2.01.2007

Alien love

Dear Miss Snark,

I've noticed a lot of agents indicate they're not interested in receiving queries for fantasy/science fiction, more so than any other genres. Why is that?

Hopefully this question is merely clueless, and not nitwitry...


Sorry, no clue cannon for you today. Your parting prize is the answer to your question. You may play in the Nitwit Stakes again next week.

SF/F has fewer publishers and a smaller market. Hard to make money doing it.

23 comments:

Kimber An said...

On the other hand, SF&F is growing as a subgenre in romance. Check out eHarlequin.com and click on their LUNA line and Nocturn. Also, visit these websites:

www.aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com
www.linneasinclair.com
www.susangrant.com

If you can adapt, you will not die.
;)

Geminipen said...

Why, then is the SFF genre one of the most popular on Critique Circle? Romance/Women's Lit seems to be so UNpopular that stories can be up for review within days of submission and receive a small number of crits, as well.

Is romance/women's lit "in a coma" right now? Surely it will be revived at some point.

I Said said...

May I just raise the flag above the horizon a tad?

Although I'm sure this author has done his/her homework, the thought would occur to me that many of the scam agencies change names but not addresses. This can be doublechecked by a visit to Writer Beware of course.

Anonymous said...

Well, maybe that's true about sci-fi fantasy, but I'm a bookstoreholic and say, Barnes&Nobles and Book-a-Million- and independents, have a larger sci-fi list than romance or mystery. More younger people hang out there, mostly sitting in the aisles reading - maybe they don't buy!!!!

Mackan said...

Granted I don't know how business is for sci-fi in the US (being from Sweden, and writing other kinds of books), I still have a feeling that even if Sci-fi is a small genre, it has very devoted readers.

Or "followers", even. As does fantasy. As in "the few readers there are, are buying most everything that comes their way".

Just my 0.02$

OTOH - Me right and MS wrong? Shouldn't think so :) Move to sweden and sell your books here, instead ;)

Kimber An said...

About Critique Circle, the answer is probably because it's about writing and revising - not about actually selling those books. Reason why there's less stories in the Romance queue is probably because there are so many other resources for romance writers elsewhere. Google 'Romance Writers of America.'

Anonymous said...

Geminipen, romance is definitely not in a coma. Romance accounts for $1.2 billion in sales each year; 54.9% of all popular mass-market fiction sold; and 39.3% of all fiction sold. I just pulled those stats from the Romance Writers of American website, which leads to (I believe) the answer to your question. RWA has many active in person and online chapters. Those chapters provide many valuable opportunities for romance writers (whether published or not), including the ability to participate in critique groups. My guess is fewer use the general online opportunities because they have others. That, at least, is what I do and others I know from our local RWA chapter.

Kit Whitfield said...

I think science fiction/fantasy can sometimes seem like a bigger market than it is, because its consumers are particularly demonstrative about their liking for it - especially on the Net, of course. I have the feeling that many romance readers buy lots and lots of books, but buy them quietly, read them on their own and don't discuss them much. I heard some publishers even let you have a standing order with them, shipping you four, six or whatever of their new novels per month, bypassing public places like bookshops but generating big sales. Bit of a silent majority, perhaps.

I wonder if another reason why some agents won't take on science fiction is simple personal taste; everyone's heard someone say 'Oh, sci fi, I can't be having with that at all!' This may include some agents. And you can't sell a book you don't like...

S. W. Vaughn said...

It seems sf/f writers have a tough time of it. Not only are there fewer publishers, but there may be more writers vying for the spots...

Arguably, this isn't the best or most accurate statistic, nor is it a sampling of the majority of the writing population, but a recent poll entitled "What's Your Genre?" in the Writing Novels forum on AW revealed that more than half of all writers who responded were writing sf/f.

I'm just sayin'... :-)

Anonymous said...

You're looking in the wrong place. Geminipen is right. There's plenty of crit groups for it and scores of short story+anthology markets for SF/F. And each time my bookstore gets new stuff in there's always SF/F titles in the new lot. Why do you assume there's less of these markets?

Miss Snark said...

Anon above
we're using the word "market" to mean different things. I'm talking about the number of publishers who pay enough to allow me to do a deal. You're talking about people who buy books.

The "market" for Bibles is huge in terms of number of people who read and buy it.

The "marke"t for an agent to sell Bibles to ie the number of publishers who print them up (given she's got authority to negotiate for God and the boys) is limited.

writer with a day job said...

I think the question is, are people buying lots of new SF books?

If zillions of people are buying *used* SF books, or checking them out at libraries (or writing them but never reading them :)),that doesn't mean an agent can make money off of them.

Dave Robinson said...

I think a higher proportion of SF/Fans spend non writing time online. They're also more interested in online communities which skews the numbers

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't be too surprised if some agents don't accept SFF just because they don't want to deal with the people trying to write it. I think they tend to be quite a lot weirder than your average wannabe writers (who are weird enough ;) ). I write fantasy myself, and I love the genre, but I tend to avoid other SFF writers. Some of them are great people, of course, but a lot of them are more than a little on the crazy side.

Twill said...

Another possibility is that there is more truly awful, puerile and trite garbage in the SFF slush than there is in other kinds of slush.

I swear, just in researching the market and the stuff that actually *did* get published, I sometimes cringe.

Imagine doing a crapometer at work, every day, as a job, but without being able to use the clue bazooka. Hell pales in comparison.

Manda86 said...

Funny - I work in a book store (sigh) and one of our biggest sellers in the sci-fi, fantasy. And lately I've been getting more and more questions about 'DaVinci Code-like' books. I swear I'd be rich if I got a dollar for every time a customer asked me something similar...alas my manager refuses to pay me on that basis ;)

j h woodyatt said...

I'm guessing that means the standard advice about the number of agents to query ought to be adjust slightly for SF/F writers. Last I searched the Publisher's Marketplace and AAR directories for agetns who accept fantasy (my genre), I only found a couple dozen at most.

Kit Whitfield said...

'...a recent poll entitled "What's Your Genre?" in the Writing Novels forum on AW revealed that more than half of all writers who responded were writing sf/f.'

That's extremely interesting. I can believe it - being a genre that has a very involved culture around it, it sounds quite possible, and I know the slush piles I read did feel fairly full of spaceships and chosen ones; does anyone have any more statistics on this?

Brandon Sanderson said...

My experience, from a little bit inside the biz, is that sf/f also tends to be a more closed community on a publishing level than other genres might be. There are fewer publishers, fewer agents, and they all tend to know each other quite well and have been working together for years. My editor got his start thirty years ago working for Asimov's, and has been in the industry for all that time. Many of the agents I know do almost exclusively f/sf, and have also been fans of the genre for years and years.

Last time I visited Tor, I found out that even the accountants and secretarial staff were all fantasy readers from a very young age. You work for Tor because you love sf/f, even if you aren’t editing. It’s been a very different experience working with Scholastic.

Anonymous said...

Hi Miss Snark

Little anon me again. I see what you're saying, but still all the new SF/F books in the bookstore are contradicting the claim that there's a smaller market for it.

Perhaps it's a geographical thing.

Miss Snark said...

dearest little anon, hi,

Take a look at all those new SF books. Keep a list of who published them. It's not the quantity of the books, it's the quantity of the publishers. Even if six houses publish eleven hundred books, there are only six houses.

Mark said...

"They're also more interested in online communities which skews the numbers"

Boy howdy. They live in these communities and defend them fiercely from all comers. There really is a cultlike quality to the genre and its devoted readers. It's very unlikely any of the most popular works ever make it to mid-list status. That isn't very attractive to agents.

Issendai said...

Mark, I agree with much of what you said, but saying that the most popular works don't make it to mid-list status is an exaggeration. There are plenty who make it all the way to bestseller status--think Susanna Clarke, Laurell K. Hamilton, Terry Pratchett, Terry Goodkind, Robert Jordan, David Eddings. There are plenty more who make a comfortable enough living that they don't do anything but write. Their numbers may be proportionally smaller than those in mainstream fiction, but that doesn't mean they don't exist.