Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Why I haven't tried Urban Fantasy

Let's get this straight first. It's urban fantasy, not arcana. Arcana is plural for mysteries or secrets (now used in the fantasy setting to describe magic), fantasy is a genre.

Well yesterday I heard back from the agent who had requested a partial from me in January. She was very polite and she let me know that I didn't grab her in the first few pages, and that completely justifies the cuts I made to those pages about a month ago :) She also said, and this is what really got me thinking, that historical fantasy is very difficult to sell.

My setting could be called steampunk, but because of how I describe it in the novel, it DOES fit in the historical category a lot better (even though it takes place in a fictional universe). Don't get me wrong, I LOVE urban fantasy, and I'd love to write one that takes place in the Denver area (I like writing in Colorado), but I don't want to jump on that bandwagon... not without a solid story. It'd be like all of those people who are currently trying to get vampire novels published because of the Twilight craze. Sure, there was a call for vampire books for young adult fans, but the murmurings in the publishing industry (if my ear is properly placed to the ground) is that vampires aren't the up-and-coming trend. Therefore, if you don't have a FANTASTIC story that stands out from EVERYTHING that will EVER BE WRITTEN, you better have a series that's already sold really well.

The same seems to be what's going on with urban fantasy. It's a trend that's well established by big names out there (even though I don't know who's written them for YA yet), and if I try to join in, I'd look a little too johnny-come-lately.

Historical fiction is easier to keep timeless (rather than dating itself with period-specific references), and if it gets published it'll stand out against urban fantasy. I definitely understand why it's difficult to sell, though. It has to sell. The trendy book doesn't need to be as good (even though that's still a consideration) since it's part of the trend. There are plenty of people who will read what's popular simply because it's the style of story they like. It doesn't mean they like that particular plot, character, or even that author, but they'll give 'em a shot just to see what they did with the genre.

Anyway, I might try my hand at some Urban Fantasy after I see what else is out there and if I'm not to late to get something into the genre :)


  1. Of course, after I wrote this I came up with a workable idea for an urban fantasy novel. :D

  2. I've never really considered Urban Fantasy. I don't read it, so that's probably why. I need something with more imagination than a contemporary setting, no matter how it gets spun. That's not a condemnation of the subgenre, or anything, I just don't really get into it.

  3. That's always the way I've felt when I'm writing. You have to go where you're inspired and to hell with the industry.

  4. I could KILL Stephenie Meyer for what she's done to vampires! (Well, not "kill"... that sounds a little harsh. Maybe some serious fist-shaking in her general direction instead.) She's destroyed that genre for decades, with a whole lotta help from L.J. Smith and that ilk.

    I think writers who believe it's a good idea to jump on the bandwagon of a genre that was popularized by SOMEONE ELSE'S work is sabotaging their own career. Sure, a publishing company might snap up their book to cash in on the craze if it's in the early days, but in the flood of so many similar books, who's going to remember that particular one and buy the next thing that writer puts out?

    It's better to stand out from the crowd than to hang onto its coattails.