Friday, March 31, 2017

The Brighter Side of Indy Sci-Fi

Now is the best time to get into independently published science fiction.  Ignore what the marketing people have to say about it.  They deal only in raw, current numbers.  They look for today's hotness and promise immediate returns, but you're not interested in tomorrow, you're looking at the long haul.  It's easy to say that about you, even not knowing your name, because you're into science-fiction, which by its nature is a long-view genre.

So let's get our heads on straight here and think about the long view.  For starters, let's get the starting point right.  It's not here:

Segregating fantasy and sci-fi is loser thinking.

It's here:
Winners ignore the distinction.
It's the second most popular genre out there after romance. 

Looking into our psychohistory equations or our crystal-ball (they're the same thing, really), the near future might look bleak.  Nathan "Chicken Little" Housley has a full post where he does his Hari Seldon thing:
A survey of modern science fiction shows a repeated pattern of extinction events. In the 1950s, the pulps died. At the end of the Crazy Years of the 1970s, magazines died as the primary medium of science fiction and backlists died. The 1990s and early 2000s killed off the midlist writer. And, as the same old song plays of magazine sales drying up, rumors of publisher woes, and publisher wisdom telling authors that science fiction cannot sell, we stand on the verge of the next great crash for the genre. That this crash is happening in the 2020s and not in the 2010s is due to the 1990s' publish woes lasting into the 2000s, pushing back the date of the upcoming crash.
But he misses one critical factor in his analysis.  These extinction level events kill off the old dinosaurs, but open the way for new critters to rise up.  The big publishers, hide-bound, slow, and perfectly adapted to 20th century tech are going to suffer, but the mammalian independents, quick, nimble, and adapted to 21st century tech are going to thrive.  That's why you should get in now, while the getting is good.  Every year you wait to start, you're ceding readers to the competition.  You're letting other mammals fill in those ecological niches.

And one of the best niches in the future will be science-fiction.  The marketers tell you to play the numbers.  Romance, mystery, thriller - that's where the big numbers are.   That's true, but that's also where the swarms of writers are.  You've got to fight your way through a bigger crowd to get traction.

More to the point, fighting for what's big now, is thinking like a dinosaur.  Look at the trends.  Readers of mystery and thrillers are still well served by Bigfiveasaurus, and so aren't leaving the big five in droves the way they are sci-fi.  Look again at those bar graphs - the sci-fi field, though smaller than mystery and thrillers, has a bigger independent section.  That tells us Bigfiveasaurus isn't meeting the needs of the reader, and so they are going elsewhere.  For years, many of them went nowhere.  They just left.

With the advent of self-publishing, they are coming back into the fold.  They are finding the sorts of stories they want to read.  They are finding that self-publishers are doing the jobs the Big Five won't.  Again, we look to Nate for the future of the market:
Embrace the fantastic and the exotic. Embrace adventure. These are the key to sales in science fiction, and the shelter from the upcoming storm, just as they brought science fiction out of its previous crashes. Don't make the same mistake that drove hundreds of writers out of the field. Avoid realism.
So don't be afraid to ignore the experts.  You're not interested in today, you're interested in tomorrow and a thousand more after that.  Embrace your sci-fi mindset and look to the future.

You won't regret it.

You also won't regret reading Sudden Rescue.  It's what the future of science fiction is going to look like.

1 comment:

  1. The descending asteroid is Barnes & Noble shedding stores and reducing the number of books within the stores. Once B&N folds (or becomes a restaurant) the big publishing houses will follow. Lots of regular readers will be pushed into Amazon to get their fix and they'll find new writers to follow.

    Which is why I intend to write in multiple genres and sub-genres and stay light on my feet.