Why are Light Novel Titles So Long?! Should Yours Be?

There’s a not-so-recent trend of Light Novels (LN) having ridiculously long titles. And as time goes on, they get longer and longer to the point of absurdity.

Rather than provide a story summary on the back of the book, it’s common to find it as the title. Nowadays, very few LNs have titles fewer than five words.

But why? Nearly everyone’s doing it, so it must have some benefit, right? Why are Light Novel titles so long?

One, in the competitive world of light novels, a long title helps one stand out from the rest. Two, an overlong, catchy title is memorable and is more likely to stick in a reader’s brain. And three, few people read back blurbs anymore, so a long title serves as a one-sentence sales pitch.

There are others, but based on my research, these three are the most commonly cited reasons as to why LN titles get longer and longer every year.

But are long titles really that beneficial from a marketing perspective? And more importantly, is it really worth it?

Will giving your LN a long title help or hurt?

A deeper look at those three reasons will reveal the answer.

But first, it’s important to know just why this trend of long titles became popular in the first place.

Why Did Light Novels with Long Titles Become Popular?

Ok, before we answer that, I’d like to provide a few examples just in case you have no idea what I’ve been talking about. Here are a few LNs with long titles:

  • I’m a Behemoth, an S-Ranked Monster, but Mistaken for a Cat, I Live as an Elf Girl’s Pet.
  • Sew It Up! Take It Off? Change!! My GIRLFRIEND Failed Her High School Debut and Became a Hikikomori, So I Decided to Coordinate Her Youth (Fashion)
  • Exiled in a Class Trial for “Poor Dexterity”. Because He Was Dexterous, He Lived on His Own. Because of His Dexterity, He Was Able to Use All the Skills and Magic of the Higher Ranks, Making Him Invincible. I Decided to Live on My Own, but the People Around Me Wouldn’t Leave Me Alone.

No, I’m not kidding. I really wish I was. But, alas, those are all real LN titles. However, those are extreme examples. Here are a few more well-known ones with anime adaptations:

  • My Mental Choices Are Completely Interfering with My School Romantic Comedy.
  • Do You Love Your Mom and Her Two-Hit Multi-Target Attacks?
  • Problem Children Are Coming From Another World, Aren’t They?

Now, as for why long titles are even a thing in the first place, we must look to the internet.

In the past, the only way to become a published LN Author in Japan was to submit your work directly to publishing companies and hope for the best or win a contest held by said publishing companies.

Now, with the widespread use of the internet, Authors simply post their LNs online and well, hope for the best. Many publishing houses have picked up several series from these online platforms, but it’s very rare in the grand scheme.

The barrier for entry isn’t as high, but unless you develop a huge fanbase, the odds of being traditionally published are just as low as they’ve always been.

Anyway, the most popular Japanese Web Novel site is known as Shousetsuka ni Narou (Let’s Become a Novelist). And it is this site’s design that is the most likely culprit for the booming trend of long titles.

When browsing through one of many lists of Web Novels, all you see is the title. No Illustrations, no summary, nothing to grab your interest except the title.

And what is a desperate Author to do when his novel is placed in a list of a million others ones that are nigh-indistinguishable from each other?

Why, he’ll just make his title the hook of course.

Whether it’s a good thing or not depends on how you look at it, but the LN industry is completely flooded. And due to the LN genre featuring the same limited selection of story, character, and setting tropes, they all start running together after a while.

The cheap, yet admittedly effective, solution to this is to tell a potential reader as much as you can about your LN in the singular glance you’re given.

And it definitely works, but how well? And for how long?

If you’re curious about exactly when long titles became the norm rather than the exception, check out this great article by Journal of Geek Studies.

Will a Long Title Make Your Light Novel Stand Out from the Rest?

The short answer is yes. A ridiculous title will always shine brighter than a normal one.

And yet, the candle that burns twice as bright, burns half as long.

That said, a long title does accomplish three important feats:

  1. It stands out from the (very packed) crowd.
  2. It’s easier to be catchy with so many words and therefore memorable.
  3. It can convey the plot in a single sentence (usually).

Each of these (standing out, being catchy, easily-conveyed summary) are necessary for any book to become a bestseller. And yet, rare is the bestselling long-titled LN.

As evidence, take a look at ten of the bestselling LNs of all time:

  • A Certain Magical Index
  • That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime
  • Sword Art Online
  • The Irregular at Magic High School
  • The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya
  • Slayers
  • Kagerou Project
  • Sorcerous Stabber Orphen
  • Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?
  • The Twelve Kingdoms

Most are a bit long by western standards, but only a few have more than five words and not one comes anywhere near the examples I listed earlier. And if rendered in the Japanese language, they are even shorter.

So, while there are several marketing benefits to a long title, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that those benefits are often short-lived.

Alright, but what if I just want to sell enough copies of my LN to make a living? Wouldn’t it be worth having a long title if it means standing out from the crowd?

Upon first glance, yes; there are plenty of pros to a long title. However, there are even more cons. Both of which, I will explain in full.

A Few Reasons to Give Your Light Novel a Long Title

In addition to the marketing benefits referenced above, there are a few other pros to giving you LN a long title. Although none are worth the detriment of the cons, they should still be addressed for the sake of fairness.

Otaku are Suckers for Being ‘Real’ Fans

Long titles are just that—long. Often, they are much too long for anyone to remember. This becomes a detriment when readers actually like the series and want to look it up online, but cannot remember the name. Thankfully, modern search engines can find just about anything even if you just type in the LN’s summary.

Even so, that’s not a great reader experience. Wouldn’t you rather them remember your LN’s title?

Well, don’t worry, they will, but only after they’ve given it a nickname. One they can more easily remember and not have their fingers cramp halfway through typing it in a forum.

Pretty much every long-titled LN has a nickname. However, this nickname is always a shortened form of the Japanese title. Here are a few examples:

Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae wo Bokutachi wa Mada ShiranaiAnohana
Ore no Imouto ga Konnani Kawaii Wake ga NaiOreimo
Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Comedy wa MachigatteiruOregairu

Each of those series are wildly popular and one might argue that their nicknames contributed to their success.

Otaku love the idea of belonging to a ‘secret club’ where only they know the ‘codenames’ for their favorite shows. A nickname gives an added layer of attachment to a series kind of like a nickname for your friends or lover.

Furthermore, Otaku, myself included, also love being able to rattle off an extremely long title with ease in front of others. Doing so asserts that you are indeed a ‘real’ fan. I’ll never forget the day I was finally able to say Oreimo’s full title in Japanese out loud…

So, it might be logical to assume a LN being given a nickname means that it has a sizable fanbase.

But, alas, this likely isn’t the case. The only reason long-titled LNs are given nicknames is because no one can be bothered to remember the full title. Unpopular LNs have nicknames just like the popular ones do.

So, before you give your LN a long title, ask yourself: if this is just going to be shortened anyway, then why give it a long title at all?

Your Light Novel Will Stand Out in the Bookstore

By default, books on a bookshelf in the bookstore do not have their front covers displayed. The first aspect of a LN potential readers will see is the spine. And the only thing visible on the spine is the title.

This is where the ‘one-sentence sales pitch’ that a long title delivers shines. Summarizing your story on the spine can give readers the extra incentive needed to take a look at your LN over the thousands of similar-looking ones surrounding it.

No reader is going to pick up and look at every LN in the bookstore (they only have so much time), so I must admit that a long title works wonders for standing out in the bookstore.

However, I’m sorry to tell you that for many of us, being Non-JP LN Authors, the time when our LNs will be sitting next to JPLNs in the bookstores is still but a dream. An attainable dream for sure, but not one we should put all our current efforts towards.

For the great majority of us, our LNs will be seen entirely through the computer screen on various eBook retailer’s websites or perhaps even our own websites.

And the great majority of English eBook retailers feature not the spine, but the front cover alongside the story’s summary. If someone comes across a website displaying only spines, please let me know so I can have a good laugh.

So, the marketing benefit of a ‘spine summary’ is pointless in a digital bookstore. And so, again, I ask you to ask yourself: is it really worth having a long title if potential readers are going to see your story’s summary anyway?

Your Light Novel’s Title is Guaranteed to Be Unique

There is a (ridiculous) belief that because there are so many LNs in circulation, Authors are running out of potential titles. Thus, a brilliant solution is to use a long title that has a near statistically impossible chance of already being taken.

And yes this admittedly works quite well. LNs with needlessly long titles are 100% unique. If you are having trouble finding a name that isn’t already taken, then a long title will solve your issue instantly.

However. (I’ve been saying that a lot…)

This fear of running out of available titles makes sense on a surface level, but it really isn’t that big a deal.

The LITERAL first choice for titles I picked for my two LN series were both available. Here they are:

  • Garden of PSI
  • On Creating the Ultimate Weapon

Three words and five. See? Neither are that long and both were available. Not once did I type something else in and find it was already taken. Not even the name of this website was taken and it was my first choice too!

Besides, it’s easy to just take an aspect of your story that is unique (the setting / a specific character) and incorporate into an otherwise generic title.

For example, the Author of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya could’ve perhaps originally titled his work “Melancholy”—which was probably taken. So, all he did was slap the main character’s name in the title and boom!

It’s catchy, makes readers wonder why this character is so melancholic as to make it the core of the story, and perfectly reflects the story content.

So, while there are certainly Authors who have trouble picking a unique title, the answer isn’t necessarily to make it absurdly long. Just change one or two words and you’ll probably be fine.

Ok, it’s self-questioning time again: is it worth going to extremes by using a long title or should I just play around a bit with a short one until it’s just right?

Plenty of Reasons Not to Give Your Light Novel a Long Title

If it isn’t obvious yet—I don’t like this trend of absurdly long titles.

And while I begrudgingly admit they are effective on some level, I will do everything I can to convince not to make use of such a cheap tactic.

Mostly because—those three benefits I listed earlier? Yea, they’re not truly as great as they appear. So, for the next section, I will debunk them in reverse order.

Your Title Needs to Reflect the Content of Your Story

First up, yes—the ‘one-sentence sales pitch’ a long title delivers is undoubtedly eye-catching, but is it worth it?

I say no for a number of reasons, but the primary one is that your title must reflect the content of your story.

To prove my point, let’s take an extreme example (that still isn’t that extreme compared to real LN titles). Here’s a title I spent exactly 3.7 seconds coming up with:

  • I caught a rare disease after stubbing my toe, died, and got reincarnated as my ex-girlfriend’s pet crocodile.

Eye-catching? Yes. Memorable? Oh yea. Does it convey the story? For sure.

But let me pose a number of important questions regarding the continuation of such an LN series.

But before that—a caveat. If you’re writing a one-shot LN, then feel free to disregard (most of) this article. But if you’re writing a series (which you probably are and should), titling your LN as the story summary will not end well. Because:

  • Will the summary present in the title of Volume 01 still reflect what takes place in Volume 05’s story?
  • Can you guarantee that the protagonist will still be his ex-girlfriend’s pet crocodile in Volume 07?
  • Could you really maintain that gimmick for an entire series? Would you be able to keep it fresh and entertaining? How many jokes can you make out of that situation before it gets stupid? Would anyone even want to read it past a single volume?
  • What if you get tired of the protagonist being a crocodile and decide to turn him back into a human? Well, too bad, your story no longer matches the title. You’re now falsely advertising the story.
  • Is that bad? Maybe not to readers who are truly invested in your story, but not those who were only interested in the crocodile plot. If the reason they picked up your LN in the first place disappears, why should they stick around?

I could go on, but you get the point. The long summary-style title might work if you really intend to write about nothing except the protagonist being a crocodile, but for Authors who want their story to evolve beyond volume 01, such a title is a detriment.

And as a side note, I would also be careful not to pigeonhole your LN by giving it a long title.

A title like the above example is undeniably one belonging to a comedy LN. Rather, most long titles, because they are long, sound like comedies regardless of whether they are or not.

Anyway, let’s say you don’t want to write comedy anymore, well too bad again, your title has pigeonholed you into the genre and there’s nothing you can do about it.

If you suddenly switch genre/theme/voice in your writing, readers will accuse you of going off the rails or betraying their expectations. Which, needless to say, won’t end well for you as an Author.

But don’t worry, if you’re still desperate to have a long title, I have a solution for you.

Here, take this actual successful long-titled LN: Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?

The title may be long, but it’s also totally nonspecific. It gives readers a general idea of what might go on in the story, but nothing concrete. I argue such a title is far more intriguing than just using the summary as the title.

When you do the latter, you’re only prompting one or two questions, such as:

  • How will the protagonist deal with being his ex-girlfriend’s crocodile?
  • Will she ever learn who her crocodile really is?

Conversely, the nondescript title prompts infinitely more questions and even gives readers an idea about the genre.

  • Dungeon? It must be a fantasy, perhaps an RPG-style setting.
  • Pick up girls? Is the protagonist a playboy? Maybe he’s a loser and is hoping he’ll have better luck in a dungeon since he can’t pick up girls normally?
  • He’s asking if it’s wrong? Does he feel bad about it? Is he seriously only going into dangerous dungeons for the sole purpose of meeting girls?
  • Maybe he’s really strong and plans on saving a girl from a monster for the sole purpose of making her fall in love with him?

And so on and so forth. If you insist on having a long title, making it vague is your best bet.

This way, you’re not tied down to a specific summary or genre, so if your story strays from what the title suggests, it won’t (necessarily) be cause for readers to accuse you of going off the rails.

And if you’re still concerned a short title isn’t eye-catching enough, I have a simple trick for you. One I employ myself in my series Garden of PSI. Using subtitles.

You can allude to what goes on in a specific volume of your LN by giving it a subtitle. This makes each volume unique from one another and can get readers interested in what might go on in that particular volume.

Examples include:

  • Hidan no Aria: Gives a unique title reminiscent of James Bond films. Hidan no Aria 6 -Killing Range 2051-, Hidan no Aria 9 -Spark Out-
  • Date A Live: Notes which girl the volume will be about. Date A Live 2 – Yoshino Puppet, Date A Live 5 -Yamai Tempest-
  • Monogatari Series: Changes the first word and sticks -monogatari on the end. Bakemonogatari, Nekomonogatari, Kizumonogatari.

Being Memorable Isn’t Always a Good Thing

Ok, next up is long titles being more memorable thereby increasing sales.

LNs with long titles that are memorable almost always stick in a reader’s brain solely because they are ridiculous. Just go look up any long-titled LN and try to find just one that doesn’t come off as sarcastic or trying to be funny.

You’ll be looking for a long time.

And even if you find a serious one, you’ll probably still be laughing at it because overlong titles in themselves are absurd and worthy of ridicule.

So, I ask you this simple question: do you want to be remembered for being interesting or because your title was slightly more ridiculous than the LN next to yours?

The benefits of the former last far longer than those of the latter. You might nab a few curious readers with a goofy title, but they’re not the type to stick around for long.

If Everyone Is Doing It, It’s Not Unique

And lastly, a long title makes your LN stand out from the bajillions of others fighting for a potential reader’s attention.

This is indisputably true and why so many LNs have used this tactic to great effect. But just how well does a ‘secret technique’ work when everyone is using it?

When they first came into vogue, it worked wonders on me. One of my favorite anime of all time and the one likely to blame for the popularity of long titles is My Little Sister Can’t Be This Cute! (Ore no Imouto ga Konnani Kawaii Wake ga Nai! / Oreimo). The strange and crazy-long (for the time) title made me immediately interested in it.

Very few LNs had a title like it and none of them came even close to Oreimo’s popularity. And while its long title certainly helped with publicity, it was its great writing and illustrations that made it wildly successful.

But the days of long titles being unique have come and gone. They’re not so prevalent as to be called the norm, but there are so many long titles on the market that you were compelled to read an article explaining why that is!

So, no, a long title won’t necessarily help you stand out from the crowd because everyone in the crowd has a long title too. Long titles simply aren’t as unique as they used to be.

Ironically, were you to use a short title, you’d be unique and possibly stand out from the crowd.

Are Readers Really Just Too Lazy to Read My Light Novel’s Summary?

Ok, so if you’ve made it through this whole article and are still on the fence regarding whether to give your LN a long title or not, I have one final caveat that should be addressed.

It, despite everything I’ve said, is in favor of the long title. Shocking, I know.

Anyway, when I was researching this topic, the same explanation for the ‘one-sentence sales pitch’ title kept showing up again and again. That being that modern day Otaku are simply too lazy to read story summaries anymore.

At first, I thought this absurd. No one could be so lazy as to dread reading a few sentences of something designed solely to entertain them.

And I’d like to think I’m right. It’s not that people are lazy; it’s that they have a thousand other things fighting for their attention.

Like it or not, we live in a dopamine dystopia in which people are never without some form of stimulation and constantly crave it as a result.

Let’s follow a reader on his hypothetical trip to the bookstore to illustrate this:

He arrives, browses through the LN section, but can’t be bothered to pick any of them up out of sheer curiosity or just to amuse himself.

Oh no, he thinks. I’m in a hurry. I’ve got to browse twitter for two hours, play FGO for three, binge Netflix shows, and other important matters.

And you’re asking him to read the back of your LN? Forget it. You’d better just tell him what it’s about in the title. Look, his AP finally restored in FGO and he has to complete this event before it ends.

Ridiculous? Maybe. But unfortunately, most of us are no different.

Your phone is always on, connected to the internet. Ten streams of social media require your immediate attention. You’ve got an endless backlog of places you want to go, things you want to do, anime to watch, games to play, LNs to read, and on and on and on.

Throw in work/school/relationships on top of all that and it starts to make a little sense as to why people can’t be bothered to read a few sentences anymore.

Perhaps on some level, it’s true that giving your LN a long, summary-style title would give you a fighting chance in the never-ending war for a reader’s attention.

As much as I’d like to, I cannot completely deny the marketing power of long titles. I personally refuse to use such a tactic (well, probably), but I won’t tell you not to either.

That said, I do ask that you keep in mind all the potential detriments I detailed above before you decide to give your LN a long title.

It may be useful in the beginning, but don’t be surprised if your popularity falls as quickly as it rose.

No, Your Light Novel (Probably) Shouldn’t Have a Long Title

Giving LNs long titles is popular and powerful for a number of reasons, but the negative consequences of doing so far outweigh the benefits.

Especially today in which the majority of LNs being published have ridiculous, long titles that only function as a summary of volume 01 and don’t necessarily reflect the core theme of the LN as a whole.

And is that what you really want for your LN?

How about instead of thinking up ways to trick Otaku into reading your LN, you instead give it your all to create an awesome LN with good writing and beautiful, unique Illustrations?

This plague of gimmicky LNs with long titles has resulted in a deluge of LNs that all look and sound the same because, unfortunately, that what sells.

The bestselling LNs are so successful because they did what they wanted without any consideration for chasing trends or sneaky marketing tactics.

Plus, many Otaku (including me) are getting wise to such tactics and actively avoid LNs with stupidly long titles. The content might be good, but the goofy title screams: “I’m a cheap, lazily written LN trying to survive on a single clever gimmick!”

What I’m trying to say is:

Take all the time you’d spend on coming up with a cheap gimmick and ridiculous long title and instead spend on writing a plain good LN that succeeds on its own merits rather than trendy marketing ploys.

Or, in short: please, please help put an end to this plague and don’t give your LN a long title (unless it’s a good one like Danmachi or Oreimo, of course, wink*).


Hey, my name's Azuma. I first dove deep into Otaku culture in 2010 and never quite grew out of it. After a million different anime, light novels, manga, and visual novels, I learned a lot about each art form. Knowledge I want to share with you from writing advice to drawing tips. I'm also the Author of two light novels series, Garden of PSI and On Creating the Ultimate Weapon. Happy creating!

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