official title through all stages, add an asterisked line to the ms cover page or somewhere in the query letter’s body text, such as: *Trademark symbol is part of official book title. That may raise eyebrows for being unusual, but it’s unlikely to sabotage the manuscript.

Happy writing!
The Editor


    • Depending on how the text and TM mark are laid out on the cover, it could also be seen as a false representation of a trademark claim. Certainly the safe route is to clearly indicate that the company name is fictitious and that the TM mark is part of the title, is used in a fictitious sense, and is not an assertion of trademark right. TM means that a trademark right is claimed; it is often used to put the world on notice of the claim before there is a formal application for registration. In contrast, (R) means that a trademark claim has been registered with the trademark office.

  1. Great Answer – and it all makes sense……a representation of the symbol within the book cover design and the title page for books without a cover…..great suggestion!

  2. Well, that was an unusual question. Personally, I wouldn’t put anything that would raise agents’ or editors’ eyebrows in a title when I’m querying/subbing, but to each his own. And what’s inside the ms matters a lot more anyway. Good luck to Darin. 🙂

    • “Unusual question” gets right to the heart of why I started With so many writers doing so many creative things, questions come up that don’t have obvious answers. Writers at conferences and retreats would tell me, “If I could just ask an editor this one little thing!” I wanted to create an opportunity for writers to ask that question and get their answer. I love doing this.

  3. Thanks Deborah (and commenters) for all the input. I obviously hadn’t thought through all the implications of this, and I need to think about it a lot more. This one goes in the “That’s why they call them ‘editors'” file.

  4. Interesting topic and great back and forth. Does make sense to use on the cover and not in the title. But the biggest thing is that DEAR EDITOR IS BACK! Happy New Year 2014!

    • Aw, thanks, Bill! I kept the holiday shutters closed a couple of weeks longer than I’d predicted, but I didn’t want to re-open until I could go all in again. That was one crazy holiday season! So happy to be back at the editor’s desk with you all again.

  5. Hey i know it’s been a while since this was posted and i don’t know if you’re still even active, but i am writing a book at the moment that also has a fictional company in it. It is not part of the title, do you think it would be okay to use such a symbol in the main body of the text? The currency in my story is also shown with a ≛. Do you think, if i ever wanted to get this printed via a publisher that they would have a problem with this? Would a half decent publisher’s software be able to handle Unicode symbols such as this?

    Any guidance is appreciated.

    • Sorry for the delayed reply! Somehow your question got filtered to a different folder. Symbols within the text won’t be a problem. In fact, I have personal experience with this: In my middle grade novel BIG MOUTH, I have copyright and trademark symbols in the main text as a literary motif.

      Best wishes for your project!

  6. Hi I am doing a photo book titles and picture folders my question would be should I use and or symbol & which one would look more professional. Also I am putting 1st Birthday; 3rd Birthday the st and rd lower cased is it grammatically correct? Thanks

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