What the Fantasy Genre REALLY Needs

Robert B. Marks
3 min readFeb 26, 2023

Publishers. The fantasy genre needs more PUBLISHERS.

And yes, this is a call to action.

I’ve told this story before, but back in the early 2000s this film trilogy called The Lord of the Rings opened in theatres and was a massive hit. The big fantasy publishers glutted themselves with manuscripts — if you were on the right side of that glut, it became very easy to sell a book for a short time…and if you were on the wrong side, as I ended up due to agent issues, the response time lengthened to years, and sometimes even decades, even if you were agented (as I was).

As I understand it, this has not improved in any significant fashion.

In fact, with the further consolidation of the industry, it may have gotten worse.

But, you know what? Every single major publisher started out as a small one. And all you need to get started is a business license, an eye for editing, and a willingness to learn how to typeset and do cover layouts. Hell, with open source software, you can get started without spending a cent on software licensing fees.

I’m not kidding about that software thing, either. Need a layout program for your book covers? Scribus has you covered (and I use that one myself). Typesetting? OpenOffice or LibreOffice will probably do the trick — all you need to be able to do is generate a PDF. E-book generation? I use Seamonkey Composer and Calibre.

And then there’s distribution. Well, Ingram has you covered there. Use IngramSpark for small publishers, and you’re published worldwide (I’m not kidding there, either — I’ve sold more copies of Magus Draconum in non-English speaking countries than English-speaking ones, and I haven’t the foggiest idea how I reached those markets). When your title list gets bigger, there’s also LightningSource. Or, you can go directly through Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing.

Now, make no mistake, it’s going to be hard work. Publishing is a highly competitive field. To do this well, you’re going to need to learn how intellectual rights work, so that you can negotiate contracts. You’re going to need to spend weeks editing the manuscript before typesetting, because most novels still need editing. When that’s done and the book is uploaded, you’re going to be sending out review copies in pre-release publicity. A lot of these are things that many self-publishing authors aren’t able to do or don’t know how to do, but need somebody to do for them.

And if you are a successful self-publishing author, you’ve probably got most of the skillset you need to get started as a proper publisher. You may have to go to an archive of public domain art or use something like Midjourney for your first covers, but it IS possible to start on a shoestring budget.

So, if you want to see more urban fantasy, or more grimdark, or more steampunk…start a publishing company, find authors who write it and offer to publish them. Bring the books to market yourself. Even if your first books flop, or one or two of them end up getting terrible reviews, the genre as a whole will be better for having you there.

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Robert B. Marks

Robert B. Marks is a writer, editor, and researcher. His pop culture work has appeared in places like Comics Games Magazine.