I was at a convention the last weekend and sat on a few of the discussion panels. The last one I was on was called “What’s New in SF/F.” It was the best attended panel I was on all weekend and we had a lively discussion centering on the direction of the industry and some of the problems facing authors.
First, here are some dull statistics comparing new USA books produced from the major and mid-range publishers comparing the years 2008 to 2016. These are adult and young adult numbers combined. In 2008 there were 249 SF novels published compared with 425 in 2016. In 2008 there were 429 Fantasy novels compared with 737 in 2016. In the Horror market, there were 175 novels published in 2008 and 171 in 2016. Paranormal Romance novels went from 328 in 2008 to 107 in 2016.
This tells me that the SF and Fantasy markets are still strong and Horror is fairly flat. Paranormal Romance is finally tapering off. British numbers are similar. What this doesn’t tell us is what is happening with the smaller book publishers.
Other trends: Print book sales have increased over the last three years. Have ebooks flattened? Most large publishers now have ebook divisons. What was interesting is our audience members complaining that the ebook prices from the majors are too close to the cost of their print books. Many buy ebooks based on convenience and not on cost.
On the SF side, space opera seems hot. It was interesting to note the effect of politics and TV shows on book sales. 1984 is back in print, Margaret Attwood’s “The Handmaiden’s Tale” is climbing the book charts again (new TV series), as is “The Expanse” series of six novels in part due to the popular TV series of the same name.
People will read something different if it is unique even if they normally avoid the genre field. If readers love your characters they will love your story.
Books are getting bigger. The next Stephen King has 720 pages. It used to be that SF books in general were shorter than Fantasy. Not sure if that is still the case. Is this length trend due to people getting used to watching longer TV series?
One thing that caused interest was author’s labor and remuneration. Our panel consisted of two authors plus an author who was also an editor. We pointed out the amount of time (years!) involved between the creative juices beginning to flow and the book finally making an appearance. We discussed the merits of giving away a free book. After explaining I received the same percentage of royalty on a $.99 book as I do on a $15.00 book I had an audience member who was a free ebook proponent stop by at my table after the session and buy a paper book.
It is interesting for authors to set aside their rough drafts and get out into the world and discuss reading and the industry with the people who buy our books. As a result of attending this convention I had an organizer of another program stop by and invite us to show up there. She thought our display was classy. I may have to check my inventory and pick up some more copies of my books.
Now back to writing and editing and other fun stuff.
The Dark Lady Trilogy (Volume 1,2,3)The Queen’s Pawn (Volume 1,2,3)
The Housetrap Chronicles (Volumes 1 to 8)
Alex in Wanderland,
We’re Not in Kansas
Toltec Dawn (Book 1, 2, of 3)