Over at BookEnds, Literary Agent Jessica Faust talks about Switching Genres. This is a question I hear writers discussing when ever they get together. They might be published in children’s books and want to sell books for grown ups, they might be published in straight romance and want to sell into fantasy, but their publishers (if they do the other genre) don’t want them to change.
The problem is that writers get ideas for all sorts of stories and, when the idea takes you, the urge comes to write. Faust says if you can manage to produce enough books to publish regularly under two different names, then go for it, but otherwise, stick to one genre so you develop readership.
Here at Writer Beware, Victoria Strauss has come across a writer who is attempting to auction off an idea for a book, with a starting bid of three million. This one is so bizarre I don’t know where to start. If you are anything like me, you have so many ideas you will never have the time to write them all.
And over at the ROR blog and my personal blog I’ve been discussing gender in fantasy. It all arose from a comment from a UK interviewer in an interview here. It reminded me of a discussion at World Con when a US author commented that fantasy was a bit of a boy’s club. Since most fantasy writers in Australia are female, this was a bit surprise. I decided to start a series of interviews of female fantasy authors, starting with Emily Gee.
Here is a pod cast on the subject, where (among a lot of other things) the publisher involved says only a very small percentage of men read fiction. I don’t know about this. I see an equal number of males and females reading books on the train.
Since I’m based here in Australia, I can only speak as an Australian and say that we have a lot more female fantasy authors than male. Are there more male fantasy authors in the US and the UK? Or is it just a perception that there are more because female fantasy authors get less shelf space? I don’t know.
>I thep erception that the US market for fantasy is a boys club isn't true. YMMV of course. There might be more men writing fantasy here, but the shelf space (at least in the book stores around here) is largely given over to women because they're selling right now. Science Fiction, OTOH, can probably be largely considered a boys club. Not too many women writing epic space battles.
>At first glance, you see Robert Jorden, George R. R. Martin, and Terry Brooks.At second glance you see the huge body of fantasies, with lots and lots of female writers. Andre Norton, Mercedes Lackey, Kate Elliott, Barbara Hambly, Robin Hobbs, Robin McKinley . . .I think it's just another superficial urban ledgend.And as for the female readers? Ha! I may buy more books than my husband, but he reads them all too, frequently before I do. You certainly can't write any genre outside of Romance just for women.
>Not that I've noticed. As far as I can tell, it's darned hard to get published regardless of sex. Finding signal through the noise would be pretty impossible.What follows is speculation on my part. There are a number of second-wave feminists who are quick to blame "the patriarchy" for any disappointments in life. They tend to think quite highly of themselves, communicate frequently with other like-minded individuals, and have all the fun echo-chamber effects you'd expect. [shrug] If there was ever a demographic likely to go ballistic over rejection letters, this is it.Outside of bad-boy vampire novels, I'm pretty sure that most fantasy is consumed by males. It's certainly not necessary to pander, but some awareness and respect for the audience are good things to have. [shrug] There are some women authors (including one that's been critically acclaimed and actively promoted by publishers) whom I shall never read again, simply due to their misandry. This is, of course, only a small minority of women writers. (I'm obviously commenting on a blog where women writers not fitting this description are some of the primary content providers. But some times it's just best to attach the beg red firetruck "Duh".)
>C Kelsey,I guess I should have qualified my statement about the fantasy. I'm putting paranormal-romance in a sub genre all of its own. It is certainly doing well enough to get its own shelves in the book stores.
>Matapam,My perception was that there were lots of fantasy writers.To refine further, I was told that it is the male fantasy authors who get the prominent displays and the space in the major blogs for reviews.Not being in the US, I wouldn't know. And I haven't come across these review sites. The ones I contacted when my trilogy came out were all happy to read and review it.
>Lucius said:'Outside of bad-boy vampire novels, I'm pretty sure that most fantasy is consumed by males'See that is another perception that differs from mine, perhaps because we have so many female fantasy writers in Australia, I thought the reading public for this genre were more female than male.
>"Fantasy" is one heck of a broad bucket. It covers everything from paranormal romance (and the dividing line between paranormal romance and urban fantasy is more like one of those endlessly disputed national borders, complete with demilitarized zones where you flip a coin to see which one you're going to call it) all the way through role playing game derivatives, monster-mashups, "standard" fantasy (JRR Tolkein style, but not epic enough to fall into that bucket and not sweeping enough for the high fantasy bucket), alternate history, anything-with-vampires-except-maybe-romance, high fantasy, epic fantasy, and of course, big fat fantasy that could gag a goat. Some books will land in several buckets and get labeled based on what's more popular at the time (Is the Heirs of Alexandria series epic fantasy, goat-gaggers, alternate history (with magic)?). On top of that, science fiction can be arguably viewed as a subgenre of fantasy (checks the nomex undies in case of random flamethrowers).So, taking names and genders is kind of pointless. Right now epic and goat-gagging fantasy is dominated by men – mostly because the big series in that particular subgenre were started by men some 15+ years ago. A few years before that, the big epic fantasies were a pretty even mix, and before that mostly female. Essentially, what happens is that the current cluster of highly-successful will skew perception that their demographic is dominant (especially with epic fantasy because each book takes up SO much shelf space, even spine out). You see ten 2-inch thick Robert Jordan books, and it registers "male" much more than the 30-40 thinner titles on the next shelf down will register anything.
>But, but, but … I don't seem to *have* a genre. My stories seem to scamper from one to another like the squirrels in my back yard … and the three novel/series-length projects currently in progress are all vastly different from each other, too.I can't really speak to the gender-stereotypes. My office environment is mostly college-educated men and women, and the fiction readership seems to be about even across genders, from the conversations I've had.
>Stephen,You don't have a gender? Wow! How did you manage… Oh. GENRE. Oops. Too many posts about gender imbalance in the industry and all that stuff.
>LMAO! Oh, wait now I don't have a — nevermind …Thanks, Kate, I needed that. 🙂
>Don't get carried away with it, but over at http://www.tor.com/blogs/2011/03/best-sff-novels-of-the-decade-readers-poll-results they've got their information up. As a quick check, just for fun — I took the top 100, did a quick scan. Looks as if 72 are male (yes, this includes duplicates, both science fiction and fantasy, and so forth, but…it's indicative, okay?).
>LOL, Kate, I hadn't thought of book spine size as being a factor!
>Stephen, don't worry about trying to write in one genre. Write what you like, until you get published. Then there's a good chance your publisher will try to get more of the same from you.
>Mike, this is the kind place where people are looking and this is how they come to their conclusions. Plus, as Kate said, there's a been a few successful males in the last 15 years, whose books have dominated the fantasy shelves.
>Mike it only works that way if you assume that which you're trying to prove.A subjective poll of readers about which books they liked best (in the self-selected sample of an on-line poll at that) is simply not evidence that publishers discriminate against women. Heck, given that there are women writers in several of the top slots, it would be a huge stretch to claim that readers discriminate against women.
>Whoops. All I meant to do was say that there are some numbers over there. Yes, I know all about self-selection, bias, etc. Still, this is a poll indicating what one group of readers sees as the top authors in the field. It doesn't say anything about prejudice. Just that on a quick rough check, it looked like the top 100 had about 70% male. I'm not making any inferences or conclusions about why that might be.