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View Full Version : Most Popular Kinds of SFF in the Current Market



phantasy
03-09-2016, 09:03 AM
Like the title says -- What sort of SFF do you think is big in the market currently? Or will be? I want to write something new, but I'm not sure what sort of sff publishers and agents are looking for atm.

And apparently, dystopian is a hard sell right now, what else?

I tried to figure this out by going through MSWL, but that was hard to gauge. Romance topped the list, but I'm not into that.


Thanks in advance.

cornflake
03-09-2016, 09:12 AM
What's big in the market currently was sold a couple of years ago, so that's not a particularly good way to gauge what editors are looking for now.

Also, how fast do you write? Looking at stuff like MSWL isn't going to help unless you can churn something out incredibly quickly.

Filigree
03-09-2016, 09:19 AM
MSWL only works really well if you happen to have a book that is already in that general range. Or you can write really fast. Trying to write to already-published trends is like pushing string.

Agents, I love you for doing #mswl, believe me. It inspires me. But I'm also keenly aware that by the time I finish something, you will probably be asking for its opposite.

phantasy
03-09-2016, 09:41 AM
Yes, I agree the MSWL isn't a good indicator. Plus it's such a small response.

I'm asking because I already have a list of stories in sff I want to write, from most of the sub-genres, so I'm wondering which would be best to do first according the market. I think I can finish the first draft of something in 6 months. Are there any trends that one can see coming? Or should I just write whatever I want? I don't want to write a dystopia or horror and find out later that it's not a good time to pitch them.

Filigree
03-09-2016, 09:53 AM
The more practical, business-minded folks here are going to tell you to assess trends where you are able, and write as fast as you can. I have witnessed that working for some authors - but leading to burnout, huge abandoned backlists, and low-quality writing for others. Nearly every literary agent I've ever talked to or read about has said some variation of this: 'Write something you love, because that will show on every page.'

Roxxsmom
03-09-2016, 10:43 AM
The more practical, business-minded folks here are going to tell you to assess trends where you are able, and write as fast as you can. I have witnessed that working for some authors - but leading to burnout, huge abandoned backlists, and low-quality writing for others. Nearly every literary agent I've ever talked to or read about has said some variation of this: 'Write something you love, because that will show on every page.'

And it's a frustrating truth that writing something you love doesn't guarantee that anyone else will love it either. But at least you'll have had some fun doing it.

Weirdmage
03-09-2016, 03:40 PM
With a lead time of somewhere around two years from finished manuscript to published novel*, I guess it will be very hard to predict trends. Actually, if you can predict whayt is popular in two years, you'll probably be better off either buying stock in a company making things related to that or going to a betting shop.

Things will probably be a bit different in self-publishing. But even if you can get a "copycat" book out three months after the mainstream success of a new SFF book, you'll have to compete with everyone else doing the same.

I think Filigree's advice about writing something you love is good advice.

If you want to look for ways to make steady money, it's probably better to look at what is steadily selling over time.
In SFF that would, as far as I know, be Epic Fantasy (in different forms) and Space Opera (in different forms). But, I am not an expert on what publishers are looking for, I'm just looking at what I can observe from what is published. It would probably be a good idea to look at what has been consistently published in the last five to ten years.

* That's what I see talked about as what you can expect if you are previously unpublished. Seems like about half that is normal for previously published authors.

Laer Carroll
03-10-2016, 12:17 AM
Neil Gaiman said it better than anyone else I've come across in his commencement speech to the Class of 2012 at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia.

"I decided that I would do my best in future not to write books just for the money. If you didn't get the money, then you didn't have anything. If I did work I was proud of, and I didn't get the money, at least I'd have the work."

Here is the link to the video of the speech and a transcript of it. He offers a lot more advice about being a professional artist of any kind, and especially in the literary world.

http://www.uarts.edu/neil-gaiman-keynote-address-2012
(http://www.uarts.edu/neil-gaiman-keynote-address-2012)
If you do choose to write the kind of book a lot of other people are writing, that means the competition will be tougher; lots of other great writers will be writing it. And even if you do get published, you may be lost in the crowd. Which brings us back to the advice you will hear time and again: Write what you love.

waylander
03-10-2016, 01:25 AM
According to my agent Epic F is still very much in demand.

Bolero
03-10-2016, 03:56 PM
According to my agent Epic F is still very much in demand.

Knowing what exactly is meant by epic at the moment is also useful. :) Tolkein rip-offs - not sure on the market for those.

I was going to generally suggest Cross-over urban fantasy - purely because there seems to be an awful lot of wizard/druid/shaman books out there, many of them aimed at teens, some of them being readable by both teens and adults (maximum market share). So suggests it is a big market. But that is just based on what seems to be taking up space on book shop and library shelves.

And OP - do sympathise. Know the position, lots of projects you've got in your ideas folder, you fancy writing any one of them - so might as well pick one with a better chance of selling........ but......

Also bear in mind - writing style - its not just the story, it is how it is written. For example, some markets seem to like big wodges of description or info dump (particularly military sf going into deep details on the weapons/space tactics). Paranormal romance (OK you are not into romance) does seem to have chunks of fashion awareness and there is more mention of clothes.

lauralam
03-10-2016, 05:12 PM
I've had good luck with near-future thrillers. In the UK, they're marketing my book fairly mainstream/crime even though its super overt on the science fiction stuff. But yeah, I wrote the first one in 2013 and it sold in 2014, so who knows what things will be like in 2018/2019. Hopefully still good because I want to sell more thrillers.

Portal fantasy seems to making a bit of a comeback. Epic fantasy still pretty big, or YA fantasy. Sci fi with horror elements, like M.R. Carey, though zombies are a hard sell, I think.

I don't worry too much about trends. A good book will hopefully find a home, no matter the genre.

waylander
03-10-2016, 05:55 PM
I would hope the market for Tolkien rip-offs is completely dead. Someone I know sold a massive grimdark epic F a couple of months ago.

PeteMC
03-10-2016, 06:56 PM
I've had good luck with near-future thrillers. In the UK, they're marketing my book fairly mainstream/crime even though its super overt on the science fiction stuff.

I'm being marketed as a noir crime/urban fantasy crossover - maybe crossovers are a trend at the moment, I don't know. As said though, I sold it well over a year ago and it only just came out so...

Bolero
03-10-2016, 08:41 PM
I'm being marketed as a noir crime/urban fantasy crossover - maybe crossovers are a trend at the moment, I don't know. As said though, I sold it well over a year ago and it only just came out so...

I thought YA cross-over was YA/Adult - as in crossed over the age range.....

So, two ways you can cross-over.

Ah - but someone did mention portal fantasy....... :D

PeteMC
03-11-2016, 01:42 AM
Heh, no I mean as in genre crossover - my stuff isn't YA. At all.

Liosse de Velishaf
03-11-2016, 03:02 AM
Cross-over appeal just means anything that might appeal to two or more otherwise unconnected audiences. That could be between age categories like YA/MG or YA/A, or it could be between genres. Maybe a spec fic thriller could appeal to spec fic fans and readers who generally only read thrillers (usually contemp or historical).

MonsterTamer
03-11-2016, 03:05 AM
According to my agent Epic F is still very much in demand.

I love epic fantasy. I wish I could write it, but I just can't. Shame.

OP - no idea. I wouldn't understand these trends if I tried. It doesn't seem like there are all that many good ideas out there, just good execution. I bet you can recycle the same old thing yet again, give it your personalized spin, and have a shot.

Kjbartolotta
03-17-2016, 02:45 AM
Hi Phantasy. Long time, no chat. At least from what I'm seeing in the trenches, lotsa fantasy veering away from 'European' is popular, as I'm sure has been discussed. Sounds like everyone's talking about space opera right now, at least on Charles Stross's webpage. And, at least in YA, the whole 'fairy tale' thing is still hot, though kinda dying down. I think there's also a bit of a 'Georgian' bubble right now, Jane Austin with wizards and all that. But, that happens every ten years or so. Dystopia, maybe not so much. Did you know there are three dystopian novels for every person on earth? Sorry, bit of snark there.

phantasy
03-17-2016, 07:59 AM
Thanks for your input, all!


According to my agent Epic F is still very much in demand.

That's good. Trouble is, I thought my ms was an epic fantasy, but now I'm not sure. It has a map, but doesn't need a glossary. It does have world-wide stakes, but starts off being a rather personal to the mc tale. So I've been selling it as a high fantasy. Although if I go by goodreads, it's an epic.


Hi Phantasy. Long time, no chat. At least from what I'm seeing in the trenches, lotsa fantasy veering away from 'European' is popular, as I'm sure has been discussed. Sounds like everyone's talking about space opera right now, at least on Charles Stross's webpage. And, at least in YA, the whole 'fairy tale' thing is still hot, though kinda dying down. I think there's also a bit of a 'Georgian' bubble right now, Jane Austin with wizards and all that. But, that happens every ten years or so. Dystopia, maybe not so much. Did you know there are three dystopian novels for every person on earth? Sorry, bit of snark there.

Yeah, I'm more of a masher of cultures into a new culture myself. So while my ms isn't 'european', it does have some tropes. You read my ms, what do you think?

I don't have a space opera, either. A space fantasy planned, though, that's like Kill Bill and GOT in space. Don't think that works, though.

I'm working on my dystopia now, though if you can guess, it isn't a straight dystopia. It's a dystopia/utopia with superhero-ish powers, set in cities and heavy on character. Maybe once I'm done, the market will want this sort of thing again.

Filigree
03-17-2016, 08:55 AM
All of mine are sword&planet verging on space opera, if not outright crossing into it. With sex. It's been fun trying to find publishers that fit. The LGBTQ pubs would like it...if I got rid of central het sex relationships. The mainstream pubs might like it, based on some editorial feedback, but there's the gay sex (nevermind all those diversity banners flying on #mswl, I guess.)

I'm calling it high fantasy right now, and just slogging along writing the next couple of them.

Roxxsmom
03-17-2016, 09:01 AM
I don't have a space opera, either. A space fantasy planned, though, that's like Kill Bill and GOT in space. Don't think that works, though.

Kill Bill in space. Now that could be a useful pitch.

I envy people who can see comparisons with classic plays or novels, blockbusters or bestsellers in their stories and say things like "It's A Tale of Two Cities meets The Martian." I just can't with my own stuff, unless I reach way too hard. Story ideas just don't come to me like that.

The closest I can come to with the fantasy novel I've been trying (unsuccessfully) to query is a fairly obscure Finnish movie called The Man Without a Past (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0311519/plotsummary?ref_=tt_ov_pl) in a fantasy setting. But using that would call attention to the fact that there's an amnesia angle, something I'm trying to be very coy about in the query (since I got a response in QLH on an early attempt that was, pretty much verbatim, "Yuck, an amnesia story.")

phantasy
03-17-2016, 09:52 AM
Kill Bill in space. Now that could be a useful pitch.

I envy people who can see comparisons with classic plays or novels, blockbusters or bestsellers in their stories and say things like "It's A Tale of Two Cities meets The Martian." I just can't with my own stuff, unless I reach way too hard. Story ideas just don't come to me like that.

The closest I can come to with the fantasy novel I've been trying (unsuccessfully) to query is a fairly obscure Finnish movie called The Man Without a Past (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0311519/plotsummary?ref_=tt_ov_pl) in a fantasy setting. But using that would call attention to the fact that there's an amnesia angle, something I'm trying to be very coy about in the query (since I got a response in QLH on an early attempt that was, pretty much verbatim, "Yuck, an amnesia story.")

Aww, sorry you got such a mean reply in QLH. Amnesia stories can be great, We Were Liars comes to mind. Read it if you haven't, it does the trope very well.

But the only reason that my pitch comparison works is because that's how I thought of the book when I came up with it. Although it's beginning is more 'deal with the devil' fantasy and there's all sort of other shades of stuff in there. It'll be a fun, dark book when I get around to it.

Actually my current ms is Ghibli’s Nausicaa + Final Fantasy, but I'm not sure I can use those because neither are novels. I brought up Uprooted in queries, because it was the closest thing I could think of.

Filigree
03-17-2016, 05:05 PM
I can't do comp titles for mine, because the closest matching properties (book or movie) are more than 5 years old.

PeteMC
03-17-2016, 05:25 PM
I can't do comp titles for mine, because the closest matching properties (book or movie) are more than 5 years old.

I'm not sure that's always a problem - I peddled mine as "Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels with demons".

Liosse de Velishaf
03-17-2016, 07:24 PM
I can't do comp titles 'cause my stuff is weird and mishmashy. So even if I gave comps for parts of it, people are like, "But that doesn't fit the other part" and get cranky.

Filigree
03-18-2016, 08:56 AM
One agent of my acquaintance warned very seriously, 'Don't list comp titles if they are more than five years old. I can't sell that.' And yet, an agent whose listing I saw tonight had a group of some old faves that I adore, that actually do compare with my stuff. You bet I queried her.

Roxxsmom
03-18-2016, 09:11 AM
My problem is that the trade-published stories that have come out in the last five years that I think are likely to appeal to the same target audience as mine rarely seem to slip below rank 100k on Amazon.

The fewer than one person a day who is buying this book will likely buy mine. Go me!

The saddest day of my life as an aspiring fantasy writer was when I realized that most fantasy authors actually make very little money, and most of the favorites I've been reading for years don't sell that many books. It explains why some writers I used to adore have just disappeared too. They probably didn't sell enough books to get new contracts.

It is rather confusing, though, that we're told that agents want something fresh, new and different, and it's pointless to try and anticipate the market, because anything that's popular now was purchased at least a couple years before it came out and became popular (so if something is popular now, that ship has likely sailed). Yet at the same time, we're told that we need comparable titles of recently popular books in the same genre, so we can demonstrate that we know where our books fit into the market.

PeteMC
03-18-2016, 02:36 PM
It is rather confusing, though, that we're told that agents want something fresh, new and different, and it's pointless to try and anticipate the market, because anything that's popular now was purchased at least a couple years before it came out and became popular (so if something is popular now, that ship has likely sailed). Yet at the same time, we're told that we need comparable titles of recently popular books in the same genre, so we can demonstrate that we know where our books fit into the market.

Yeah, I think what everyone is looking for is "more of the same, only different".