How good are these sales ranks? (Cause I may need to change some place names.)

dneuschulz

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Question about a book that ranks on Amazon > 17K in Sword and Sorcery and >30K in Epic Fantasy [this is for paperback, numbers for Kindle are about half these].

I discovered that a city's name in my draft of a fantasy novel is the same as a kingdom's name in the above book. I'm kind of attached to the name (because it is derived from an elaborate fantasy language I have developed -- and also the name itself has other ties to named things in the story). If these numbers represent something even half-widely read, I'll bite the bullet and rework a lot of stuff to use a new name.

But I ask the question because this exercise of checking a made-up name against all existing published made-up names -- and if you heel to every obscure publication, including e-books and self-published works -- the task of not overlapping another fantasy name becomes exponentially harder. I am trying to ascertain what the numbers mean and then decide at what point I am going to say, well, I'm leaving my word as-is; this other work is too obscure. Of course, if more than just the name overlaps, like both the word and another author's word are the names of a dragon, then you're in trouble. You have to make the change; otherwise its flirting with outright plagiarism.

(I think I'd be okay. Unless the name is trademarked... but I am going to gamble that very obscure authors don't trademark every made-up name in the way that, say, the Tolkien Estate has.)
 

Dan Jones

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I'd say it's mainly to do with context. Fantasy can't survive without invented proper nouns, so I suppose there must be a few instances of similar or even identical ones cropping up now and then, especially with the limitations of a particular language are in play (ie most western fantasy will derive its names from western geographic labels etc - a Nigerian fantasy would be different, ditto Chinese etc).

Anyway, I'd say plagiarism is more an issue when plots, arcs and situations are being lifted wholesale from one work to another, with a few superficial alterations to the proper nouns. Then you're in trouble, and probably deservedly so, and the obscurity of the work is no defence if you're caught. But from what you describe I'd say you'd be fine; you've not copied the work, you've coincidentally invented the same place name. I'd call that a "playground incident" and move on ;).
 

Wayne Mack

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Consider the city name from the reader's perspective. Is it really important to the plot of the story? Can another city name be chosen that is consistent with your fantasy language? Could the name be kept phonetically but its spelling altered to reflect a more ancient version of your fantasy language?

I suspect that the city name will have no effect on the overall success of the story, and, especially if the other use of the name is relatively well-known, I would avoid any hints on treading on someone else's work. It may be a personal ego thing, but I like to think that I can come up with a multitude of unique names.
 

Magic_Muscle

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Wayne is right in this one I'd wager. If the name isn't an essential component to your plot, a core element of your novel I would just smelt it into another name. Best to avoid knowingly using the same names if you can avoid it. It can help avoid even the tiniest possibility of confusion between your product and the other authors. It'd be to your benefit, not the other writers of course.
 

dneuschulz

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OK, yes, in this case I can change it. Now, I am going to go through many of my major names and try to google for overlap. I guess Amazon sales rank doesn't factor in --- or if I find it on some fanfic somewhere. It will be a loooong exercise.
 

JohnM

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This is looking for legal advice. It can't be done for free. A trademark search? Maybe it will cover the bases and maybe not. Now imagine there's no internet.
 

dneuschulz

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This is looking for legal advice. It can't be done for free. A trademark search? Maybe it will cover the bases and maybe not. Now imagine there's no internet.
I need to make it clear: I am in no way, shape, or form looking for legal advice. My mention of trademark was an aside and absolutely no question accompanied it. I am looking for a ballpark idea what Amazon sales ranks mean in order to decide what fantasy names I, personally, am comfortable leaving unchanged.

If I find out that the book in question is very obscure -- I know, I know, there's no concrete rubric to determine this like an absolute measurement -- I'm comfortable with the name duplication. If my city name was Pern, however, I would feel it very necessary to change. That's just me.
 
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dneuschulz

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Consider the city name from the reader's perspective. Is it really important to the plot of the story? Can another city name be chosen that is consistent with your fantasy language? Could the name be kept phonetically but its spelling altered to reflect a more ancient version of your fantasy language?

I suspect that the city name will have no effect on the overall success of the story, and, especially if the other use of the name is relatively well-known, I would avoid any hints on treading on someone else's work. It may be a personal ego thing, but I like to think that I can come up with a multitude of unique names.
Yes, in this case, changeable. In fact, though, you can take that to the extreme and say everything is changeable in a draft. I am asking about sales ranks not entirely for the case at hand, but for all the other possible cases that may come up in the future. I am kind of trying to develop a more or less standard methodology for myself regarding making up fantasy names, checking them, moving forward.

And I will add: If anybody else has developed a practice for this that doesn't involve Amazon sales ranks, please do advise.
 

The Big Peat

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I would imagine you're fine. There's a Riva in the Belgariad and in the Codex Alera; I'm sure I could find a few other duplicates across books if I looked long enough.
 

Plucky Novice

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The number of reviews may be a better indication of how widely read it is. I don't think you need to worry about it though. Unless you are plagiarising the book, it is not a problem.
 

tinkerdan

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I'm a bit confused by your question.
Sales ranks are based on predetermined genre selected for the book.
If the genre hasn't been selected then it won't show up and if it has been selected then it is often affected by how many other books there are in the genre selected vs sales rather than the actual content of the book.

Changing content won't impact the standing unless it somehow increases the number of readers.
You can to some extent get better numbers by changing to a genre that is closely related but obscure enough that there are fewer books in that genre.

The only real concern you might have is whether there might be copy-rights issues that arise from the term you are using. This usually takes into consideration as to whether the stories have plots, characters, settings that align too closely in which case you would have a lot to change.
Also something prominent such as Harry Potter or for that matter Hogwarts. Would probably be something to flag for change.
 

dneuschulz

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I'm a bit confused by your question.
Sales ranks are based on predetermined genre selected for the book.
You can to some extent get better numbers by changing to a genre that is closely related but obscure enough that there are fewer books in that genre.

The only real concern you might have is whether there might be copy-rights issues that arise from the term you are using.
Actually, I included the genres in my original post to account for that. So, I was wondering if more experienced writers/publishers could ballpark the relative popularity of the numbers. Admittedly, this is purely a judgement call, not a true metric. And maybe fruitless because the numbers swing so wildly.

But my more important response to the last sentence of yours (the last one quoted above) is: That is not my concern at all, really. I am fully aware of the limits of the copy-right. But consider this example: I write a novel with a planet named Doon in it. It's not a desert planet -- it's a metal planet or an ice planet, or somesuch. The story bears very little similarity other than overall SF genre to Frank Herbert's famous novel. But a very large number of readers are going groan if I name a planet that (with no contextual clues that I am paying some kind of tongue-in-cheek, oblique homage to Herbert). That's what I'd like to avoid.

I'm fairly well read in Fantasy/SF, have taken several college courses on the genres, but I am fully aware that there are folks on here who are vastly more well-read in these genres that I am. And more savvy about the current state of publishing. I am pretty confident I know a lot about the classics (pre-1985), but left active reading of F/SF for literary fiction after that. I've missed a lot -- entire genres actually (Steampunk, Teen Goth Revival). I want to write in the Fantasy genre, and as other folks have said many times on these boards, if you really want to: do it. So I am going for it, but trying to quick patch my recent canon lacuna.
 

Phyrebrat

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Simple answer - you’ve got enough to do without complications; are you writing an homage/pastiche or are you writing a story of your own?

How does naming a planet Doon affect the characters and story? If not then it’s not strictly relevant. The homage side of it is for the author, not the reader. Perfect the story not the homage.

I empathise, I often have to stop myself from genre nods to Lovecraft and M R James. I always end up cutting them (they rarely add to a story and can come across as academically masturbatory) because really, they’re for me as opposed to the story.

I’m also a sucker for nominative determinism - maybe you could rethink your ice/metal planet to have a more suitable name. There’s nothing particularly chilly about the word ‘Hoth’ but it looks and sounds icy - something about the o,t and h’s… this is often how I devise names
 

dneuschulz

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Simple answer - you’ve got enough to do without complications; are you writing an homage/pastiche or are you writing a story of your own?

How does naming a planet Doon affect the characters and story? If not then it’s not strictly relevant. The homage side of it is for the author, not the reader. Perfect the story not the homage.

I empathise, I often have to stop myself from genre nods to Lovecraft and M R James. I always end up cutting them (they rarely add to a story and can come across as academically masturbatory) because really, they’re for me as opposed to the story.

I’m also a sucker for nominative determinism - maybe you could rethink your ice/metal planet to have a more suitable name. There’s nothing particularly chilly about the word ‘Hoth’ but it looks and sounds icy - something about the o,t and h’s… this is often how I devise names
Thanks for the support. Love the phrase academically masturbatory. In another thread, I expressed my decision to walk away from genres that perforce demand a ton of that.

However, I wasn't referring to deliberate homages. I was referring to accidentally naming something too close to an existing something that many readers would find amateurish or mistake for a allusion/homage -- but which was utterly unintended and simply stems from me not having read a famous work.

Seems like your advice still holds true, though. Too much of a burden. I'll do my best to pick nominatively deterministic (love the term) names and wait until an agent, editor, or someone in one of my writers circles says: "Um,...you don't want to do this. Famous book x has this name." (Which is exactly the scenario that came to pass and was the genesis of this very thread. I named a city Tarn, but there is a whole series of books called Chronicles of Tarn. Easy peasy to fix. But now, I'm not going to kill myself to prevent this from happening again by extensive Googling of every other fantasy word I've made up. I'll just wait for someone to catch it and tell me.)
 

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