Orbit Loot

Orbit Books

Join the Orbit Newsletter

The Chart of Fantasy Art Part 4: Title Trends and Fonts

Every year we ask our summer intern to do a survey of cover art elements for the top US fantasy novels published in the previous year.  You can find more of our findings on the Chart of Fantasy Art, the Changing Fashion of Urban Fantasy Heroines, and Color Trends in Dragons. Today we look at book titles — both what the titles say AND how they look.

Note: Words have been generalized into one form, so for example “death” and “dead” and “deadly” all count in “death.”

First off, lets look at the content of 2009’s fantasy titles. This was a new category of inquiry for us this year and there were many surprises in store once the data was collected and analyzed. In the chart above the size of the word is in proportion to the number of books on which it appears in the title (no subtitles or series titles this time). As you can see, there are some pretty predictable words in heaviest usage: “Dragons”, “Magic”, and “Shadows” were no-brainers. However we were surprised at how high “Death” rated — was fantasy turning dark and morbid? (or more dark and more morbid than usual, at least?) But no, there was a single culprit to blame. All the Sookie Stackhouse books were re-released last year because of True Blood’s success, and that accounted for the extra “Death” usage.

Now let’s discuss the style of the 2009 titles. Even for those of you out there who can’t name at least 500 fonts on sight (that’s not even a lot for a graphic designer, says the art department) it’s pretty obvious there are some main categories of type styles. The pointy goth screams-vampire-book fonts (Mason, Democratica) are holding strong in the Urban Fantasy department, while epic fantasy books are split between a classic serif* look (Priori Serif, Jupiter) and the wanna-be-retro-futuristic look (Industria). Really, with over 10,000 quality fonts on a designer’s computer at any given moment you think we’d shake it up a bit more, but fonts are as susceptible to clichés as cover art. We are particularly looking forward to the historical style we’ve seen creep in with some of the steampunk books translate to some fresh type styles, as Boneshaker was a particular fave among the typography geeks in 2009.

*serif = has feet on the ends of the letters (Times New Roman), sans serif = no feet (Helvetica)


  1. N. K. Jemisin

    August 19, 2010
    at 4:26 pm

    I wish to announce that my next novel will be titled, “BLOOD DEATH DRAGON MAGIC SHADOW GOD.” First of the NIGHT EDGE GOLD trilogy.

  2. Veronica

    August 19, 2010
    at 4:35 pm

    Why is Death on there twice?

  3. Ellen

    August 19, 2010
    at 4:50 pm

    Veronica: Presumably to accommodate all the titles that include the phrase “Death Death.” (Or, since we’ve been told that related words have been combined, perhaps “Deadly Death.”)

  4. Lauren Panepinto

    Lauren Panepinto

    August 19, 2010
    at 4:55 pm

    good eye veronica, thats totally a typo! the big death is the real count. whoopsie!

    • Steve

      August 20, 2010
      at 1:34 pm

      Perhaps the second death, the little one, is supposed to count for the little one? ;-)

      • anon

        August 23, 2010
        at 11:07 pm

        Le petit mort is my favorite kind of death.

  5. glenda larke

    August 19, 2010
    at 9:19 pm

    N.K. Jemisin: Lol! I just tweeted something similar before I read your comment – my title’s going to be “The Death of the Shadow God’s Magic Blood-Dragon”…do you think we might have a conflict of interest here?

  6. Rachel Aaron

    Rachel Aaron

    August 20, 2010
    at 8:46 am

    Too bad articles didn’t make it in. THE would be the biggest word on the chart.

    And for the record, my next novel’s going to be HAPPINESS SUNSHINE UNICORN BRIGADE. I’m requesting Lisa Frank as my cover artist. Just a heads up.

  7. Nicole Peeler

    Nicole Peeler

    August 20, 2010
    at 9:47 am

    I helped put Rising on the map!

    Go, ME! (and, presumably, a few SF/F pornos.)

  8. Lauren Panepinto

    Lauren Panepinto

    August 20, 2010
    at 10:01 am

    typo fixed! Death only counts once. hey, thats not a bad title either! haha.

  9. Veronica

    August 20, 2010
    at 12:26 pm

    Ellen: “Deadly Death”…..I like it.

  10. Pteryxx

    August 22, 2010
    at 3:22 pm

    Would anyone take pity on a typography rookie and annotate this graphic with a cheat sheet of the fonts therein?

  11. Brent Weeks

    August 24, 2010
    at 1:18 am

    I know that no one’s supposed to compliment the intern, but hell yeah! So cool. Nice work. ALL of these were great. Oh yeah, and Lauren–but you already know how awesome you are, so I won’t say anything about that. ;)

  12. Duncan Long

    December 16, 2010
    at 8:42 pm

    Nicely done. Thanks for sharing (but I’m hoping next go around you use the names of the actual fonts so we can see which is what).

    Sometimes book title font user, and book cover illustrator for HarperCollins, PS Publishing, Pocket Books, ILEX, Fort Ross, Asimov’s Science Fiction, Moonstone Books, ISFiC Press, and many other publishers and self-publishing authors

RSS Feeds
Orbit on the Web

Please note that though we make every effort to ensure the suitability of links, Orbit cannot be held responsible for the content of external sites.