Fantasy Title Trends

Miscellaneous

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.

Fantasy Title Trends

A few things stood out to me:

  1. 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.
  2. 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?
  3. 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.
  4. 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?

Comments

  • Nissa Annakindt
    May 18, 2012 - 5:53 pm · Reply

    Now you’ve got me looking at the words making up titles: “Spells of the Death Faery” or or “Zombie Dragon Magic” (a how-to book?)

    My guess is that if you want a good, memorable title, use at least one significant word NOT in the graphic.

    • Sarah Sawyer
      May 21, 2012 - 1:58 pm · Reply

      Your title ideas made me laugh. It’s fun to play around with the different keyword combinations. 🙂

      I agree with what you said about having a significant word not listed in the graphic. It’s important to convey a sense of genre, but not end up sounding stereotypical…and there’s a fine line between the two.

  • Mary Ruth Pursselley
    May 19, 2012 - 10:49 am · Reply

    Well, only one word from my WIP’s title was in that list, but it wasn’t a prominent one: Shield. I wonder if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. I’ve actually Googled my WIP’s title before and found nothing even remotely pertaining to a fantasy novel, which I guess is good (at least I know my title is unique).
    This is a very interesting study, no doubt about it, and seeing the trends in novel naming all laid out like this is pretty revealing.
    Like you, Sarah, I’m not entirely sure what to make of the word ‘God’ being so high up on the list, though I’m guessing your theory is correct.

    • Sarah Sawyer
      May 21, 2012 - 2:03 pm · Reply

      Mary, I’m in the same place–only one word on that list shows up in the title of my WIP. I’m no expert in titles, but I hope that means that it fits the genre but is also somewhat unique. However, I know that publishers have the final say when it comes to titles, so I’m trying not to get too attached. 🙂

  • sally apokedak
    May 19, 2012 - 12:19 pm · Reply

    I’m surprised by the word God in the titles. I can think of American Gods.

    I found this list, in which there are four books with God in the title and they are not about the real God, who reveals himself in the Bible. http://bestfantasybooks.com/top25-fantasy-books.php

    I am working on a MG novle that has been titled PRISONERS OF THE THRONE forever. I thought the words “prisoners” and “throne” were good, and the conflict between them was intriguing. But now I’ve taken out the throne altogether. So I have to find a new title. Ugh. I hate trying to come up with titles.

    • Sarah Sawyer
      May 21, 2012 - 2:15 pm · Reply

      How interesting, Sally. I’m also a bit surprised that having the word God in the title isn’t a turn-off in the general market. Maybe it’s because the supernatural is an integral part of fantasy?

      The title Prisoners of the Throne is compelling…but if there’s no longer any throne in the book, I suppose that’s a moot point. 🙂 Good luck with finding a new title!

  • Arran Charlton
    February 14, 2013 - 9:25 am · Reply

    Some of the most popular fantasy books of all time are filled with god refrences although maybe not in the title. C. S. Lewis had his entire Narnia series filled with references to God including the apple in the garden of eden, the talking animals etc etc. Aslan the lion was actually God in these books but as children I suppose you don’t realise as much.

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