Pub Rants

A Very Nice Literary Agent Indulges in Polite Rants About Queries, Writers, and the Publishing Industry

Got Epic Fantasy?

STATUS: I’m still buried under a ton of emails and whatnot as I try and catch up post BEA and New York. I have high hopes of resuming Fridays With Kristin next week!

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? DRIVE ALL NIGHT by Need To Breathe

Because every SF&F editor I talked to said they were open to seeing it. Which made me extra sad when I saw the six-figure deal on Publishers Lunch for an epic fantasy by an author we offered rep to.

Sigh. But can’t win them all.

Then on Monday I spotted the “major” deal for a YA fantasy I offered rep to as well. ARRRGGGHHHH!

Paper cut with lemon poured on it!

Hey, at least I know my gut instinct is still working.

But back to fantasy. If you are working on an urban fantasy, you might be out of luck. Every SF&F editor I chatted with while in New York was being inundated by urban fantasy submissions and with some rare exceptions, were not buying them.

In good news, SF&F editors were being leery about looking at science fiction stuff and now that is turning. They mentioned actively looking for it now and since I just put an SF on submission, I’m thrilled with the reception it’s getting. 

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49 Responses

  1. Ted Cross said:

    This makes me so sad. I have the one I sent you two years ago that you said was ‘so very close’, and at that time I mentioned that I felt it was best to get such works at that time so that publishers would have time to prepare the books prior to the big Game of Thrones and Hobbit movie bumps. Now I see them scrambling for it, and it’s late in the game. Sure you don’t want to take a second look at mine? I’m sure with a discerning editor (not saying it needs lots of work) it could be great!

  2. Lisa C. Gant said:

    Hi, Kristin! I have to admit that I’m still confused about the exact difference between epic and urban fantasy.

    I’m revising a YA fantasy right now that seems more epic because it’s set on another planet and features traditional fairy tale creatures. However, the tone is quite modern, so I feel it could also be considered urban.

    What’s the most common way to distinguish between the two? (BTW, thanks for all you do!)

  3. ペギー said:

    Great news for me! I’ve got a manuscript for the first in an epic fantasy trilogy that just needs a final edit before submission. You will be one of the first people I send it to! I hope you like it better than last time (a couple years ago I sent a query and you requested sample pages but not a full–the opening was admittedly weak and I’m hoping that’s fixed now). 🙂 Even if it ends up not being your thing, maybe someone will want to rep it now if epic fantasy is back in. Yay!

  4. Ted Cross said:

    Ah, I wrote too quickly and missed the part where you mentioned sci-fi. That’s great news, as my WIP is a sci-fi thriller, and even in its not quite finished state it’s getting rave reviews and a high ranking on Authonomy. I need to push harder to get it finished!

  5. The Writer Librarian said:

    Great post–I’d be curious to know where the following might fall given the current scheme of things: YA book in which protag is transported to a fantasy/historical world from a contemporary one (a la Diana Gabaldon’s OUTLANDER). It’s a fantasy, but has some sci-fi elements as well.

  6. Tex said:

    Hey, Lisa! As I understand it, epic fantasy is not just about a non-Earth setting (though that is also usually big on the checklist), but concerns a plot that is truly “epic” in scope. When you think about famous epic fantasies, like A Song of Ice and Fire, Wheel of Time, Lord of the Rings, etc., it’s very often the case that the whole world is at stake (or at least a significant chunk of it), and that the action involves many characters and covers a whole lot of territory. Hope it’s cool if I follow you – your book sounds way neat!

  7. Helen Keeble said:

    The Writer Librarian: Protagonist from our world transported to a magic/strange new land? Sounds like portal fantasy to me! Used to be a _really_ popular subgenre (Oz, Narnia, Spellsinger, etc.) but I can’t recall seeing much new in that area for the last few years.

    To my mind, portal fantasy is a slightly different subgenre to epic fantasy; nowadays epic fantasy tends to imply a large cast and many POV engaged in complicated, interwoven plotlines, while portal fantasy focusses more on the main protagonist’s personal growth through their adventures (though it still often involving Saving The World). They could definitely be mixed, though!

  8. A. M. Perkins said:

    I’m preparing to send mine out – a YA sci-fi.

    I’m not sure if the shift in the sci-fi market affects YA.

    Perhaps, a quantified “yay”? 🙂

  9. catemorgan said:

    As a matter of fact, I DO.

    Unfortunately, it’s not nearly ready yet.

    *sobs womanfully*

    Time for the polish and elbow grease. Hopefully, by the time I get done, publishers will want it.

  10. Natalie Aguirre said:

    Awesome that epic fantasy is getting more deals. I have an upper MG fantasy that I need to revise once more before querying. You’d be my dream agent.

    I’m sad about the urban fantasies because I really enjoy them.

  11. Aldrea Alien said:

    I wonder where that leaves Science Fantasy. Sadly, my own, despite the good words given, has a scary word count (187k -_-).

    I’m actually glad to hear that other types of fantasy (and sci-fi) are getting noticed again, I love my epic & high fantasies.

  12. Joseph L. Selby said:

    This doesn’t apply to NLA, but these kind of posts just pour salt on an open wound. I know it’s how the industry works. Game of Thrones is a huge success and people that don’t normally read any fantasy are looking for stuff to read.

    As a writer, I’m am constantly told not to follow trends, but as I query a novel, I see a number of agents who only repped urban fantasy before asking for epic fantasy. Wait, we can’t follow trends but they can? How does that work? And why would I want to be repped by someone who only wants my work when the genre is popular?

    /soapbox

  13. Justin E. Geary said:

    I am yet another Epic Fantasy novelist throwing their hat in the ring. To tell the truth I’m a little dissapointed with the agents out there. Because I believe my work to be in the top ten percent in the epic fantasy field. I was rejected by thirty six agents mostly, I think, due to the fact that I haven’t sold any books and am unknown. So I decided to self publish because I’ve had it with you agents, I worked my ass off on my book and it isn’t right that I have to jump through hoops to get your attention. I’ll go straight to the source instead, the readers. The readers and authors are the ones who count anyway. The agents and publishers are just making money of us. Justin E. Geary Midnight’s Cloak.

  14. Alaina said:

    Ack! And, of COURSE! Mine is going through final revisions and a downright evil query letter, but it fits! I HAVE TO START QUERYING RIGHT NOW!

  15. d. prime said:

    whoa, Kristen,

    Sorry to hear about all the ones that got away,

    Sounds like there are a lot of stories out there coming your way though.

    Wishing you serious luck.

  16. Russell Zaborowski said:

    It was never said better than, “Learn from your mistakes”

    A lot of people go into writing expecting to publish a book right away. Unfortunately that’s not the case. I just think of it as a way to continue to hone my skill as a writer, besides, that’s really the only way to improve your writing skill.

    If you ever want to check out my fantasy writings I’d appreciate the criticism.

    gimbleexpress.blogspot.com

  17. Jenna Rossi said:

    Shame about Urban Fantasy. Some new titles are still doing nicely. Indie titles like Forever Girl (Rebecca Hamilton) and Caged (Amber Lynn Natusch) and Mageri Series by
    Dannika Dark — these titles seem to be doing well with readers demanding more. I will say I am a bit sick or Urban Fantasy so I am looking to these authors who are giving the genre a make over.

    [email protected]

  18. Anonymous said:

    It’s difficult to remain objective. I have been a writer for 15 years. I have found that, whether you produce great books or not, the agenting process is fraught with trend-chasing. They say not to write to trends… but agents will perpetuate them buy buying bandwagon flavors-of-the-month. Money rules the agenting process… nothing else. Trends mean money. I’ve known many writers who have written many fantastic stories but have been met with rejection – then they have gone on to self-publishing and sold thousands of books. Interesting.

  19. Jessica Michel said:

    Hello,
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    It can be viewed online for free or you can buy the ebook and give it away as a gift. It isn’t a book in print yet but can been seen on the computer as pdf, online reading, and Ebook reader formats.
    Please review/share my ebook seen at smashwords.com.
    Here is the direct link to my ebook:
    https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/137991

  20. SC Author said:

    I have a fantasy that is set underwater on a different planet. It’s entirely new and nothing to do with Earth. That’s what I’m confused about this labeling; is my book epic? Or does epic mean where there is a huge war or something?

    Above all, which one do YOU want? 😉

    Thanks so much! I’d love to send you a query for it, but I want to make sure I don’t get my genres mixed up. Thanks so much! This is GREAT news.

  21. Hannah Hounshell said:

    Yes, what IS the defining difference between urban fantasy and high/epic fantasy? I’m working on a YA book that I’ve labeled as urban fantasy, but the couple people who’ve read it have called it high fantasy. Am I missing something here? *is confused*

    P.s. The book takes in both Underhill(the fey realms) and mordern day human world. There are fey(faeries, dryads, unicorns, and a dragon or two along with some nastier creatures), and humans both. One of the two view points is one of the fey, the other is human.

  22. Anonymous said:

    @Shayne Raven – You asked “What would be an example of an urban fantasy?”

    An urban fantasy takes place in a city (like Atlanta, the scene of Ilona Andrews’s Kate Daniels urban fantasy series, or Chicago, where Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files are set). It’s generally an altered version of a real city, and may be set in the near future or in the present.

    (in no particular order) are some other authors who write urban fantasy – there are lots more:
    Kim Harrison
    Charles deLint
    Patricia Briggs
    Wen Spencer
    Seanan MGuire
    Rob Thurman

    Hope this helps ~
    LynneW

  23. Deb said:

    There are hoops and Hoops. We all want to jump through the hoops that will improve our craft. But then there are the other Hoops that will not add one iota to the quality of the stuff we’re writing.

    Writers all, look at small presses. Look at going indie. There are more routes to getting your book in readers’ hands than ever before. Fewer limits than ever before. In many ways, it’s a great time to be a novelist.

  24. CJ Black said:

    Personally, I love to see more epic/heroic fantasy on the shelves, so this is good news for me. I do have a fantasy novel in the works although epic? I wouldn’t say so. It’s not LOTR but the world is at stake, though the conflict is centered around two people. I’m planning to expand it into a series. Did the editors provide any specific examples? And as another poster mentioned, would epic fantasy be something you’re looking for?

    On another topic Kristen, I’m curious and perhaps you could comments on this? Have you, or any agents you know of, ever accepted fiction novels on proposal? Thank you.

  25. Elissa M said:

    CJ,

    As far as I know, no agents accept novels on proposal from unpublished authors. Also, all novels are fiction by definition, so avoid the phrase “fiction novel” (it drives agents and editors nuts and makes you look uninformed).

  26. mattymfiction said:

    If there’s a shift towards sci-fi I’d best get a move on! Three quarters of the way though I think now! Do you think that the fact I’m blogging my book “In That Other Dimension” helps/hinders getting it published?

  27. Anonymous said:

    It’s not true that agents don’t accept novels on proposal.

    I know agents who have sold first novels on proposal–the trick is that it has to be something really hot and current.

    And every agent will look at proposals from previously published authors.

  28. Dave is Right said:

    Kristin, it seems to me that Urban Fantasy is massively inundated with erotic urban fantasy romance (the likes of Sherilyn Kenyon or Karen Anne Moning) with less traditional thriller or adventure UF like Kelly Meding etc.

    Is it that the market is just collapsing on the total weight of the genre, or does it need to be reinvented, refreshed with new ideas and less of the same stuff that’s out there by the ton now?

  29. Mark Murata said:

    The cautious reaction is to not change what one is writing. Instead, I’ll dust off a couple of stories and see which editors/agents are now looking for these genres.

  30. Misha Gericke said:

    As an epic fantasy writer about to finish my WiP, this was music to my ears. Hopefully it will be the same when I start querying in a few weeks.

  31. Anonymous said:

    Most people don’t catch a fish the first time they cast their line. Don’t give up on writing your story because of genres. They are like fads that come and go. If your story doesn’t fit the current one don’t worry it will soon enough. You will catch a fish if you don’t give up. Mine happens to be in this genre mentioned but I’m not rushing through my book to end up with slop just so I can meet the ending deadline of a genre fad.

  32. Ros Jackson said:

    I’ve just queried a selection of SFF bloggers about their sub-genre preferences, and one thing that came up was that paranormal romance is the Marmite of genres, more than any other. People seem to love it or hate it. I don’t know how representative my small sample is of the SFF reading public, but I can understand why publishers think they’ve reached saturation point on that particular niche.

  33. Steve Shoemake said:

    Hi Karen,

    I’m a new author – just learning the ins and outs. The epic fantasy book I just drafted needs an editor that is familiar with the genre, I think. How do I go about finding one?

    Steve in Cincinnati

  34. Anonymous said:

    this is fantastic news! (see what i did there?) i firmly believe that one should write what one’s soul needs to write, and if it’s not “hot” now, the trends will come back around soon enough. i’m almost done with my first novel in an epic fantasy series and shipping it off to an editor for her input/revisions, but i’m also working on a light sci-fi novel and another about a dog from a dog’s point of view–not an anthropomorphized dog’s point of view, but as realistic as one can get and still use words. one of them will sell, and the rest will follow. 🙂

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