Thursday, August 13, 2009

Genre-Specific Sales, Part 4 of 8: Science Fiction

From Asimov to Zelazny, science fiction has seen some of the best authors and titles in recent trade publishing history. The question is: do the sales reflect this?

Well, yes and no. Science fiction is a tricky beast, and can more or less be broken down into the sub-genres of "hard" science fiction, cyberpunk science fiction, military science fiction, fantasy science fiction, and media tie-in science fiction (although there are some that don't quite fit in, e.g. Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which is more or less humorous sci-fi).

Hard science fiction (think Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Larry Niven) has been on the decline since the end of the Golden Age of Science Fiction, i.e. for about half a century at this point, so if you're writing in this area your sales will probably be modest at best. Cyberpunk, military, and fantasy are a different story, though; from what I can tell, those genres have been on the up and up in recent months. (A representative from Borders and the BookScan numbers agree.) This is especially the case for fantasy science fiction, which, in my opinion, enjoys the best of both worlds (think China MiƩville's Perdido Street Station).

Now, there is some nay-saying going on, but it largely pertains to the state of the industry as a whole (hint: sales are soft), and insofar as it addresses science fiction sales, there's really no indication as to where the data are coming from, so I think it's safe to say that for now, science fiction is a modest oasis in the unrelenting desert that is book publishing. (+5 metaphor, +2 charisma, +3 constitution.)

Speaking of stats and, by association, D&D, media tie-in sci-fi/fantasy (sort of D&D, but mostly Star Trek and Star Wars) continues to do well. If you're one of the lucky few who's writing those official Lucas Books Star Wars tie-in novels, your sales are secure. But you already knew that.

Finally, what kind of advance can a sci-fi author expect these days?

Once again, it's Tobias Buckell to the rescue. According to him, you can expect a median advance of $5,000, an average of $7,000, and a range of $0 - $20,000. Once again, you'll notice the agented submissions do significantly better than the unagented ones. Agents, people. You need them.

So, in summary:

· Overall sales are still down, but science fiction sales are slightly up!
· Hard science fiction will be a hard sell for you, but everything else should be more or less okay. Your best bet is fantasy/sci fi, I think. (See all previous caveats concerning my advice.)
· According to our man Tobias, you can expect a median advance of $5,000, an average of $7,000, and a range of $0 - $20,000.

To my spaceship, and away!

28 comments:

  1. You rolled a natural 20 on diplomacy, too. ;)

    (I was going to say bluff, but then you might've thought I thought you were lying, and we don't want that.)

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  2. Yipeee!! This is really heartening news after stressing over the fact my manuscript is "soft" (ie Fantasy is now the term I guess) Scifi. Of course nothing is guaranteed yadda yadda, all the same thank you thank you Eric!

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  3. Thanks Eric. This the good news especially since my WIP falls more into the fantasy/scifi genre. The book has been through 3 edits and the queries are going out next month. Here's hoping this one garners me an agent!

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  4. This is a great post. I linked it to my blog today, after a fellow SF writer had linked it in the Writer's Digest forum. And I'll be following this blog from now on. Way to network, eh? ;) Thanks again for the timely updates.

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  5. Hurrah! This is good news for me as well, since I tend to write on the softer side of SF. Thanks!

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  6. So, do the agents always get a bigger sale because they are selling most of their stuff to the big houses, whereas an unagented author might go small press? I wonder if an agent gets a bigger sale at the same house, any stats?

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  7. Alright! Way to go book buyers!
    Not only am I happy to hear that Sci-fi Fantasy is modestly ok for today's publishing world because that's what my WIP is, but I love reading it and seeing other people get into it.

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  8. Great news! My current project isn't scifi/fantasy, but the next one is. What remains to be seen is how this plays out in the YA world

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  9. Thanks for the information. I've read novels from Azimov to Zelazny. There are now so many different types of science fiction that you really need a scorecard to keep up with them nowadays. Check out my first and recently released novel, Long Journey to Rneadal. This exciting story is a romantic action adventure in space.

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  10. "Science fiction is a tricky beast, and can more or less be broken down into the sub-genres of "hard" science fiction, cyberpunk science fiction, military science fiction and media tie-in science fiction."

    OK where does that leave Romantic Science fiction like the novels by people like Linnea Sinclair and Susan Grant?

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  11. Hi ozambersand—

    Those are generally treated as romance novels with sci-fi elements, rather than sci-fi novels with romantic elements (stay tuned for next week's post on romance novels).


    E

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  12. Wow. I'm starting to wonder how many genre's my manuscript can fit into at this point. But the more you post, the better I feel. :D

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  13. But, uh, the novel advance data you quote is 4 years old. Just saying.

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  14. Hi nicola—

    That's true, but as I said in the fantasy post, if I were to adjust those numbers up to account for inflation and then back down again to account for the recent economic climate (is anyone else here sick of that phrase?), it would come out more or less even. I wouldn't quote the numbers if I didn't think they were accurate.


    E

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  15. Well, sure. But it's the 'think' part that bothers me. When specific numbers are used it's good to know where not only where but when they come from.

    I think it's fair to say, 'I believe this to be true from what I hear these days, because, y'know, I'm in the biz, I'm an expert', but then at least we know it's anecdotal, not particular, specific and current numbers.

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  16. Hi, I am an new author and my new fantasy novel, "Gateway to DreamWorld," was released on August 12th.

    I would like to invite readers who enjoy YA fantasy/sci-fi to purchase a copy from Amazon.com or Barnes&Nobles.com.

    Any and all reviews are greatly appreciated.

    Brenda Estacio

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  17. I really admire this, I mean it really looks interesting!


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  18. I agree, Sci/Fi War is hot. My series "America's Galactic Foreign Legion is experiencing excellerating sales (mostly Kindle).

    Sci/Fi is a smaller market, but the good news is I don't have much competition.

    Wally

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  19. Stories with robots can be science fiction, or modern versions of the golem story, or fantasies about the nature of love, or any damn old thing.

    Regards!
    Term paper topics

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