Fantasy Title Trends Part 2: The Christian Market

Christian Fantasy

The Orbit study I discussed Friday looked at fantasy titles in the general market, and I was interested to see how the Christian market compared. I looked at all 2010-2011 fantasy novels (strictly fantasy, no science fiction or general speculative) from Marcher Lord Press, Splashdown Books, Living Ink/AMG, Bethany House, David C. Cook, Zondervan, Thomas Nelson, and Waterbrook Press. And here are the results:

Christian fantasy title trends

Several things immediately jumped out at me:

  1. Darkness is the most commonly used word in Christian fantasy titles, which I wasn’t expecting. Dark shows up high on the general market list, but certainly isn’t the most common.
  2. Dragons placed high on both lists, indicating their steady popularity in both Christian and general markets.
  3. In Christian fantasy titles, angels take the place of demons–perhaps not a surprising shift.
  4. There seems to be a wider variety in Christian fantasy titles, with fewer keywords emerging. We still see some of the common fantasy elements–sword, king, map, and so forth–but they don’t have the same prominence in the general market. This may be because of a smaller sampling of novels, but I do wonder if titles in the Christian market are less uniform in general.

In the process of conducting this survey, I noticed something else interesting. The number of fantasy novels released by the publishers I looked at more than doubled between 2010 and 2011. The numbers are still small, but it’s an encouraging trend.

Any other thoughts or observations?


  • Bethany A. Jennings
    May 21, 2012 - 9:04 pm · Reply

    It’s interesting that “starlighter”, which isn’t even a real word, is fairly large! Is this a series of books by the same author, perhaps, with the same word in each title? Or are multiple Christian fantasy authors using this invented word?

    These word clouds are so cool, Sarah! I enjoy seeing the comparisons.

    • Sarah Sawyer
      May 29, 2012 - 3:51 pm · Reply

      Starlighter does come from a series of books by the same author, and because this word cloud looks at smaller pool of titles, the term shows up more prominently. It’s interesting to me to see patterns develop, so I’m glad you enjoyed it also!

    • Sarah Sawyer
      May 29, 2012 - 3:52 pm · Reply

      Me too, Sally! I was happy to see concrete evidence that the Christian fantasy market is growing. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Mary Ruth Pursselley
    May 22, 2012 - 10:20 am · Reply

    It is very interesting to note the seemingly greater variety in the Christian titles… or maybe it’s more accurately a lack of as many recurring themes. I wonder if this could indicate that Christian writers are, generally speaking, less concerned about following the latest hot trend in fiction. I could be wrong, though.
    I agree with everyone else: seeing the number of Christian fantasy titles published double in a year is extremely encouraging! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Sarah Sawyer
      May 29, 2012 - 3:57 pm · Reply

      Good point, Mary, about the lack of recurring themes playing a role in the variety of titles. I think that could be a big component, which in turn points to the fact that there aren’t enough Christian fantasy novels (yet) to support strong trends. We’re more likely to get a little bit of everything as the market expands, and publishers test the waters with different sorts of fantasy.

      I’m looking toward the future with hope that the genre will grow more rapidly with each passing year!

  • Kessie
    May 22, 2012 - 10:25 am · Reply

    I think there’s such a small pool of Christian spec fic that the title selection isn’t very broad. Looking at those words, I can identify a lot of titles that have been popular in the last year or so.

    Also, Christians don’t write about vampires and werewolves. ๐Ÿ˜€

    • Sarah Sawyer
      May 29, 2012 - 4:01 pm · Reply

      I agree that the smaller sample leads to less common ground when it comes to titles. One series with similar keywords, as Bethany mentioned above, will rank much higher than it would with a larger number of titles.

      And I think you’re right–no strong trends have emerged in the Christian market. We haven’t seen anything like the vampire/werewolf/fallen angel type stories that have swept through the the general market.

  • Jeff Chapman
    May 22, 2012 - 11:44 am · Reply

    Starlighter refers to a series of books by Bryan Davis. Regarding Angels versus demons, the one book I’ve read from the list that has Angel in the title (Finding Angel) isn’t about an angel, it’s about someone named Angel and even the name is a mistake. I wonder if some of the conformity in the general market has to do with publishers pushing authors to pick titles that the publisher’s marketing department thinks will work well in the market.

    • Sarah Sawyer
      May 29, 2012 - 4:12 pm · Reply

      Yes, only some of the books were about literal angels. ๐Ÿ™‚

      I think marketing does have a great deal to do with it, and my guess is that the general market publishers have more experience in marketing fantasy. Conformity isn’t always a bad thing, although there needs to be something distinctive about a title to set it apart from the crowd. It’s finding that balance between the two that’s tricky, and from my understanding, the author often gets little to say about the process!

  • Suzanne
    May 22, 2012 - 10:23 pm · Reply

    As an aspiring speculative fiction writer and a Christian, I have high hopes for the market. I’ve enjoyed reading your posts, and I look forward to picking up one of your books in the near future. Someone with your perspective is sure to break through to a publisher soon! ๐Ÿ™‚

    One of the things that stood out to me concerning the difference between secular and Christian titles is the absence of the word “God” within the Christian market. Though probably referring to “gods” in general, do you think the prevalence in the secular market is due to more hunger for the divine within the un-churched world? I’ve done a bit of traveling, and it seems as though the Western church isn’t quite as hungry for the divine mystery of God as they once might have been. Could we bring this back through well-written speculative fiction? That would certainly be a big task!

    I’m wishing you the best as you move forward!

    • Sarah Sawyer
      May 29, 2012 - 4:27 pm · Reply

      Suzanne, it’s always refreshing to meet a fellow wayfarer on this writing journey, especially someone who shares my hopes for the Christian fantasy market. I appreciate your kind words, and I look forward to the day when I will be able to announce a contract…whenever it may come. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Thatโ€™s a fascinating thought about hunger for the divine…or lack thereof in Christians. I’ve made similar observations about the lack of hunger for something “other than” in the American church. There’s a contentedness with tradition and ritual (in churches of every denomination) that often precludes hungering for the fullness of what God outlined in the Bibleโ€”which includes the reality of the supernatural.

      In contrast, I think there’s a strong yearning for the supernatural–for encounter with something beyond this world–among non-Christians. It may be one of the reasons they’re drawn to fantasy, an intrinsically spiritual genre.

      I hope with you that well-crafted fantasy, founded in Truth, will stir a greater hunger for God in the churchโ€ฆand perhaps impact those outside as well.

  • Maria Tatham
    May 23, 2012 - 3:08 pm · Reply

    Sarah, thank you for the work you’ve done to make us aware of trends! This view of them (and that in your last post) is interesting.

    Yes, there must be something to the fact that titles in the Christian market appear to be less uniform – I feel this must be a happy thing for writers and readers.

    • Sarah Sawyer
      May 29, 2012 - 4:30 pm · Reply

      Maria, thank you for the encouragement! As a writer, I find learning about the trends helpful…and as a reader, I find it entertaining. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Sarah Olson
    August 6, 2012 - 12:08 am · Reply

    I found this post very interesting! I am currently writing a Christian Fantasy and I am interested in the market for them. My title doesn’t fit with any of these, though (it’s latin). I’m reading some Christian Fantasy too right now; Dragonspell, The Door Within…

    • Sarah Sawyer
      August 13, 2012 - 3:03 pm · Reply

      Sarah, thanks for stopping by! Distinctive titles do have benefits, I think, especially when they’re unique but still convey a sense of genre. The whole titling process can be quite a challenge (at least for me).

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