Thursday, December 11, 2008

The State of the Sci-Fi/Fantasy Market

Anyways, my question: What is your impression of the strength of the sci-fi/fantasy genre? With sci-fi in particuliar, which I think has a more male readership than female, has the readership base been in decline? Sometimes I get the impression that science fiction in a literary form has trouble competing with video games and movies. Maybe I'm totally wrong in thinking this way or maybe this isn't a question you can answer. But if you can, I'd love to hear your thoughts about it.

While this isn't a question I could give you a solid answer to, that won't stop me from posting about it.

Sci-fi/fantasy was my first great love, and still pretty much is, though I mainly read non-fiction these days for work-related reasons. In terms of the literary world, the only world where I can speak with some imagined authority I don't actually have, I would say the state of the current market is as strong as any other market: doing okay considering the economy and YA is really hot, but not as hot as people think it is, everyone stop thinking you can write YA and submit it and it'll be more likely to get published, I'm really sick of it. Sci-fi/fantasy - particularly fantasy - has been trending mainstream for a decade now, though one could easily make the argument that there were other decades in the 20th century where it was so mainstream it didn't have its own section in the bookstore. All I know is, when I was growing up in the 80's and 90's, if you read Lord of the Rings, you were a nerd. Nowadays you barely qualify unless you name your third external hard drive after a Silmarillion character. So, no weeping about the state of sci-fi/fantasy from me.

The market is very tight in this genre, and always has been. There's some argument that it's gotten too conventional. My agent shopped a post-Apocalyptic novel to sci-fi publishers last spring and it didn't sell. We got some very nice letters back about how it was very wild, interesting, etc, but they weren't sure "how it would do in the market." In other words, "We can't predict whether it will sell and therefore can't invest the money in a new author with a risky book; go write a vampire story." I imagine it's worse now than it was in May, but that won't stop sci-fi fans from submitting their crappy fantasy novels to my boss even though she doesn't handle fantasy, and they won't all be exactly the same. In fact, I'm pretty sure nothing could stop the flow of unpublishable fantasy novels into the sludge piles of publishing, and then the one you find per year that's actually great.

So, if you want to write, write. If you want to try to get published, submit and cross your fingers. If you want instant gratification and a genuine, pre-built fanbase that will totally leave you nice comments that will make your day, write fan fiction.

24 comments:

YA Writer said...

Amen to your comment on the damned YA bandwagon. I've got a friend who writes erotic romance now trying her hand at YA. Has she done any research or read any recent YA? No. But it's what's "hot", so she's going for it.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for answering! Now that I think about it, I can see how the convientionality thing might be an issue...

Andrew said...

MMM ineresting. This supports my view that publishers are quite literally unable to tell their arse from their elbow. It might very well be becuase they have so much sludge to get through. I was rejected for years before I self published and am doing quite well, thank you. If your'e interested look me up on Amazon or Barnes & Nobel under "The Flame of Heaven" by Andrew P. Wright - suitable for both YA and hard core fantasy readers, as well as those interested in suspense.

PS The worst people to take advice from about publishing your story are the cynics who work in the publihing industry.

The Rejecter said...

Wow, are you the same Andrew Wright who seems to have randomly gone leaving links to your book's site in the comments sections of other people's book review blogs?

Yunaleska said...

Considering this is a market some of my wips are aimed at, I was glad to read this :)

From the people I know, Sci-fi is quite popular with female readers.

Maybe YA seems so popular because people have commented on a few of the books published in the genre? I haven't read dozens of YA, but I have read a few and enjoy them.

FIONA said...

How about THE ROAD? It was post apocalyptic and sold rather well.
On, that's right, it wasn't marketed as SF was it?

There are lots of time travel/ shape-shifter/ and urban fantasy books (without vampires, ok and with vampires, too) being published right now---as romance.

The space opera types are what are lagging, unless they're a STAR WARS OF STAR TREK tie-in.

Joseph Lewis said...

Andrew, what does "doing quite well" mean? You have been on Amazon for 6 weeks, you have no cover art, your book is only 200 pages long (that's half a book), you have one anonymous comment (probably yours), and someone is already trying to sell their used copy. And your product description is just a rambling plot synopsis, not an intriguing blurb. (Just some observations from a cynic who used to work in publishing)

Crimogenic said...

"How about THE ROAD? It was post apocalyptic and sold rather well.
On, that's right, it wasn't marketed as SF was it?"


Fiona,

I love the Road, as I have said a thousands time. It was a post apocayptic novel, but it also was a literary work. Perhaps that accounts for some of it's success.

The Rejecter said...

Post-apocalyptic stuff is actually very hot right now, but I just think my novel didn't work because of it relied too much on the understanding of Rabbinic hypertime. In other words, it wasn't accessible enough to the average reader, so it wasn't good enough to be published. If I get something else published in sci-fi and become a semi-established name, it'll probably be published.

BuffySquirrel said...

No, "The Road"'s success is I think entirely attributable to its being one hell of a book. Literary tends to sell in smaller quantities than SFF, after all.

dara said...

Sci-fi/fantasy still must be the "thing" to write as every one in my critique group (except myself) is writing anything from high fantasy to urban fantasy. I'm the outcast writing historical fiction :P

Nils said...

If I were to write, I would write sci fi/fantasy (and some weird variations of them). Because I am a geek, and sf/fantasy is what I like. I think that's probably the same reason why there's so much of it in critique groups and sludge piles - all the geeks are doing it.

Thomas said...

I've never understood the fascination with sword and sorcery type fantasy. So near as I can tell only one person every had a genuinely unique idea in that genre and absolutely everyone else that has come since is an under-imaginative inheritor.

I find it funny that SciFi and Fantasy are so often bundled together considering how narrow a genre fantasy is, especially when compared to scifi, which is so stylistically expansive that the word genre is almost inadequate.

Thomas said...

It looks to me like the only review for "Flame of Heaven" was written by Andrew, himself.

Crimogenic said...

Buffy,

You're right it's one hell of a book! I love it so much!

Rejecter,

I have a post- apocalyptic novel in the works, nothing as fancy as Rabbinic hypertime. Heck I can't seem even to find a reference for what that means. I'm not particular a sci-fi nerd, (maybe a mini sci-fi nerd, maybe)

jjdebenedictis said...

I've never understood the fascination with sword and sorcery type fantasy. ... I find it funny that SciFi and Fantasy are so often bundled together considering how narrow a genre fantasy is.

You don't like it, therefore it's bad? Look everybody! We've discovered the centre of the universe!

Fantasy consists of more than just sword and sorcery. The genre is not narrow, but your knowledge of it clearly is.

FIONA said...

crimogenic, the point I was trying to make with the example of THE ROAD is exactly that, if the book is well written, there should be a market. And a SF book c that is really well written can have a huge readership.

Anonymous said...

Concerning the hot "YA" market right now, I think it's beginning to calm down. I sold previously and have not been able to sell my (better written) novels since that initial sale.

Lots of YA editors right now are getting fired and leaving their jobs.

There was a time when "YA was the new black" but now, after all these adult authors jumping on the bandwagon, the supply far outweighs the demand. If you're thinking of switching to YA, you've already missed the boat.

Hell, I write YA, and I'm thinking of going to the adult market.

Shelly Li said...

I agree with you. Even if the market for SF/Fantasy is tight, the great books always make it through. And if you can't sell your novel at first, write short stories and start selling them to the magazine to build up your name--that's one of the best things about the SF/Fantasy genre, I believe, that other genres don't have: catering short stories to their audiences regularly.

And, come on, who doesn't love Sci-Fi? It's--how did Scalzi put it?--the battleground of the battle between science and religion.

Sincerely,
Shelly Li

Anonymous said...

We got some very nice letters back about how it was very wild, interesting, etc, but they weren't sure "how it would do in the market." In other words, "We can't predict whether it will sell and therefore can't invest the money in a new author with a risky book; go write a vampire story."

With or without Angsty Emo Vampire Bishie-Sparkles?

AravisGirl said...

That's weird. I'm a teenager, and in the past, most of mystories have all been YA or something like it (obviously), but lately, they've been more adult-ish.

No way am I switching to vampires.

P.S. I've been reading your site today, and I really like it. It's very informative :D

Haley Jo said...

The space opera types are what are lagging, unless they're a STAR WARS OF STAR TREK tie-in.

I just actually wrote a SF that has a very Space(ish) theme. I don't feel it comes anywhere near space opera, but I'm hoping that once I finish getting all the kinks out, it will be publishalbe.

I started out in the YA department, and lately, I just feel I'm getting a little old for it. I want to appeal to a more mature audience.

This was a great post and I may spend the night reading through the rest of the posts.

Kite said...

I wish there was some way of knowing if my Sci-Fi work is already barking up the wrong tree because of it's plot, setting, or character. Someday I hope to find a list of "If you story contains any of these, then think again - because you'll have next to no chance publishing it".

Alan Chamberlain said...

I think some authors just call their work YA so they don't have to worry about using worn out conventions, melodramatic plots and paper thin characters...or maybe they think the book is just average but judged at the YA level it's really good.

I hear you on the publishing front. I am trying the Kickstarter routeL
http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/457579980/light-and-shadow-a-novel

Self publishing can do a lot of things but it can't advance you money like a publisher. So crowdsource funding might be the answer to filling that gap.