Simply put: summarizing fantasy title sales is hard.
That said, it looks like (once again) the genre is doing well, either flat or a little up to last year. Although the effects of the recession are wearing off, there are a few key reasons (à mon avis) why fantasy sales are still doing well. Again, all the usual caveats (see parts 1 and 2) apply:
Escapism. Who doesn't want to live in an enchanted land where you can wield arcane magic(k)s against a host of undeniably evil foes? (Especially when the alternative is looking at your year-to-date return on your 401(k).) While I don't expect fantasy sales to suddenly tank when the economy truly turns bullish again, I do think our lingering economic woes contribute to our desires to seek out escapist fantasy, which in turn convert to sales.
The mass market format. The fantasy genre in particular lends itself to the mass market format, and frankly, you can't beat $5 – $9 for a book. Almost every other form of entertainment is more expensive, and while I do expect e-sales to eat away at the mass market's dominance over the next couple of years (we're already starting to see it), the low price point attracts a lot of consumers. (See below for more notes on the fantasy genre and e-books.)
The series effect. Fantasy books also lend themselves well to serialization, and once you hook a reader on a series, you're golden. Who's going to read the first book in the EverMagicks War Chronicles and not read the subsequent eight books, assuming they liked the first? Especially if those subsequent books are, say, $6.99 apiece? That's what I thought.
Now, unlike children's fantasy (see yesterday's post), adult trade fantasy titles are far from immune to the specter (or, worse yet, spectre) of e-books. If you're writing in this genre, be prepared to discuss e-book rights with your agent, as well as blog, tweet, and participate in all varieties of social media. The Kindle, nook, and iPad are now your friends.
Numbers-wise, it looks like fantasy title sales are more or less in line with the rest of the market in terms of the ratio of e-books to physical books sold (e-books probably comprise about 10% of sales in terms of units). Depending on the average price of e-books, this could be a little higher or lower in terms of dollars. My guess is it's not that different, though this may change if and when e-book prices come way down.
So, mes auteurs, for your bullet-reading pleasure:
• Fantasy is doing well as a genre. Hooray!
• The nature of the content, preferred format, and predisposition toward series probably contribute to its continued good health. Crossover between children's/YA and adult (Deathly Hallows, anyone?) also probably helps. I can't think of another genre in which adult and kids' literature sees so much overlap.
• Adult trade fantasy sales are, like the rest of adult trade fiction, favoring the electronic formats more and more. It is, in fact, entirely possible that your book will only be sold as an e-book by the time you find representation.
That's all the news that's fit to blog, meine Autoren. Tomorrow: mysteries! Thrillers!