Before I get my rant going, my novel The Legend of Borach‘s video trailer is out on youtube! Check it out here: this-is-the-most-awesome-link-you-will-ever-click exciting.
Back to business:
Statistics: Never Thought I’d Say This, But…
I have been searching non-stop for some good hard statistics on the fantasy genre. I cannot find any. Does this pose a problem? Absolutely.
The Austrian in Me
The Austrian- in me always emerges like Ahab seeking vengeance when I read a statistic: “Is this a lab test? Do people act differently when polled or not? How can I trust this was fair? What if more X than Y were questioned? How do I know the people they asked were truly similar to me? Are people honest?” All those questions, to me, deserve to be asked of every statistic, and I would have undoubtedly asked them of any statistic I would have found on what I was looking for, but there were no statistics.
It’s like a black hole of information. Some authors bravely attempted to poll their own readers, but a sample of 258 readers of one book is hardly sufficient. Other questions, too, plague the gathering of statistics, especially for fantasy. Is Harry Potter a fantasy? Is Twilight fantasy? They’re so different from Tolkien and Urpí fiction that it is possible that including them into a “fantasy” poll would skew the results.
Why it Matters.
“I do not write for Pravda, but for myself” ~ Dmitri Shostakovich
Shostakovich was one of those good ol’ Soviet composers who didn’t act like a Soviet composer. Pravda, of course, was the communist newspaper that the government ran and basically determined who should write what and when. Though art for art’s sake is a powerful sentiment and one to which I’ve adhered to my whole life, there is always room for flexibility. Case in point? Shostakovich wrote his 5th symphony a little bit more in tune with Stalin’s tastes since his 4th was a modernist and less “heroic” work. Both are, of course, magnificent, but the 5th, let’s say, was more liked by the important people of the time.
Does that mean one should abandon all sense of who one is as a writer for appealing to the masses? Of course not! Quite the opposite. Being who you are is of paramount importance to being a writer. There are things that can be done.
That, dear reader, is one reason why those statistics are important.
Point 1: Identity and Characters
I don’t write “identity” fiction. That means, basically, my characters are not focused on discovering who they are in society through a particular lens, for example, race, gender, etc. That does not mean I do not have other races, genders, or etcetera’s in my novels, or that I will not in the future, only that I have not yet through my novel or short fictions. Nor do I plan to in my upcoming fantasy fictions.
That can be positive, however. It means that my characters are essentially malleable in most cases. If my audience, say, is mainly female, I can ensure my main character in an upcoming novel is female. Regardless of the type of fiction, readers oftentimes enjoy identifying with persons they perceive to be like them. Hence, if it makes no difference because the end purpose of my writing will remain the same regardless of female or male, but it enhances my ability to connect with my readers, then there is no reason not to with that given knowledge.
That knowledge, however, is not presently available, which, of course, presents the main struggle. I have ascertained that readers of fiction are mostly female, and that males read more science fiction, but where does fantasy lie? Is it lumped together with fiction or was it not polled? What kind of fantasy are male and female readers reading? Are there any other demographics overlooked? Hispanics? Age groups? Wealth? Those statistics are not available as well. They are, however, still important.
Boring as it may seem, getting your book sold is also of paramount importance, and knowing your audience is a key factor! It’s like I told my Mom once, “I always assumed that as soon as I wrote a book, millions of people would flood to read it. In reality, I’m just another author…” (Not for long. Alfred Nobel here I come!). Being an author has a business-like aspect to it. You have to go out there and get people interested in buying your product (entertainment).
You wouldn’t sell a skateboard at a mental hospital nor candy at a dentist’s office! And there is where the “rub” can be located. To whom am I selling?
Time: Healer of All Things
The answer, of course, will come with time. People will go to events, I’ll be able to see who is interested in my books and who isn’t. That doesn’t make it easier to start off with, nor easier to keep going! How will new writers target their audiences? Time is the answer, but speeding things up would be nice. If only we had stats… good stats, of course…
But even bad stats to complain about would be nice…
P.S. The cover image is of a wasteland because that’s what it feels like when you are looking for something you can’t find on the internet where information is infinite. The internet is basically the Library of Babel… only I can’t find the book I want to read…