March 19th, 2012, 01:21 AM
Fantasy increases its lead over Science Fiction
The trade magazine of science-fiction, fantasy, and horror, Locus, has tracked many of the details of the field since 1981. Among these are the number of new titles published each year.
Since the mid-1980s the number of SF and fantasy titles has remained about the same. But in 1999 the number of new fantasy titles began to increase. This trend continued through 2011 and shows no sign of slowing down, though it must eventually.
Here are the figures starting in 1999. An interesting detail is that the last two years showed a marked increase in SF to match the still-increasing numbers of new fantasy titles. Then in 2007 Locus started publishing the Paranormal Romance title numbers when they increased to the point where they bested SF.
SF - 251,230,251,256,236,253,258,223,250,249,232, 285,305
Fn - 275,258,282,333,340,389,414,463,460,439,572, 614,660
PR - ***,***,***,***,***,***,***,***,290,328,339, 384,416
Locus includes YA novels in those titles. In 2011 the SF/F/PR numbers were 24%, 35%, 21% respectively. The percentages of new YA titles has been slowly increasing in each field, faster in fantasy.
What does all this mean?
What it does NOT mean is that SF has suffered, at least in numbers of new titles published. It has simply stayed the same. So has the dollar SF sales, seemingly, though those closer to the publishing field might know whether this is true.
It does seem to mean that there are more chances of getting one's book published if it is classifiable as fantasy or paranormal romance. But the classification of SF vs. fantasy/paramance is only theoretically sharp (science vs. magic). In practice much fantasy can be classified as SF if one convincingly portrays the magic as "actually" science. And vice versa.
March 19th, 2012, 01:38 AM
Author & Writer
If this is per year, it doesn't seem like they're taking self-published stuff into account.
March 19th, 2012, 11:31 AM
Locus made up a paranormal romance category for YA? That doesn't make a great deal of sense. Why don't they have a horror category in adult? Are they splitting horror by SF and fantasy elements? Is the paranormal romance category just the titles from the romance category publishers or no? Is this just the U.S., North America, or English market? Are they just counting new authors, cause the numbers seem strange? This is why these surveys drive me crazy.
The YA/children's market is always 50% fantasy. Always. Fantasy is the core sub-category of children's and YA. This has never not been the case. So the amount of fantasy in YA is not really a statistic that gets you any info. All of YA, all types, increased since 1996, from the smallest division of children's to its largest. The amount of horror increased because YA expanded. The amount of SF has also increase because YA expanded. They've been working through post-apocalypse SF and a bit of steampunk, and now authors are turning to future societies and space travel adventure, which we'll see more of.
In the adult market, it's more diffuse. Military SF still leads, although what they are calling "military" SF right now has broadened considerably. SF titles are being much more displayed than they were a few years ago. But SF is never going to "catch up" to fantasy in number of titles because there isn't as much SF horror as there is fantasy horror. There isn't as much SF romance as there is fantasy romance. So it really depends on how you were counting titles in the past and the current day if you want to play a numbers game, but it doesn't make a lot of sense. Your odds in fantasy are still extremely bad. Fantasy being one of the most popular (and romance being even more popular if you're contemplating paranormal romance,) you are facing thousands more authors trying to convince licensors for slots, and even if you're self-publishing, you are trying to attract reader attention among thousands of titles. You have the same issues in SF, just not quite as broadly.
March 19th, 2012, 11:35 AM
Locus has been doing this detailed "Year in Review" since 1979 and covers only printed books through traditional publishers. They do not include print-on-demand or electronic books, because the numbers are so difficult to obtain and classify - a problem the entire publishing industry is also struggling with.
Originally Posted by Brian Kittrell
March 19th, 2012, 11:45 AM
This is interesting. I wonder why fantasy books are more popular and if it has something to do with it being a bit more socially acceptable in comparison to the negative connotations that science fiction still, unfortunately, has.
March 19th, 2012, 11:57 AM
A lot of questions. Each of these issues are addressed each year in the Locus report. I recommend those who want answers to get the issue (February) either electronically or in print at this link. The cost is $5.50 or $6.95 + postage.
Originally Posted by KatG
The Review is useful also because of the many other details Locus tracks, including books by publisher (over 200 from largest to smallest) and by hardback/trade/mass-market, and first-time author.
Last edited by Laer Carroll; March 19th, 2012 at 12:00 PM.
March 20th, 2012, 02:24 AM
Author & Writer
Ah, alright. Thank you for clarifying.
Originally Posted by Laer Carroll
March 20th, 2012, 04:56 PM
Writer, Artist, Beeyotch
I'm seeing a LOT of fantasy and a good bit of SF coming out of POD/direct pubbing. In fact, a lot of the direct published books I've fallen in love with were fantasy or some subset of.
I'd sort of decided (without anything but my own gut to guide me) that fantasy and sci fi are prone to more challenging, even "nichey" books than most other genres, so it's a natural place to put them and see them defy odds.
March 20th, 2012, 08:38 PM
Effects of the Potter phenomenon
Why this ongoing increase in the number of new fantasy books? My guess is the Harry Potter phenomenon. The increase coincides with the books swelling popularity in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
I say "guess" because mere coincidence is no proof of anything. But coincidence can lead to closer examination of two seemingly unrelated phenomena.
The effects of Rowling's series are several. It made fantasy stories more popular with young people, awakening a hunger in them for more fantasy stories. The young grew older and their increasing maturity and sophistication drove them to seek more grown-up and sophisticated fantasy. And there are always more young people coming along to rediscover the books.
The success of the Potter movies, which hewed closely to the feel and fascinating details of the series, was also a big boost to the Potter books, leading more readers to eagerly await the new books in the series.
Publishers, who before considered children's books a backwater, woke up to the economic possibilities of the market, causing them to seek out new talent, or at the very least to be more alert to new talent. It also caused them to look to their backlist for books already available to satisfy the newly hungry readers, such as the Narnia series.
Once the fantasy snowball began to grow it made everyone, the public and the publishers, agents and writers, movie makers, more alert to the possibilities of new fantasy titles. The Rings movies might not have been nearly so popular, or even made, if not for Potter. Stephanie Meyer's Twilight series might have not been nearly so popular if fantasy had not been made more popular.
The success of fantasy was not at the expense of science fiction. The number of new SF titles each year has remained about the same (though with an uptick in the last two years). But it has not made it more popular.
Why didn't the popularity of fantasy, which shares important attributes with science fiction, make SF books more popular? Hmmm. I need more thought for that question.