I have been evaluating the title of my upcoming novel, The Emerian Order. Specifically, I am holding it up to the titles of many other epic fantasy novels, both new and old. Some of my research surprised me.

A few patterns emerge when analyzing the titles of the most popular (and best-selling) works of the last 100 years.

  1. Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien
  2. The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien
  3. The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis
  4. The Wheel of Time, Robert Jordan
  5. Discworld, Terry Pratchett
  6. A Game of Thrones, George R.R. Martin
  7. Inheritance Cycle, Chris Paolini
  8. Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Rick Riordan
  9. His Dark Materials, Phillip Pullman
  10. Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer
  11. The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks
  12. The Sword of Truth, Terry Goodkind
  13. The Name of the Wind, Patrick Rothfuss
  14. The Way of Kings, Brandon Sanderson

I could go on, but already some telling patterns emerge in the titles. First, even though the worlds of most of these novels are otherworldly, with characters and locations that sound otherworldly, the titles are very grounded in words and language that everyone can understand. The name of the book is called The Way of Kings, not The Way of Highprince Dalinar Kholin. The title should tell the reader exactly what to expect, it shouldn’t leave them guessing. So, the first pattern is that while the stories are other-worldly, but the titles are not.

Second, many titles employ a blank-of-the-blank structure (NAME of the WIND, LORD of the RINGS, etc.) If I made this list 100 deep, you would be startled to see how many famous titles use this structure. How much of this is authors wanting to keep with convention as opposed to publishers wanting to keep with what sells is beyond me still, but clearly the pattern can’t be ignored.

So, what’s my point? Do all epic fantasy novels need to have plain English words with blank-of-the-blank structure? Of course not. But the pattern should give you cause to pause and think carefully about the title you give your next masterpiece.

Therefore, my book’s title is now under construction. I’ll keep you posted.


8 Comments

Fredrick W. Hull · July 27, 2017 at 6:34 pm

Being a new author and written 2 books already. I have relized that the title makes all the differance in the world with the context of the story. But when you are nobody in this huge Christian market, it makes me feel that these company make to hard to get publish .$$$$$$ Being a 100% Disable Vet and cannot work anymore the $$$$ are tight. Marketing is the key point of seeling my books. (Divorce From Satan a fictional book about the bondages and strongholds that are pass on onto a young man. Leaving the compfort of home, he meets the Satan disguise as a Wealthy man who can offer him anything. He then taken to Court (The Uinversal Dictrict Court Of Heaven) and Judge by the Great I Am to be put to death for his sins. Then it happens to him.
My second book is called Noal’s Journal Of The Last Days. Came from the the perspective that Noah wrote his own journal of his life being born and dying at 950 years. It answers alot of questions about him that the Bible does not tells us. I can almost bet my life there is no books out there on these 2 subjects. So I am looking forward to gleem some insgiht from you and become the next best seller in Christian Books.
Shalom to you and Blessings

    srcyre · July 27, 2017 at 7:31 pm

    Fredrick, thanks for the reply. Your thoughts mean a lot. 🤠

Jeff Cann · July 28, 2017 at 4:39 pm

Sadly, the title is probably the most important part of the book since it’s what causes someone to grab it from the shelf. I caved on my book title and swapped it out because I was getting negative feedback. As it turned out, no one really bought my book anyway, so I wish I had gone with the title and cover I initially envisioned.

    srcyre · July 28, 2017 at 4:51 pm

    Jeff, may I ask what the old and new titles were?

      Jeff Cann · July 28, 2017 at 4:56 pm

      It’s a memoir about dealing with mental illness and substance abuse. My working title was “Methadone” using it a a metaphor for how I used a bit of alcohol everyday to keep myself from being a drunk. A friend made a beautiful picture of out of focus beer glasses and bottles for the cover. I wound up using “Fragments” and I think I made a nice analogy out of that along with an image of an exploding head, but I feel like I sold out. I’d rather be the author of Methadone.

        srcyre · July 28, 2017 at 4:58 pm

        I think your original instincts were correct. It’s more to the point.

          Jeff Cann · July 28, 2017 at 5:02 pm

          Damn

          srcyre · July 28, 2017 at 5:03 pm

          It’s the “damns” in our lives that teach more than the “woohoos” ever will.

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