Science Fiction Numbers

Being a mathematician, numbers fascinate me. They come in all sorts of guises and forms, and can be interpreted in all sorts of ways. So it’s only natural for me to take a decko at the hit stats for my blog every now and then.

Usually they reflect the annual cycle of human activity… down during ‘going away’ holiday periods, up during ‘stay at home’ ones, up when there’s a buzz about the subject on the internet and I’ve blogged about it, down when there are big conventions (because everyone is attending them). So when something out of the ordinary happens to those numbers, I notice. I can’t help it, it’s instinct with me.

Well, the normal trends have changed over the last few weeks. The hit stats on my more general science fiction posts crashed from mid-August onwards. Now I would expect them to be down because it’s a ‘going away’ holiday season. But they’ve stayed down ever since.

The general blogs I’m talking about here are the ones like the list of science fiction agents, publishers who accept unagented science fiction submissions and the like. These are the ones that google searches would pick up on. So a quick check on google searches was in order, and yes, my posts still come near the top of the search lists. So we can rule out changes in google search routines.

That can only mean this trend is a genuine change in direction. People are now very much less interested in trying to get their science fiction novel published through the publishing industry.

As I have commented elsewhere in the blogosphere, I had expected a downward trend because of the vicious circle science fiction publishing has got itself into… the one where the publishers only put novels to market that they think will sell in these hard economic times, which means that they won’t risk new and innovative novels for fear of making a loss, which in turn means the science fiction readership will get bored with being offered the same old / similar stories, which in turn means they’ll not buy science fiction any more, which means the science fiction publishers are even more pushed economically… and so the ever diminishing returns of the downward spiral goes.

But what I had not expected was the sharp drop off. It’s so abrupt, it’s scary.

It rules out things like writers moving to self-publishing as this would by now be part of the gradual trend.

And it’s chilling for several reasons. It basically means there are fewer new science fiction writers coming to the market with completed novels. This downward trend will probably have not been realised by the agents, let alone the rest of the publishing industry yet, which means they won’t be adjusting to the new circumstances for a while. This means the publishing industry could be heading for rough times.

Of course, I could be wrong in my interpretation of the reasons why or this is just very unusual prolonged blip in the stats.

Whichever way you look at it, it’s bad news for science fiction readers, whether it’s just a short term abnormality or something more longer term.

So all I can say is:

I hazz a plan, the master plan
to push the new, to not a few
I hazz a plan, the master plan
I shall be bold, and WILL be sold
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One thought on “Science Fiction Numbers

  1. There appears to be a trend with authors bypassing publishers because of the long lead times and going for self publishing in some form which might mean that they have someone else actually prepare the e-book for them.

    I don’t know if this is a good thing or not – I have seen several self published books that were let down by a lack of copy editing, but then you get people like Hugh Howe and his Wool series that are stated to be making six figure sums every month. Then there are books like Turing Evolved that are free.

    Until conventional SF publishers realise they have to embrace the electronic age and get away from the very narrow set of plots they consider there will be a continued decline in new SF stories and readers.

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