Chasing the market into the midlist


Today I share wisdom:

When I started the Twenty Palaces books, I wanted to change a bunch of things that were standard in urban fantasy: the protagonist who’s an expert in the setting, the supernatural elements that had been ported over from horror and folklore, the stories that focused on the concerns of supernatural figures rather than actual human beings.

When I started Key/Egg, I wanted to challenge myself to write an urban fantasy that was not just a string of violent clashes. I also wanted to move the elderly woman out of the traditional expository role and into the limelight.

When I started The Great Way, I wanted to move away from the lackadaisical travelogue pacing of epic fantasy and write it like a thriller. I also wanted to have a little fun with the idea of the Hero Prince.

I wouldn’t say these were attempts at creating a new subgenre. I was trying to do something different, though. It seemed like an opportunity (and I know how this sounds) to change things.

Now, I have no plans to write a sequel to Key/Egg. I’m done with that story (for now, anyway) and I’m moving on, but I would sure as shit love to see other writers put elderly women into the center of their books. While we’re at it, let’s make that a TV show, too. It doesn’t even have to be an adaptation of Key/Egg (although the rights are available!) but I’m sure there are older female actresses ready to take on the role.

But Key/Egg isn’t a breakout hit and it isn’t going to be one, and neither are these other books, even if sales have been almost respectable. The failure mode for “breaks new ground and is wildly successful” is, at best, “minor cult favorite.” At worst, it’s “who are you what are you doing”. For a writer who wants to be remembered, those failure modes don’t cut it.

Added later:

When I read this, I recognize how ridiculous I’m being but I don’t care. I don’t have as much to give as Fitzgerald did, but I’ll give what I have.