Thursday, June 28, 2012

Epic or Not

I love epic fantasy.  I first read LOTR in ninth grade.  There's weren't many other choices back in those days but some great authors have stepped up to the plate. When I decided to turn my hand to writing, I wanted to write fantasy.  But the only writers' group I was aware of in the area was a branch of RWA, Romance Writers of America.  I went to a few meetings, joined, attended a conference, and wrote some romance novels.

Since then I've been sold manuscripts to two different romance publishers and have seven romance novels on the market. I'm proud of them and they're doing okay out here under my pen name, Susan Kelley.  But I still love epic fantasy best.

But every time I talked to an agent or an editor, or read what they were looking for, they all said 'no epic fantasy.'  'It won't sell.' 'There's no market for it.' 

Then LOTR hit the big screen and I knew the tide had turned back to my favorite.  I sold my first fantasy novel to a mid-sized publisher and dreamed of Peter Jackson making it into a movie. I'll pause here for laughter.  My publisher contracted three novels and published the first two before deciding they were turning their interests to zombies and self-help nonfiction.  I took my rights back and went the self pub route since it's very difficult to sell a novel that has already been published to a new publisher.  My dreams withered.

Then HBO came out with their epic fantasy series, The Game of Thrones.  I had read and loved the books, couldn't wait to see it, and they didn't disappoint.  But it revitalized my dreams.  I'm trying to sell my second epic fantasy series to a publisher.  I'm looking at smaller presses this round, hoping for a relationship where a publisher will work with me to build my career as well as their business rather than blindside me like the last one did.

While researching what publishers I should submit to, I noticed EDGE science fiction and fantasy publishers said in their 'want to see' list, NO EPIC FANTASY. 

So is epic fantasy a vital part of the market or must a tiny niche? Will readers every tire of werewolves and vampires and return to caring about an epic battle of good versus evil to save the world?


  1. I think there's always a market for epic fantasy, but the trouble is that sellability is limited due to increasing book length and people's dwindling attention spans.

  2. I wish I could predict what inspires an audience to pick up this genre or that.

    Fantasy, like SF is still a niche market even though there are tons of people writing it.

    It almost seems Fantasy and SF have more movie fans than they do book fans. Why else would Hollywood invest millions in SFF?

  3. Epic fantasy will always have a market. Game of Thrones has helped in a big way. The book changed my life when I first read it in 2000 and the TV series has opened a whole new readership, I know of at least a dozen co-workers having picked the books up based on their reaction to the TV show.

    Authors like Martin and Jordan are mainstays now. Folks like Rothfuss, Lynch, Abercrombie, Sanderson, Sullivan, Weeks, Erikson, Sprunk, Abraham and many others are keeping the tradition alive with new spins on epic fantasy.

    There's a resurgence in YA epic fantasy too. There's always been Tamora Pierce (a vastly underrated icon), but Chima Cinda Williams and Kristin Cashore have made huge epic fantasy splashes in the last few years along with John Flanagian, Rae Carson, Brandon Mull, Jennifer Nielsen and Morgan Rhodes.

    Oh, I'd be remiss to fail to mention the book that got me my agent and is presently being shopped is a YA epic fantasy in the same vein as GRRM's Game of Thrones.

  4. People that love epic fantasy will always love epic fantasy (I'm not one of them, but I live with one). Good luck! I didn't realize you had so many novels finished. That's awesome!

  5. I think Jamie has a point. people are just too lazy to stick with a long book. But nothing says epic fantasy can't be normal novel length. And I'd read it!

  6. I have to agree with Jamie on this. There is always a market and there are those of us out here (waves her hand) that are die hard epic fantasy fans. I can't find any good fantasy these days and just read over at Michael Offut's page that someone considered Twilight to be fantasy. I about died. Don't get me wrong, I read the books, but they're paranormal romance if anything!! Gah!
    Sorry... anyway, there are those out there who still accept fantasy. Some might be small presses that you'll have to trust your gut instinct on or you will have to go the indie route. Whatever you choose, lemme know so I can grab up your book, will ya? I got my fantasy picked up by Hellfire Publishing. That was a personal choice, I "know" the woman who owns it from lots of online communication. For me, she's a good fit. You're just going to have to shop around and find the one that fits you like a good sword or bow. ;)

  7. When I first read the Hobbit as a kid I was blown away. I'd never seen/heard/read anything like it. I have incredibly eclectic reading and writing tastes - but I've always loved fantasy :)

  8. I hope you find a home for your Epic Fantasy series!

    I think there's definitely a market for EF. I think because it's a sub-genre (and as Jamie mentioned, the books tend to be longer) it doesn't immediately appeal to a large audience. But some stories clearly do!

  9. They are still saying no to epic fantasy? That doesn't make sense considering how popular it is now.

  10. Try not to let publishers discourage you. Often I think they're basing decisions on what genre readers bought in the past. The popularity of the Game of Thrones proves there's a market out there for epic fantasy, and so many have said they're looking forward to the movie of The Hobbit this year. Hang in there and keep writing what you love.