In 2010, Orbit did an interesting study on fantasy cover art and titles from 2009 fantasy novels (graphic below). Although this data is several years old, I still think it shows some trends worth considering.
A few things stood out to me:
- There’s a trend toward darker titles with the most prominent words including death, blood, dark, and demon. Of course, publishers look to include evocative words in the title, but regardless there’s an obvious trend toward grimmer tales…or titles at least.
- God showed up high on the list, which surprised me. However, based on my understanding of mainstream fantasy novels, my guess is that the “god” referred to in the titles isn’t the Scriptural God. Anyone have a thought on this?
- When combined, the stereotypical fantasy elements, such as heir, lost map, prince, and princess make a strong appearance, alongside mythic creatures and races, like dragon, elf, and mermaid. Titles should reflect the essence of a genre, and evidently the inclusion of these fantasy staples conveys something that’s still compelling to readers.
- There are a number of words that suggest urban or paranormal fantasy, but words I associate with epic fantasy come to the forefront. This interests me considering the supposed trend away from epic fantasy. Perhaps the same sorts of titles appear regardless of fantasy subgenre?
Titles and covers make the first impression for any novel, so it’s interesting to see how many common trends exist among them. Is it better to come up with something entirely unique (if that’s even possible) or run with the pack?
It seems clear that many publishers have chosen the latter route, which may suggest better sales with more “standard” titles. What do you think?