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Old 4th May 2007, 06:14 PM   #166 (permalink)
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100,000 to 120,000 is the low end. Here are the fantasy debuts published in the UK in 2006:
This is surprising as most of the great novels have come in under 100k (Ender's Game, Gemmell, The Golden Compass etc.) due to focus. To be honest, most of the books I find irritating are the bloated epics written today. Even George R.R. Martin is trying my patience on many levels. My fantasy novel is just under 100k, but more happens in it than has happened in perhaps the whole series of Wheel of Time. While a long novel can be great provided there is enough story to merit its length, I find the minimum length rule arbitrary and reactive rather than rational. Flash forward three months when a couple best sellers are under 100k and we'll get a new cue card in the mail.


I say this with respect, but there are plenty of reasons the publishing world is behind the curve. Perhaps someday there will be a system in place that enables a more efficient and accurate assessment of the many manuscripts lining people's desks. I have ideas, but I'm sure others have proposed the same measures. However, the world works as it does, and we as authors must do the best we can. It's easy for many to say "write a great story and it will fall into place", but this is false in today's random publishing environment. Supply exceeds demand (due in part to modern publishing practices and marketing geeks) and people are seeking what "sells" rather than good writing (they are often exclusive, let's be honest). In the end we can only write the best novel we can and polish it to the point where we feel proud of what we've produced. From there, it is up to fate and whimsy and current trend analysis--complete with pie charts and technicolor.


Though, who says that isn't enough? The best part about writing is the journey and the sense of discovery, I feel. Chasing the carrot on the stick ultimately doesn't make one more satisfied because ambition bites the nails of success. And then writing (for expectation) becomes artifice, not art.


==END TRANSMISSION AND RANT==
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Old 4th May 2007, 07:35 PM   #167 (permalink)
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Re: "Personal" question(s) to John Jarrold

Thanks.

I take it you work only with UK publsihers?

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Old 5th May 2007, 12:20 PM   #168 (permalink)
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Re: "Personal" question(s) to John Jarrold

No, I deal with the major US imprints as well - many of the editors there are old friends. But the great majority of my clients are British, and of course they write first and foremost for the UK market, quite rightly. Long books sell much better, in both fantasy and SF.

That said, the biggest deal I've done so far was with a new US writer, Robert Redick. I sold world rights his fantasy series to Gollancz in the UK two months ago - it was sent out to the major publishers both sides of the Atlantic, but Gollancz made a large pre-emptive offer. The first book, RED WOLF CONSPIRACY, is over 140,000 words long. If it had been 80,000 words in length, no UK publisher would have been interested, and it's unlikely that it would have received the interest from US publishers that Gollancz have already had.
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Old 5th May 2007, 04:03 PM   #169 (permalink)
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Re: "Personal" question(s) to John Jarrold

Got it.... well, back to the drawing board.

Anoter Q, then...

Just curious about cover art for books. E.g., take this: Amazon Online Reader : Legend (Drenai Tales, Book 1)

Here's Druss, looking Sean Conneryish (which is forgivable, I suppose), fighting, holding a SWORD. Ya know, ‘Druss, the… Swordsman’…
How does this happen, especially since this cover was for the re-release of a popular book? Whoever commissioned the art had certainly never read the book. Obviously they didn’t consult Gemmell or anyone who knew the story. Any clue how these blunders occur?

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Old 5th May 2007, 07:46 PM   #170 (permalink)
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Re: "Personal" question(s) to John Jarrold

Yeah, David told me about that! I think it was the first piece of art commissioned when he was first published by Del Rey in the US. He was not a happy boy...
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Old 5th May 2007, 07:48 PM   #171 (permalink)
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Re: "Personal" question(s) to John Jarrold

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This is surprising as most of the great novels have come in under 100k (Ender's Game, Gemmell, The Golden Compass etc.) due to focus. To be honest, most of the books I find irritating are the bloated epics written today. Even George R.R. Martin is trying my patience on many levels. My fantasy novel is just under 100k, but more happens in it than has happened in perhaps the whole series of Wheel of Time. While a long novel can be great provided there is enough story to merit its length, I find the minimum length rule arbitrary and reactive rather than rational. Flash forward three months when a couple best sellers are under 100k and we'll get a new cue card in the mail.


I say this with respect, but there are plenty of reasons the publishing world is behind the curve. Perhaps someday there will be a system in place that enables a more efficient and accurate assessment of the many manuscripts lining people's desks. I have ideas, but I'm sure others have proposed the same measures. However, the world works as it does, and we as authors must do the best we can. It's easy for many to say "write a great story and it will fall into place", but this is false in today's random publishing environment. Supply exceeds demand (due in part to modern publishing practices and marketing geeks) and people are seeking what "sells" rather than good writing (they are often exclusive, let's be honest). In the end we can only write the best novel we can and polish it to the point where we feel proud of what we've produced. From there, it is up to fate and whimsy and current trend analysis--complete with pie charts and technicolor.


Though, who says that isn't enough? The best part about writing is the journey and the sense of discovery, I feel. Chasing the carrot on the stick ultimately doesn't make one more satisfied because ambition bites the nails of success. And then writing (for expectation) becomes artifice, not art.


==END TRANSMISSION AND RANT==
You must write what you want to. Those are the parameters in commercial SF and Fantasy publishing in 2007. Who knows when they will change? But epic fantasy has been the biggest selling area of the genre since THE SWORD OF SHANNARA in 1977, and all those books are long, naturally enough...and they are very varied, too!,
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Old 6th May 2007, 10:54 AM   #172 (permalink)
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Re: "Personal" question(s) to John Jarrold

Hi, John, you give some wonderful advice here. I'm glad to be part of this group. I'm an escapee from Absolutewrite. I've thrown out my anchor on this nice little piece of real estate.

My agent has attended so many conferences, panels, shows and events in the past two years that he's seriously worn out his shoe leather. He's fairly new to agenting, but very experienced in the complexities of literature, editing and sales. He found it essential to meet (face to face) with all of the top publishing editors, and some smaller ones besides. In no uncertain terms he has advised me that he has found that most of the high-profile editors, as much as 60% (or more) are women, who range in age from their late twenties to their late thirties. He reps my SF books, but has explained that the market share there is very small and extremely competitive, and that I might do better if I cater to the paranormal romance/thriller side of the equation, simply because it seems to be running hot right now and might continue for a while. He says he can get lots more readings (a better chance) in these other genres. The choice was up to me.

I have sold a futuristic SF novel just recently (on my own), but it was to a medium market. I've sold an urban fantasy, and the fantasy was requested over the SF book by a margin of 5-1.

I'm getting a little gun-shy about writing anything "off planet" ever again. My tally for unpublished books runs about 15 full-length novels, and most of them were SF. I've sold one. But when I hang a fantasy novel out there, with some grit, magic and sex, it seems they break my door down for more.

Is SF in trouble, in your opinion? I realize there are some very good females at the larger houses, who specialize in soft/hard SF, but not many. But I'm thinking that the publishing slots for futuristic/off-planet stories are currently held by the best, established writers in the industry. You have to have a blisteringly hot premise to get a full read, agent or not.

No disrespect to the gal editors at all. The female populace buys around 65% of all books sold, so I'm told. It's also evident that the female buyers are the readers, too. I guess what I'm asking is, is the popularity of SF getting the squeeze on it from the more popular female genre preferences?
More than ever before?

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Old 6th May 2007, 11:06 AM   #173 (permalink)
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Re: "Personal" question(s) to John Jarrold

Well, in UK terms SF is stronger than it has been for twenty years. Neal Asher, Jon Courtenay Grimwood, Charles Stross, Alastair Reynolds and Richard Morgan have all been selling well, having come to prominance in the last five years or so. I would certainly not blame female editors for SF's decline, which has been going on since the advent of epic fantasy thirty years ago. As a professional editor, if you know a genre is selling well you want to publish it, whether you're a bloke or a woman. And if it isn't selling well, you don't.

Paranormal romance is certainly the strongest new sub-genre for a long time. Orbit alone have seven or eight authors in that area (all acquired by male editors), ranging from Laurell K Hamilton to Mike Carey, and from tough supernatural thrillers to the more romantic side.

Epic fantasy remains the strongest area of all (save Terry Pratchett), and is far more varied than it was fifteen years ago. No one is going to mistake George R R Martin for China Mieville, or vice versa.

So, no, I don't think the male/female thing has anything to do with whether or not a genre is taken on by publishers, in terms of editors. The market rules...
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Old 6th May 2007, 11:21 AM   #174 (permalink)
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Re: "Personal" question(s) to John Jarrold

Thank you for that answer. I think ultimately, it is a reader's market, and not an editor's.

Could you explain what "not pushing the genre" means in the SF context. Is that an over-used premise?

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Old 6th May 2007, 11:26 AM   #175 (permalink)
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"Personal" question(s) to John Jarrold

The problem, I feel, with SF is that most writers have forgotten what made it so compelling to begin with. Too many novelists delve into SF for the sake of technology, rather than to examine the EFFECTS that technology might have on humanity, and, better yet, to use it as a centrifuge to extricate humanity from the sludge of modern society--to see us for what we really are outside of those confines and paradigms. Also, too many "space opera" pieces are too convenient. I mentioned this at a panel to a bunch of editors, citing this sterility as the reason I no longer read space opera. To me, a ship is a beast, more of a danger to her crew than to the enemy. There needs more of a sense of this, I feel. Especially since I served on a nuclear submarine for four years and nearly died four times. Realism isn't the issue, it's palatable conflict--conflict with meaning and consequence.

SF should have every bit of impact that fantasy does. I think most SF writers could stand to write more like the fantasists (run with your central technological conceit!) and more fantasists could ground their creations like the current crop of SF writers. But the great SF pieces were always more concerned with humanity than technology. I'd blame the scientists writing SF today more than any female editor.
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Old 6th May 2007, 11:36 AM   #176 (permalink)
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Re: "Personal" question(s) to John Jarrold

Well, possibly it means not getting marketing spends behind it. If that is the case, it may well also relate to the state of the market, and a belief that spending marketing money on fantasy will being more returns, commercially speaking. There is no doubt that fantasy makes up far more of the market - probably 75/25 in the UK. And I should also say that a senior SF editor from New York was talking to me very positively about new SF writers a couple of weeks ago. Though, as I said earlier, it is likely that novels of well over 100,000 words are more commercially viable than shorter books.
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Old 6th May 2007, 11:51 AM   #177 (permalink)
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Re: "Personal" question(s) to John Jarrold

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The problem, I feel, with SF is that most writers have forgotten what made it so compelling to begin with. Too many novelists delve into SF for the sake of technology, rather than to examine the EFFECTS that technology might have on humanity,

the great SF pieces were always more concerned with humanity than technology. I'd blame the scientists writing SF today more than any female editor.
Absolutely agreed that ALL fiction has to be about characters, first and foremost. If the average reader doesn't care about the characters, they won't turn the page, no matter how fascinating the concepts...and as a general point, let me stress again that I'm talking about readers in 2007, not readers of H G Wells, Olaf Stapledon, etc!!! The market changes, and anyone who wants commercial publication, as opposed to writing for their own pleasure, has to be aware of that.
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Old 6th May 2007, 02:30 PM   #178 (permalink)
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Re: "Personal" question(s) to John Jarrold

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Originally Posted by rankelidyek View Post
The problem, I feel, with SF is that most writers have forgotten what made it so compelling to begin with. Too many novelists delve into SF for the sake of technology, rather than to examine the EFFECTS that technology might have on humanity, and, better yet, to use it as a centrifuge to extricate humanity from the sludge of modern society--to see us for what we really are outside of those confines and paradigms.
Not sure of the SF available in the states, but this certainly isn't true of SF in the UK at present. With writers like Jon Courtenay Grimwood, Ken Macleod, Justina Robson (scenes from her Living next - Door to the god of love, haunted me for months after reading it) and Richard Morgan (the character of Takeshi Kovacs is one of the best I have ever come across in what I suppose you would term a hard SF novel. Even my other half likes Altered Carbon, and he is not an SF fan?)

All of them show me how high the bar is in current UK writing and how far below it are my own efforts. Maybe the current novel I am working on has a bit more of what it takes, who knows, I certainly don't. I know with each effort I am slowly improving, and trying to write keeps me out of trouble anyway
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Old 6th May 2007, 04:34 PM   #179 (permalink)
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Re: "Personal" question(s) to John Jarrold

Most of the well-regarded SF novelists of the last ten years have come from the UK, and British SF tends to be character driven. Al Reynolds is a scientist, but all the others are novelists firstly (and Al is a terrific writer of characters, as well as Big Ideas). In the Old Days (when Astounding and John W Campbell ruled the roost) , many scientists wrote SF to explore ideas. But that was then...
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Old 6th May 2007, 06:14 PM   #180 (permalink)
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Re: "Personal" question(s) to John Jarrold

Back in the early 90's, when SF was still selling more than fantasy, most of the editors at US science-fiction/fantasy imprints were female, too.

There was a perception, then, among the more vocal fans, that there was a male/female divide between SF and fantasy -- despite the many women who read and/or wrote SF, and despite the fact that the fantasy writers with the biggest numbers were all men.

Now men are reading fantasy in ever greater numbers, and the most popular fantasy seems to have a hard, masculine edge, in which "grit" (read violence and sex) passes for realism. Even books written by women have this hard edge. Going by the content of most of the cover blurbs, it looks like violence and a dark view of humanity are actually big selling points. And I've read articles written by people outside the genre who are astounded that there are women reading fantasy at all; to them it all looks like swords and gore and masculine bonding. (Especially when Jackson's epics were still playing in the theaters, tons of journalists expressed their bafflement that so many women were going to the movies, and that some of them had actually read Tolkien's books.)

With so much fantasy drenched in testosterone, it seems odd to blame female editors for the shift from SF to fantasy in the bookstores and on people's shelves at home, when by all the evidence it is the readers who have changed.

Women, of course, are still reading fantasy, just as they were reading SF back then. But as one of my (female) editors told me, women will read books with a masculine focus, while men shy away from anything that seems like it's written for women.

From time to time SFF publishers remember that women buy more fiction than men, and that sales figures for romance far exceed those for any other genre. So they try to think up ways to lure in some of the readers from that very lucrative market. In the past these attempts were short-lived and unproductive. But Tor has been publishing fantasies meant to appeal to female readers for a few years now, and Harlequin, that giant in the romance genre, has branched out into SF and fantasy with it's Luna imprint. Maybe this will bring about a future shift in the market, but for the moment fantasy is a predominantly masculine genre. I, personally, would like to see more balance.
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