4. Science Fiction
Followed closely by literary fiction, historical fiction, women’s fiction/chick lit, and romance. So, here’s the deal: I’ll do all top eight—the top four this Monday through Thursday plus a Friday round-up, courtesy of Laura, and then the second set of four next Monday through Thursday. I know, I know. I spoil you.
Now: to business!
First, the bad news: book sales are down. Due to the recession and the fact that nobody reads anymore anyway, the industry has suffered "modest" (read: depressed) sales, affecting retailers, publishing houses, agents, and authors alike. Dark times, gentle readers.
The good news, however is this: fantasy is actually doing all right, and in many instances, sales of fantasy books are up over last year's sales. Without quoting you exact BookScan numbers, I can tell you that fantasy book sales are up at my house by roughly 10%, which is the number currently being quoted for most of the major trade publishers. As for the retailers themselves, they're seeing a 4-5% increase in general sales, as described in author Kameron M. Franklin's post on the subject.
It occurred to me to check the hardcover vs. trade paperback numbers in BookScan, and again, without quoting specifics, I can tell you that hardcover sales are particularly depressed across the board and trade paperback numbers (both frontlist and backlist) are up (which was my hunch). The AAP's recent release on book sales for May of this year more or less confirms this. Then again, I've always been more of a big-picture guy, so I encourage you to check out the numbers for January, February, March, and April, too.
(Fun exercise: pay special attention to the numbers for audio books and e-books in those AAP releases. Then consider whether you'd like your fantasy novel sold as an audio book and/or e-book, in addition to the print version.)
Now, obviously I don't know what the economic climate will be like by the time your book is ready to be published, but if it's still not so great and you have the option of publishing as a TPO (trade paperback original—that is, your books hits the market as a trade paperback, rather than coming out as a hardcover and then as a paperback a year later), you might want to go with that. In some cases, your book might go straight to mass market, which also might not be a bad thing, as mass market edition sales are up, too. (Remember that TPs have a price range of about $10 – $20 and MMs, around $4 – $7; this beats the pants off the $20 – $40 you're expected to pay for a hardcover.) Then again, the lower prices on TPs and MMs means less revenue for publishers and for you on each book sold, so you need to move a lot more units.
Now, one or two of you mentioned you might like to have an idea of the median/average advances on different types of novels. I'm happy to report author and blogger Tobias S. Buckell has crunched the SF/fantasy numbers for us, and if you're writing a fantasy novel, you can expect an advance in the $0 - $40,000 range, with a median of $5,000 and an average of $6,494. Now, this post is a few years old, but if I were to adjust everything for inflation and then adjust it back down due the "recession effect," I'm pretty sure it would come out even. Also note that it's based on one hundred or so self-reported advances, so there's a certain margin of error there (roughly 12%, if you're interested).
And oh, yeah—in case you didn't notice, Tobias' numbers indicate much higher advances for agented deals over unagented ones. This is not a coincidence. Get yourself an agent. Then ask him or her for more details on average/median advances, &c, since (to be honest) it's not technically my specialty.
For daily deal news (and weekly summaries that often list ballparks on advances), I highly recommend you subscribe to Publisher's Lunch. This version is free; you can also subscribe to the deluxe edition for a nominal fee.
So, in summary:
• Overall sales are down against last year.
• Fantasy sales are up against last year (~10% or so). People love their escapist fiction!
• Hardcovers are way down, trade paperbacks and mass market paperbacks are up-ish.
• Median fantasy novel advance: $5,000; average: $6,494; range: $0 - $40,000.