February 19th, 2010, 12:51 PM
LOL, Sterling, that was entirely too much work! But thanks for the annual titles counts, that was very helpful to me.
Mark, alternate world fantasy fans do like big, though they've read small, as the older titles were shorter. (If you read one of Glen Cook's Black Company books for instance, they are not behemoths.) What happened is that the authors wanting to do those titles got more and more ambitious -- I think Jordan shone the light and other authors wanted to chase it and try stories on that scale because they were so impressed with what he was doing. But publishers are also begging authors to scale it back a bit currently, as the production costs and paperback problems are real issues. And the contemporary fantasy novels, being more suspense stories, are usually shorter. Science fiction novels used to be quite short because they tended to be authors taking a novella they'd published in the magazines, adding a bit more to it and publishing it as a novel. Over time, though, the market shifted from the magazines into books, SF authors started doing more series and longer works up front and the length range crept up there too, though again, short novels still occur in SF.
But at 65,000 words, it's a short novel, which means more searching to find a home. Ralan.com has listings of smaller presses I believe. The Literary Market Place in the reference section of main public libraries will also list established small presses and tell you if they publish SFF.
I don't know when exactly the word "indies" started getting bantered around to refer to small presses, and I've used it as reference, but it is a misnomer. Publishing is not structured like film with big studios and independent productions. Small and medium presses are often owned by companies. Maybe it sounds cooler than small press, but it's kind of misleading.
Pyr has announced that it is taking unagented submissions, but only for its alternate world fantasy, it seems like. And they have clear production limits -- they're not doing smaller runs, so no novellas, anthologies, collections or short novels that can be mistaken for novellas. Also, he's stated the limit on word counts they can go, because they can't afford more, one would think. So that's one publisher with specific length requirements because of its publishing program, which is very specific. Other publishers have more wiggle room.
February 19th, 2010, 06:19 PM
Work? Ha! I'm an engineer... I'll take any excuse I can get to create a rediculously over the top statistical excel file. If I manage to finish what I started, then this is just the tip of the iceberg...
Originally Posted by KatG
In terms of annual titles, as I mentioned, I removed the YA books (3) and Anthologies/Short Story collections (2) from the data.
(And thanks for the thanks, but my motivation is purely selfish, I assure you . I have a book I'm going to try and pimp this summer, just trying to figure out where I fit in...)
February 24th, 2010, 12:01 PM
A mere player
Sort of on a side note, what's the cost of publishing the 40K words between 80K and 120K (which would be about 150pgs by Sterlings count)? Do they sell at significantly different price points? I have never looked into it. I assume that's the big issue in the count, though.
I know as a consumer, if I'm paying $7.95 for a 450-500 pager I feel cheated when paying $6.95 for a 250 pager, unless that 250 pager is one of my favorite authors.
February 24th, 2010, 02:29 PM
Sterling's count is very rough. The cost varies widely depending on font, print size, margins, paper used, etc. What may seem like a 600 page novel may not really be one and what seems like a 300 page novel may be longer than it looks.
Which is why txhusker's length to price ratio is not a very good gauge. Authors aren't just supposed to be giving you something to do for a set number of pages; they're supposed to be giving you a story, and sometimes that story is not a massive epic with 200 characters. Sometimes it's smaller, more intimate, and that doesn't mean that it's worth less. (This is part of the problem with the e-readers too.) Some readers don't like intimate and only want the alt world stories and only the large ones, but that's only a percentage of the market and they can't base the whole field on that or they won't make enough sales.
Mostly, publishers will use a standard price point, so books within a range will all be priced the same, especially on the paperback. Mass market paperback prices have climbed higher, while hardcover prices have nudged up only very slowly comparatively. For a book that is substantially larger, the price point will go up, but is actually more limited in a rise for mass market paperback than for hardcover or trade (large) paperback. A smaller novel in the adult market may get a small format hardcover, if it's getting a hardcover treatment. It may be square instead of rectangular, something more common in general fiction than in category SFF because of the wholesale rack issue. And then there are illustrated novels, which are rarer in general fiction, but not unusual in SFF. It's not cut and dried.
Someone coming into the field with a short fantasy novel (not as much for SF) is going to face greater constraints. It may be that it's better to go to the general fiction market with it, rather than the category publishers, and it can be easily cross-marketed to the category market from there, as was done with Toby Barlow's free verse Sharp Teeth, or go to smaller rather than large SFF presses, though large aren't out of the question.
The two things I'm always trying to impress upon folks, because they are the lynchpins on which the fiction market operates, are symbiosis and variety. Fiction authors don't directly compete; instead they fund each other and feed off each other symbiotically. A hit fiction title, for instance, brings in readers, some of whom then go on to read other authors. That's why we have SFF conventions and a SFF category market.
But readers are diversified. Half of them are insanely picky, having all sorts of subjective criteria important to them. The other half browse, going from type of story to type of story. To get the maximum number of sales from the maximum number of readers, publishers must offer variety. The larger they are, the more variety they need to offer. Small publishers who are successful then increase the variety of their lists as the list expands. This is also the reason fiction publishing is increasingly international. And it is this axis of fiction publishing that people complaining about big publishers don't seem to understand. (They also don't understand that books don't become hits because they are a type of novel, and that whatever type a book is, that type of book has usually been around forever. Call it the vampire fallacy.)
If they like the book, especially if it's a short problem versus a long problem, they'll find a way to do it. The trick, as always is getting them to read it. If a publisher has production constraints, well then, that publisher isn't going to work for you. But others have more flexibility, and there are multiple markets that make up the field. So it requires more strategy and looking more broadly at the market, but selling anything requires strategy.