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Thread: Do Agents Care For Traditional Fantasy?

  1. #1
    Here we go again authorilinca's Avatar
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    Do Agents Care For Traditional Fantasy?

    I was wondering about this for a while.
    Are there agents out in the literary world even bothering with old-fashioned fantasy? (think dragons, elves, stuff like you'd read about in LOTR) Or should writers not expect much from that genre anymore?

  2. #2
    They've been very bad, Mr Flibble Mr Flibble's Avatar
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    There must be, or I wouldn't be seeing any on the shelves! If you can figure out who the agent is/was for a book that's similar to yours, they'd probably move to the top of your sub-to list.




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    Seasoned Veteran of Lurking RKLipman's Avatar
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    Considering that the fantasy section in any given bookstore is still enormous and growing daily, and there are still a fairly large number of successful breakout fantasy authors, combined with a quick search for "fantasy" on querytracker and agentquery yielding over 100 results... the answer seems a bit self-evident, to me.

    What has led you to believe that agents don't represent fantasy?

  4. #4
    Here we go again authorilinca's Avatar
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    Thanks! I think I've just been locked away in my little box for so long that I'm not sure what to expect from the writing world any more!

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    Seasoned Veteran of Lurking RKLipman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by authorilinca View Post
    Thanks! I think I've just been locked away in my little box for so long that I'm not sure what to expect from the writing world any more!
    Well, come back out and play! The water's fine, I promise.

  6. #6
    Here we go again authorilinca's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RKLipman View Post
    Considering that the fantasy section in any given bookstore is still enormous and growing daily, and there are still a fairly large number of successful breakout fantasy authors, combined with a quick search for "fantasy" on querytracker and agentquery yielding over 100 results... the answer seems a bit self-evident, to me.

    What has led you to believe that agents don't represent fantasy?
    I think just a concern over "am I spending too much time and effort on something that might not interest anyone these days." I know a few other writers trying to get in as well and can't seem to nab an agent. I haven't tried recently myself since I'm still in the revising part of it all, though.

  7. #7
    Here we go again authorilinca's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RKLipman View Post
    Well, come back out and play! The water's fine, I promise.
    But if I come out now, I won't manage such massive word counts a day! HA!
    Thank you!

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    Seasoned Veteran of Lurking RKLipman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by authorilinca View Post
    I think just a concern over "am I spending too much time and effort on something that might not interest anyone these days." I know a few other writers trying to get in as well and can't seem to nab an agent. I haven't tried recently myself since I'm still in the revising part of it all, though.
    Don't use anyone else as a barometer of your own success. Their books could suck, for all you know.

    Now, if a bunch of agents and editors were saying, "Dear God, no more fantasy please, we're barraged!" then this would be a concern - although it still wouldn't mean it's impossible to sell.

    (Prime example: young adult paranormal and dystopians. Literally everyone is sick of them. They're still selling, somehow. Because readers drive the market.)

    Edit: Er, I should clarify that I am not taking jabs at YA paranormal (I write it) or dystopian (I read it). Carry on!

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    A Gentleman of a refined age... thothguard51's Avatar
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    Agents and publishers are always looking for exciting, well written books in any genre, over populated are not. The fresher the story, the better, IMHO...
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    Ooo! Shiny new cover! Absolute Sage Cathy C's Avatar
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    Fantasy is still alive and well. Jump right in the water.
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    practical experience, FTW MrsBrommers's Avatar
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    Sure, agents are looking for epic fantasy. It was a bit tough for a while there, but I've been seeing around the web that it seems to be heating up again because of George R. R. Martin's success.
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  12. #12
    Who's going for a beer? waylander's Avatar
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    Yes, but it had better be damn good. Angry Robot currently have a call out for unagented subs of epic fantasy.
    Have you looked at the AW list of agents for SF/F?
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    Last edited by waylander; 04-06-2012 at 01:02 AM.
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  13. #13
    Here we go again authorilinca's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RKLipman View Post
    Don't use anyone else as a barometer of your own success. Their books could suck, for all you know.
    Yeeeeah, that's true >.< thanks again!
    And thanks everyone one who's responded as well! I'm still going for it!

  14. #14
    practical experience, FTW
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    In my humble (and completely-unprofessional-should-be-taken-with-huge-helpings-of-salt) opinion, it's not so much the tropes you are using (dragons, elves, trolls, whatever) but what you do with them.

    I've noticed recently in QLH a lot of traditional/epic fantasy which all appear to have roughly the same storyline. Chosen one/peasant/farm boy/generally good character who overcomes overwhelming odds/accomplishes things no other character can, defeats evil/dark lord/enemies and gets the girl/kingdom/destiny/happily ever after.

    Nothing wrong with this set-up, generally. But it's been done. A lot.

    Of course, QLH is not representative of all fantasy out there, but it is something to consider. You need to emphasis what makes your characters unique and how the plot is different from all those other dragon/trolls/elves/chosen one/quest/"traditional fantasy" stories out there.

  15. #15
    Murder isn't so bad...
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    ^From my lurking, I've noticed that, too. Like a bunch of Eragons.

    Another thing you can do is think of your favorite fantasy authors, then find them on this list to pinpoint their agents. I find the list extremely helpful!

  16. #16
    all hail zombie babies! CrastersBabies's Avatar
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    Read some Rothfuss and Abercrombie if you want to see where fantasy is going. Their work seems magic and "fantastic" lite, but I'd definitely call it traditional fantasy. I'd look more at voice and how they handle the well-mined tropes.
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    Friendly Neighborhood Mustelidae The Otter's Avatar
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    Mine is clearly a minority opinion here, but my answer would be no: they are (in general) not looking for traditional epic fantasy, at least not from new authors. I'm assuming here that you're talking about swords-and-sorcery or Tolkien-esque fantasy, the type that is set in a Medieval-style world and features dragons, elves, and the like, and not things like Harry Potter or urban fantasy.

    There's plenty of urban fantasy and other subgenres on the market, of course; fantasy as a whole is alive and thriving. But I literally cannot remember a single traditional fantasy from a new author that I've seen in the last five years. I'm talking the type of stuff that Terry Goodkind and Robert Jordan wrote. The only fantasies of this type still being published are written by people who've been writing and publishing it successfully for a long time.

    Probably someone will come up with examples to disprove me. But it seems to me that unless you already have a track record, it would be very difficult to break into the market with an epic fantasy. That said, the market is changing all the time, so maybe it will come back. If you've written a spectacular, original epic fantasy that completely reinvents the genre, someone will probably bite.

  18. #18
    Fantastic! zegota's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Otter View Post
    Mine is clearly a minority opinion here, but my answer would be no: they are (in general) not looking for traditional epic fantasy, at least not from new authors. I'm assuming here that you're talking about swords-and-sorcery or Tolkien-esque fantasy, the type that is set in a Medieval-style world and features dragons, elves, and the like, and not things like Harry Potter or urban fantasy.

    There's plenty of urban fantasy and other subgenres on the market, of course; fantasy as a whole is alive and thriving. But I literally cannot remember a single traditional fantasy from a new author that I've seen in the last five years. I'm talking the type of stuff that Terry Goodkind and Robert Jordan wrote. The only fantasies of this type still being published are written by people who've been writing and publishing it successfully for a long time.

    Probably someone will come up with examples to disprove me. But it seems to me that unless you already have a track record, it would be very difficult to break into the market with an epic fantasy. That said, the market is changing all the time, so maybe it will come back. If you've written a spectacular, original epic fantasy that completely reinvents the genre, someone will probably bite.
    Yeah, I definitely disagree here. Sanderson hit in 2005, (which is a bit outside your past 5 years, but not much). Rothfuss in 2007, which is in that range. I wouldn't consider either of them to be massive reinventions of the (high/traditional/epic/whatever) fantasy genre. They just wrote good stories. And those are just the super-famous examples I can think of off the top of my head. There are several less famous authors that could be considered.

    Really, it's sort of pointless to worry about this, IMO. Unless you're writing something incredibly niche, (which fantasy isn't, especially with the success of Game of Thrones) a great story will shine through.
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    practical experience, FTW Dreity's Avatar
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    This thread is reassuring. I'm glad you started it!

    I'm up to my ears in traditional fantasy tropes - subverting and deconstructing the heck out of plenty of them, but I'm playing a few straight as well - and I'm all anxious that my take on them won't be fresh enough to interest future readers. There's a difference between vintage and dated, you know?
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    Mildly Disturbing Filigree's Avatar
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    Write what you love, or it won't be worth the effort. As for markets, e-pub and print can lag anywhere from 6 months to 18 months behind the current market wish lists and trends. So it can be pointless to write to any specific market. Sometimes it works, if you're lucky and smart. Often, it just limits you.

    It sounds hard when folks say 'just write the best thing you possibly can', but that's really the best strategy.

  21. #21
    Here we go again authorilinca's Avatar
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    Oooo, I do like all the responses here. Gives me something to think about on both ends of it

  22. #22
    all hail zombie babies! CrastersBabies's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by zegota View Post
    Yeah, I definitely disagree here. Sanderson hit in 2005, (which is a bit outside your past 5 years, but not much). Rothfuss in 2007, which is in that range. I wouldn't consider either of them to be massive reinventions of the (high/traditional/epic/whatever) fantasy genre. They just wrote good stories. And those are just the super-famous examples I can think of off the top of my head. There are several less famous authors that could be considered.

    Really, it's sort of pointless to worry about this, IMO. Unless you're writing something incredibly niche, (which fantasy isn't, especially with the success of Game of Thrones) a great story will shine through.
    Agree. These writers aren't reinventing the wheel in any way, shape or form, but their voices are very distinct and indicative of what's selling now. If someone showed up with a Tolkien'esque book (written in the same antiquated language), they'd probably be laughed out of the room. What I like about writers like Abercrombie and Rothfuss (and Gaiman) are that they have broken out of the mythological language mode and donned an edgier voice (imho). It's not all "and so, thou'est are so fair, my good maiden." It's a stronger, more driven and more personal narrative.
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  23. #23
    Mushroom Polenth's Avatar
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    I'd say there's a push for a new edge to epic fantasy. For example, there have been a number that aren't set in pseudo-medieval Europe, such as The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (N. K. Jemisin) and Throne of the Crescent Moon (Saladin Ahmed). The issue isn't that you want to be epic or have dragons... it's making sure it doesn't read like a Tolkien clone. If you've got something new to say, there's a place for that.
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  24. #24
    practical experience, FTW KalenO's Avatar
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    Talking

    I was just about to mention Jemisin, Polenth! Given how critically acclaimed she and Ahmed are, and how commercially successful Rothfuss, Sanderson, Peter Brett, Brent Weeks and more are, I'd say epic fantasy is actually seeing a resurgence. Plus there's this little phenomenon called Game of Thrones....lol.

    Honestly, its just that they don't want another Lord of the Rings, as others have said. They have that, in abundance. Epic fantasy has been around for a long time, and will be around for a lot longer yet....its just agents want to see what else authors can do with it that hasn't been done yet, because there's literally no limit to what one can do with it.

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    Friendly Neighborhood Mustelidae The Otter's Avatar
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    I'll have to check out some of the examples mentioned. I don't read a whole lot of traditional fantasy these days (partly because, like I said, I just don't see a lot of it anymore), but it's the genre that got me into writing in the first place and I'll always have a soft spot for it, so it's good to hear that it's still alive and kicking.

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