The Way of the Word

13. March 2010

Novel in Progress: Revenge of the Walking Dead

Or is it?

Work is progressing slowly. More slowly than I would like. I have reason to be hopeful, however, that I can speed things up now.

Something happened last night, however, that made me rethink the title. So far, I had been happy with Die Rache der wandelnden Toten (The Revenge of the Walking Dead). It’s evocative and descriptive at the same time. In the chapter I wrote last night, though, I used the phrase Todesmarsch der Zombies (Deathmarch of the Zombies). It fits, because that’s exactly what is happening in the story right now: the zombies are marching through the city, killing and infecting every living thing they encounter.

I wrote that phrase, then I sat back and took notice.

That sounds cool, I thought. That would make a good title too. Maybe even better than the original title.

For any book, a good title is as important as a good cover design. Usually, books are racked with the spine outside, so the first thing that catches the potential reader’s attention is the title. It has to be the title that attracts the reader, makes him take the book off the shelf, look at the cover, then read the back cover text.

I like the original title because it has a real pulp appeal. Todesmarsch der Zombies is shorter, more dramatic. Yes, it’s also trashier. It’s more evocative of a B- or C-grade movie than the old pulps. And yes, the German original does roll off the tongue more easily than the literal English translation I provide.

Yet… That’s exactly why it might attract the attention of the casual browser.

Help me out here: which title do you think is better?



  1. “Revenge of the Walking Dead” catches my attention and provokes curiosity about the types of revenge, on details and individual fates. The other title raises a mental picture of a huge army rolling over a city which to me suggests little detail.
    I think details make a story so I would much more likely pick a book with the title “Rache der wandelnden Toten”.

    Comment by Dany — 13. March 2010 @ 10:21

  2. Deathmarch is cool, but Revenge is better for me. I mean, ultimately, the zombies are taking their revenge, right?

    Comment by jasonarnett — 13. March 2010 @ 14:57

  3. I also like “Revenge of the walking dead” because it’s descriptive and works in both English and German translations. “Todesmarsch der Zombies” sounds good only in German. Also, “Deathmarch” in reference to zombies is a bit of a pun. Is the march of the zombies being called “deathmarch” because the zombies are dead, or are they actually going around killing everything in their path?

    Comment by jenue — 13. March 2010 @ 20:16

  4. At this point in the novel, they are actually marching through the streets, killing everything in their path.

    Comment by jensaltmann — 16. March 2010 @ 10:15

  5. The trick with apocalyptic stories — and this isn’t one of those — is to make it accessible to the reader by providing characters the reader can sympathize with. If you don’t like any of the characters, odds are you won’t get involved with the story.

    The title, from my perspective, has the purpose to get the potential reader to take the book off the shelf and read the solicitation on the back cover.

    Odds are that, if this finds a publisher, they will change the title anyway. That’s what happened with the first Christopher Price novel. I had titled it “Carnival of Lost Souls,” the publisher retitled it “Carnival of Horrors.”

    Comment by jensaltmann — 16. March 2010 @ 10:25

  6. Regarding the English translation: that part is completely irrelevant. I am not fooling myself into the idea that, even if this finds a German publisher, it will ever be translated into English. So the pun doesn’t need to work in English.

    Comment by jensaltmann — 16. March 2010 @ 10:27

  7. Let’s say that someone is using the zombies to that purpose.

    Comment by jensaltmann — 16. March 2010 @ 10:27

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