A study in the most commonly used words in Post Apocalyptic Titles

I was mucking around on Amazon last night, checking out the post apocalyptic works of other indie authors, and I decided to check the regularity of which certain words appear in titles. I spent most of yesterday with my butt glued to a chair watching videos on self publishing and one of the topics was book covers. Contrary to popular belief, you don't want a cover that's a unique little snowflake... you want one that's easily recognizable to your readers. This got me thinking about whether or not the same applied to titles. Which is how I ended up on Amazon checking out other peoples works.

Anyway, after a bit of fudging around, I gathered the following list of most commonly used words in the titles of self published post apocalyptic works. Keep in mind, there's something like 30,000 post apocalyptic titles on Amazon so I only grabbed 85-ish titles. This is not a solid representation of what's actually out there, it was just a bit of fun.

  1. Last - 6
  2. Dark - 5
  3. Sky - 4
  4. Day - 4
  5. Surviving - 3
  6. Fall - 3
  7. Stand - 3
  8. Extinction - 2
  9. Rising - 2
  10. Chaos - 2

Not a bad list, there's some fairly evocative words in there, if you were so inclined you could jumble them all about and come up with a few serviceable titles. 

I woke up this morning and thought I'd take it a step further. I jumped onto Wikipedia and grabbed their list of post apocalyptic titles, which can be found here. It's a collection of post apocalyptic books, comics, games and movies... again, it's not 100% comprehensive but there are 958 titles in there so it's quite a step up from the initial test. After ditching filler words, such as 'a,' 'the,' 'when,' etc, I came up with the following list.

  1. World - 30
  2. Last - 28
  3. War - 24
  4. Earth - 21
  5. After - 15
  6. Dead - 15
  7. Time - 14
  8. End - 14
  9. Planet - 13
  10. Apocalypse - 12
  11. Day - 12
  12. City - 11
  13. Dark - 10
  14. Man - 9
  15. Invasion - 9
  16. Star - 8
  17. Night - 8
  18. Dawn - 7
  19. Legend - 7
  20. Machine - 7

Again, obviously not a complete list but we're getting some definite post apocalyptic flavors here. It's good to see words that describe the scale of the event, such as 'world,' 'Earth' & 'planet,' but we're also getting words like 'war,' 'invasion,' & 'dead' that could potentially speak to the cause of the apocalypse in question. To save you the trouble, the only words to appear on both lists are 'dark,' 'day' & 'last.'

It might not seem like useful information, but there's something to be said for having a title that's easily recognizable as post apocalyptic. Between the 27 words from both lists, you could combine any two of them for a potential of 351 titles. Most of them are going to be rubbish ('Invasion Man'? Ugh...) but the potential is there. Even if you just used one (or more) of these words in a lengthier title, it would still be a title that people will more easily recognize as post apocalyptic. Of course, you could always take one of the variations of the words listed - 'dark' can become 'darker' or 'darkest' for example.

I'm going to play around with these two lists and see what I can come up with, if nothing else it'll be a bit of fun.

Surviving After!

Chaos Star!

Extinction Day?

Dark City... wait, that's actually the title of a pretty good movie.