After for so long being a small, very small, market, fantasy has come into its own.
Thank the likes of Neil Gaiman and George R. Martin (and, of course, Game of Thrones’ show) for boosting this deserving category into the limelight.
And now that Britian’s leading literary author, Kazuo Ishiguro, has released what some call fantasy (and others, who aren’t willing to release their notions about how far literary is from fantasy call a fable, a folktale, or etc…anything but fantasy…), we’re seeing a new world of opportunity for authors.
Now is the time to take advantage of this movement. I’ve been looking at agents quite closely over the last several months and have found so many more that now represent fantasy. It’s a leader in publishing, and everyone involved is hoping to find the next huge hit.
And remember that there are many subcategories of fantasy. If you’re working with soft fantasy (as am I) or alternate history fantasy, throw your work in the ring! You’ll be able to stand out from the epic high fantasies that are getting so much attention right now, and you’ll offer the market something unique. That’s always a plus.
This week I posted about some interesting results of the annual What Kids are Reading report in dystopian fiction. The report also showed some interesting trends in other fantasy areas among young readers in the UK.
Cassandra Clare had one book in the top 20 last year. This year her showing counted five titles among secondary-school children’s most popular books. What’s all the fuss about? Her urban fantasy Mortal Instruments series, in which human-angel hybrids walk the earth.
In primary schools, the most popular title was David Walliams’s Demon Dentist.
In that same category Liz Pichon took second place with Everything’s Amazing (Sort of), part of a comic series.
And of course no list would be complete without something from JK Rowling. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets took third place.
The report found that UK pupils’ most popular reads were either heavily dystopian fantasies or “irreverent, larger than life anti-hero comedies” like the Wimpy Kid stories and Dahl’s The Twits .
Of special note was that while the overall top 20 split equally between comedy and fantasy, by secondary school the most popular were nearly exclusively darker conflicts from an epic fantasy genre.
The report’s author, Keith Topping, is a professor of educational and social research at Dundee University. He noted a “sharp contrast” in the difficulty of books read by primary and secondary pupils.
“Primary-school pupils, particularly in years one to five, show a strong preference for challenging books that are significantly beyond their natural reading age,” he said.
But “we then see a marked difference in year seven, where favoured books are no longer above chronological age, but six months below it and in ensuing years the difficulty of books plateaus or declines,” he added.
So don’t be afraid to challenge younger readers.
Oh, woe, dystopian is dead. How often have I heard that lately, and how wrong is it?
The annual What Kids Are Reading report found that dystopian fantasy and larger-than-life comedies dominate among young readers in the UK.
It notes that JRR Tolkien’s fantasy novels, which almost always rose to the top of the annual lineup, has been replaced by a deluge of dark dystopias and urban fantasies.
The report studies the reading habits of half a million children in over 2,700 UK schools. After six years of running the survey, this is the first time Tolkien’s titles haven’t featured in the top 10 places.
The most popular title for this year’s survey was John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, followed by two (wait for it) dystopian stories: Suzanne Collins’s Catching Fire and Veronica Roth’s Divergent.
Dystopia is alive and well…OK, perhaps oppressed and in need of an uprising, but well enough, shall we say.
And what plays overseas, I’ve found, often plays well with American readers.
Every year, it seems, we hear that books and other media forms are competing against each other. That might be true but in this race, books win.
Within the media sector, books are the largest content creation category. For 2014, revenue generated from books was $151 billion, while movies created $135 billion. These numbers track only titles from traditional publishers and indie books with ISBNs, so the actual gap is significantly higher.
Keep writing. People want to read your books…and they want to read more than they want to watch movies.
New Adult became an official category in 2013 when it received its own Book Industry Standards and Communications Code. The genre is generally considered to be stories that feature primarily college-aged heroines learning to deal with life in their early twenties…with a special emphasis on romance and sex.
While I agree that this category targets primarily female readers between 18 and 25, the YA + Sex idea is too restrictive. Putting aside the idea that sex is usually tied to some emotional response (whether the characters admit it or not), NA is much more than YA + Sex.
Just as YA broke boundaries by working with content that reflected the real coming-of-age struggles of teenagers approaching adulthood, NA can have the same impact. Publishers like Atria went from producing zero NA titles in 2012 to its current goal of releasing 15-20 each year. As the category finds its readers and more publishers move into the arena, NA stories will expand to encompass much more than teen angst plus sex.
Anytime there is a new movement like this in publishing, it’s important to be part of the first wave. Yes, your entry into publishing will be more difficult because publishers (and booksellers) right now are not sure where the category might go. So show them! Send out your unique NA manuscript. Be the first, and reap the rewards by launching your career by leading the way.
On hardcovers, authors earn 30% of the publisher’s gross revenue. This equals 42.5% of the total margin, which is defined as the amount the author and publisher earn combined.
On ebooks, the author earns 25% of gross revenue. For now, most publishers are holding that number steady and will not negotiate higher percentages unless the author is very well-known or the author has a strong agent advocating for them.
This tells us two things. First, publishers are fairly compensating authors for hardcovers. Second, the debate over the fairness of the author’s share of digital revenue is valid. People should be asking why publishers are withholding a larger portion of the profits when the author is the creator of the content on which publishers make money.
At the Bologna publishing conference, a panel spoke about children’s publishing. It noted that a “nimble” approach was required…meaning that publishers had to be quick with distributing apps and other digital components to attract and engage readers.
One of the primary points to come out was that branding is a big deal even within juvenile arenas. No one can simply wait for Apple or Amazon to pick their product or app from the slew of incoming projects. Instead, publishers need to grab new opportunities for combining forces.
One of the newest things I’ve noticed lately is groups of authors teaming up to offer package deals on books. For a set price, usually equaling $0.99 for each book in the package, buyers get four, five, six or even twelve books at once. Authors copromote on their social media and often have found themselves achieving bestseller lists.
Norway has placed over 135,000 books online for free.
The books cannot be downloaded but they can be read in their entirety online. The website is only accessible by citizens of that country, and every book on the site offers payments to publishers and authors.
The project is intended to help boost print sales for books that were published before 2000. The country feels that titles need to be given more exposure over a longer timeframe than is usually allowed by publishers.
This experiment hits all the right notes: authors and publishers are paid for their work, readers get to sample an author’s work without worrying they won’t like the book, and readers are then driven to buy the print book (and more recent ones from the same author), which further supports publishers, authors, and of course bookstores.
Simon & Schuster’s president and CEO Carolyn Reidy said the company’s top growth is coming from international sales. Foreign markets are hungry for American books of all types.
To take advantage of this trend, submit to S&S. If you have any works self-published, make sure you’re offering them on digital platforms that have a presence in foreign countries. You don’t have to have a translation; it’s possible to make sales in English-speaking countries as well as India, Scandinavia, and other areas where English is spoken widely as a second language.
The 2014 Digital Book World survey found that among 9,200 authors surveyed, those that had been traditionally published were moving in number to self-publishing.
The authors felt their experiences with publishers were less than anticipated, and so felt the publishers had underperformed with their books. This might of course be a case of authors who don’t understand the industry expecting too much of any company that offers marketing services but is more likely due to a number of factors like lack of creative control, the long production schedule, and the short shelf life publishers are willing to offer.
For those who turned to self-publishing, only about 16% regretted their decision and decided to return to traditional publishers. For the rest, the trade-off they made in lack of distribution and marketing support was made up for in other ways…including the amount of royalties they gained.
MIT’s Media Lab has come up with a book that is the true definition of interactive.
The experiment has been called Sensory Fiction. The book has sensors that readers strap on with a vest. As the characters undergo different emotional moments, the reader feels the feedback directly through the use of air pressure bags, vibrating devices, a heater and LED lights.
Watch the video demo here.
One of the biggest questions facing authors today is whether to go indie or pitch their work to a heritage publisher. In 2013, the Big Six (now the Big Five) commanded 89.6% of the titles in hardcover editions. That is a big chunk of the game.
Always remember that if your pitch to publishers fails, you can always self-publish. And nowadays, you can self-publish and still approach publishers with the same manuscript. So your options aren’t actually either-or. Nowadays, it’s a matter of how many paths you’ll take to publishing rather than which single path you’ll chose.
Bind-ups, collections of previously published short fiction, novellas, and the like, is being viewed in a new way. Before, publishers released collections as an afterthought, mostly as a way to enhance sales or increase revenue using items from their existing catalogues.
Now, publishers are realizing that ebooks are offering new ways to engage with books. Waterbrook Multnomah is releasing three novellas in a single book as an experiment. HarperCollins Christian Publishing is revamping a series by releasing a series specifically under this format. A Year of Weddings will come out every three months with seasonal themes; each release will bind together three novellas.
Publishers are reaching into new arenas by recasting old ideas. They aren’t dead yet…not by a long shot.
The 2014 Digital Book World and Writer’s Digest conducted a survey to determine how self-published authors differ from traditionally published authors and hybrid writers. The results are here, and reveal some interesting points.
–Self-pub authors and hybrid authors thought a book’s quality will be the same no matter what route they took, while traditionally published writers felt it much more likely to happen with a heritage publisher. The reality is that self-pub authors can achieve the same quality if they put together a team of editors and designers that are professionals.
–Distribution was thought to be much broader across the board from traditional publishers. This still reflects the inability of self-pub books to achieve widespread print distribution through bookstores.
–Authors felt it equally likely that marketing efforts could be at least equal to publishing houses, that it was somewhat more likely to be better with a heritage house, and that it might be the same either way. This reflects the necessity of self-pub authors and traditionally published books to be marketed by the authors themselves. Finances are the real issue here, and often self-pub books don’t have the same numbers behind them. Keep in mind that creative efforts can trump investments with digital efforts.
Galleycat posted a great infographic on 40 years of ebook publishing here.
The points I found most revealing are:
The first ebook was launched in 1971 by Project Gutenberg. This points to the importance ebooks held before most traditional houses really understood their potential.
In 2000, Stephen King’s novella Riding the Bullet was downloaded over 400,000 times in 24 hours, proving the ability of ebooks to reach existing fans and new readers.
Amazon launched Kindle in 2007, five years after traditional publishers began working with ebooks. So Amazon is not always at the forefront of publishing trends.