DAW Books

More Hardcovers on Tap

If the phenomenal success of the movie TheLord of the Rings: Return of the King (and in fact of all three films in the trilogy) proved anything, it's that there is a huge audience for works that immerse people in a new world—if only publishers can tap into it.

"I think that you just have to keep looking for really good books," says Sheila Gilbert, co-publisher of DAW Books. "When you look at the rest of the media, you see more fantasy and science fiction getting out there, so obviously it's not that the genre is lacking."

Unfortunately, says Gilbert, a blockbuster movie does not necessarily translate into a greater interest in fantasy books. What will help, she says, is if "something hits big in books and it pulls people into the section." As for where that next big something will come from, DAW is betting on a number of its veteran authors this year, including some who are making their hardcover debuts.

Getting her first shot on the hardcover shelves this spring is fantasy author Tanya Huff with this month's Smoke and Shadows, which features Tony, a character from her successful mass market Blood series. Also in hardcover for the first time is Julie E. Czerneda, a long-time DAW author who is starting a new series in May with Survival: Species Imperative #1 . With this SF series, Czerneda, a biologist by trade before she turned to writing full-time, introduces a new protagonist, biologist Dr. Mackenzie Connor.

"We're doing more hardcovers than, say, 10 years ago," Gilbert says. "As we expand, we have a number of people we've published for years in paperback who we wanted to include in our hardcover program." While releasing hardcover books inevitably cuts into an author's mass market sales, Gilbert explains, it boosts overall revenue because of the higher price of the books and because some very ardent fans will buy a title in both formats. DAW, which has largely stayed away from trade paperback publishing, is reflecting the larger industry trend away from a dependence on the mass market format for fantasy and science fiction sales by increasing its output of hardcovers.

DAW's program is about two-thirds fantasy to one-third science fiction, Gilbert reports, a proportion she expects to remain constant for the foreseeable future. She adds that, as it has for the past several years, fantasy continues to outsell science fiction. But when it comes to books' content, Gilbert says DAW isn't following any trends. "We're looking for really interesting stories," she says. "We're looking for great characters. You can have the best plot in the world and if we don't care about the characters, it's not going to go anywhere." —Karen Holt


HarperCollins Eos

Trade Paperbacks, Welcome!

For all but the first four months of Eos's six-year presence on the planet, Diana Gill has fueled its flights of science fiction and fantasy. "We do about 40 titles a year," she says, "12 hardcovers, six trade paperbacks and 20 to 28 mass market titles, originals and reprints. We try to keep it about equal between science fiction and fantasy, but since fantasy sells more strongly these days, we probably do a few more of those."

Gill has noticed that the SF and fantasy market has grown more receptive toward trade paper editions over the past year or two. "It used to be that you couldn't sell those if you tried," she notes, "but now we're able to publish trade paper originals, even with brand new authors. Also part of our program are a lot of classic reissues, such as Roger Zelazny's Lord of Light [a May trade paperback] and Mary Stewart's Merlin Trilogy [a September hardcover].

"Another thing that we've seen becoming more and more popular is the dark fantasy based on the contemporary world," Gill says, "a book like Dead Witch Walking by Kim Harrison [a May mass market original]. That's about our world, but a virus has killed off humanity, which has allowed the vampires to return. It's pure fun and begins a new series for us."

To no one's surprise, epic fantasy retains a strong hold on its audience. "King of Foxes by Raymond Feist [an April hardcover] is in the tradition that began with Tolkien," Gill says, "and while there are no numbers that you can use to quantify, it does seem that there has been more interest in this kind of fantasy since the Tolkien movies came out."

King of Foxes is the second volume in Feist's Conclave of Shadows series, but Gill points out that Eos is committed to establishing new names as well. "In 2004 we have five new authors, which is a lot. Actually that represents the most in a year since the line started—and we've already got two signed for next year. This sort of thing goes in cycles, but we seem to be in the discovery phase right now."

To get the word out about books by both new and familiar faces, Eos has produced a newsletter entitled "Out of This World" for three years, a promotional tool presently boasting a subscriber base of more than 4,000. The imprint also maintains its own residence on the Internet (, where readers can obtain advance copies of Eos releases and write reviews, which are then posted there. "We pick five to 20 people at random," says Gill, "and send them galleys or proof pages." These folks help prove that in science fiction and fantasy, as elsewhere, nothing percolates like word-of-mouth. —Robert Dahlin


Tor Books

Trying Graphic Novels

There are some who insist that the key to expanding the market for science fiction and fantasy books is to publish works that transcend the genre—downplaying certain conventions of the category to appeal to a more general audience.

"I personally think that's total nonsense; with all due respect that's malarkey," says Patrick Nielsen Hayden, senior editor, manager of science fiction for Tor Books. "Genres are there because readers want them to be. They're the result of readers wanting to have a clue, 'If I like this, what else will I like?' "

Instead of trying to break out of the genre, editors and authors need to revitalize it from within, Hayden says. That means avoiding mistakes of the past, including over-mining successful subjects and turning out covers that all look the same. It also means innovation—within the traditions of the genre. "In some ways science fiction is a very conservative genre," Hayden says. "It's about elaborating on arguments that have been going on for a long time."

One innovation Tor is trying out for its fantasy program is the use of graphic books. In October, Tor will publish The Book of Ballads, a collection of ballads, folktales and other stories illustrated by Charles Vess. The text was contributed by a list of writers that includes Neil Gaiman, Sharyn McCrumb, Jane Yolen and Charles de Lint. "It's a visually gorgeous fantasy extravaganza," Hayden says of the collection, which is illustrated in black-and-white. Hayden has also recently acquired the graphic novel Grease Monkey by Tim Eldred. Originally published in the '90s as a limited series by independent comic books publisher Kitchen Sink Press, the novel takes place 100 years into the future. Tor plans to release it sometime next year, says Hayden, either as one or two volumes.

But the cornerstone of Tor's publishing program is not introducing something entirely new; it's building on the success of previous hits. In August, Tor will release Dune: The Battle of Corrin, the latest in the bestselling Legends of Dune series of prequels to Frank Herbert's classic, Dune . Coming in June is Ringworld's Children, the latest installment of the series from Larry Niven that began with 1970's Ringworld. The forthcoming title is the first new series entry in more than a decade.

"I don't think that the genre is the impediment to creativity and intellectual liveliness that you might think by listening to a lot of people talk about it," says Hayden. "The fact of the matter is that genres can be darn good places for creativity to flourish." —Karen Holt


Ace/Roc Books

Fantasy Is Where It's At

For Ginjer Buchanan, senior executive editor and marketing director at Ace/Roc, one of the biggest trends continues to be fantasy. "Basically this is a trend we've been seeing for maybe the past five years," she says. Today's hot and dark romantic fantasies, as opposed to fantasy romance (the two are distinguished by which element drives the plot), are "exploding in readership," according to Buchanan. "A lot of this was fueled by the omnivorous reading of romance readers."

To take advantage of this trend, NAL recently published an anthology of romance writings that are, well, out of this world—Irresistible Forces (Feb.), edited by Catherine Asaro, herself a romance writer and president of the Science Fiction Writers of America. This summer, Berkley is putting together a similar collection, To Weave a Web of Magic (July), with novellas by fantasy writers such as Patricia McKillip and romances by Lynn Kurland. It gives Berkley a chance to experiment with how people find these stories, says Buchanan, who plans to do some advertising geared specifically to romance readers.

In addition to attracting those who like romance, fantasy has also begun to appeal to more conservative mystery fans, largely through the work of Laurell K. Hamilton, whom Buchanan credits with creating the cross-genre novel. "The other exemplary of this is Charlaine Harris," says Buchanan. "She grew out of the mystery genre, and her books are very strong romances with supernatural elements." Ace hopes to break out Harris's Sookie Stackhouse Southern vampire novels by releasing the fourth installment, Dead to the World (Ace, May), in hardcover.

To further pique mystery readers' interest, Ace is doing a noir fantasy collection, Powers of Detection (Oct.), which will include stories by mystery writers such as Dana Stabenow (who is also the book's editor) and Anne Perry, as well as fantasy writers Harris and Anne Bishop. Not only is it the first anthology of its kind, notes Buchanan, but some of the writers have never written mysteries with fantastic elements before. (Buchanan is careful to give Buffy the Vampire Slayer its due for also fostering today's noir boom.)

What Buchanan refers to as "big hard science fiction," or in the words of Locus magazine, "conceptually intelligent space opera," is another long-term trend. "These are big books set in the far future," says Buchanan. "Because we have found out more about our solar system, these writers—mostly British and Australian—have had to push out farther in the future to get back a sense of wonder. You have to go somewhere that we haven't gone yet." As examples she points to Absolution Gap (Ace, June) by Alastair Reynolds, the final volume in The Revelation Space trilogy, and Iron Sunrise (Ace, July) by relative newcomer Charles Stross, who writes for the British equivalent of Wired. —Judith Rosen


Bantam Dell Publishing Group

Hail to Weirdness

The challenge for the science fiction and fantasy category, as Bantam Dell senior editor Anne Groell sees it, is not just to attract readers but to keep them coming back.

"The paradigm of the field is 12- to 15-year-olds who discover it and get bored with it in their 20s," says Groell. "I'm trying to publish books that are sophisticated enough that they won't get bored."

One trend that may help her move toward that goal is the ascendance of what Groell and other editors call "the new weird." Groell describes the books as having a more literary sensibility than typical genre novels, as well as a surrealistic and highly imaginative tone. The fantasy novel Etched City by Kristen Bishop is one forthcoming example from Bantam Spectra. The debut novel for the highly regarded Australian short story writer, the December release will have a simple, dramatic cover, showing a bee lighting on a pomegranate. "It's going to look completely like a literary novel," says Groell. "There's absolutely no clue that it's fantasy."

Within the more traditional boundaries of the genre, Groell says she's been seeing a lot of manuscripts that deal with global warming. In June, Bantam will release a hardcover novel that centers on the issue: Forty Signs of Rain by veteran SF writer Kim Stanley Robinson. The book is the first in a trilogy of eco-thrillers from the author of the Mars Trilogy. Another futuristic trilogy that mixes ecology and politics is tentatively set to debut next January with Hammered by first-time novelist Elizabeth Bear. The book imagines a world in which the U.S. has all but destroyed itself and Canada has become a superpower.

Groell—a strong believer in the buy-what-you-like approach to acquiring books—says she's always gravitated to novels by and about women, and she has two new series by women launching this spring. The first, by Australian writer Jennifer Fallon, is a trilogy of mass market paperbacks that Bantam Spectra will release at a pace of one a month starting this month with The Lion of Senet. Titled The Second Sons Trilogy, the books were published in Australia in 2002 and 2003.

Kelley Armstrong, who previously wrote for Viking, brings a shot of girl power with her first Bantam Spectra mass market paperback, Dime Store Magic (May), launching the Women of the Otherworld series. "It's kind of fantasy chick lit," says Groell. "It's these really powerful, smart-mouthed women." The book, which will be followed in October with Industrial Magic, is set in the present, in a world filled with vampires, werewolves and druids. But Groell says the focal point is "cool women kicking butt." Something that never goes out of style. —Karen Holt



Cross-Pollination, Baby

It's one thing for ibooks publisher Byron Preiss to associate with Mantis or Griffinkins, but now he's started to "cross-pollinate" with more than book characters—he's moved on to figures from TV, film, comics and computer games. "Cross-pollination," says Preiss, "is a solution to the plethora of media choices facing today's science fiction and fantasy reader. When I was a boy it was a book or a comic book. Today's readers have computer games, multi-player online games, graphic novels, manga and TV film franchises to occupy their leisure time. A publisher's ability to connect with the reader through cross-pollination improves the chances of beating the clutter and building a relationship with the reader over several formats."

And this season, ibooks plans to mix it up with some of the biggest names in "other" media. This July, Will Smith will star in I, Robot, based on Isaac Asimov's Robot City series. In response, ibooks will release all six titles in the series beginning this May and concluding in August. To attract a younger audience to the series, Isaac Asimov's Derec (he's the main character in Asimov's series) will be adapted in June to the manga format.

With TV's Sci-Fi channel planning a 2005 miniseries based on Roger Zelazny's mega-selling Amber fantasy novels, ibooks will be bringing out John Gregory Betancourt's Roger Zelazny'sTo Rule in Amber (Sept.), the conclusion to the Amber prequel trilogy. And J. Michael Straczynski, creator of the hit Babylon 5 TV series, has a collection of short fiction, Straczynski Unplugged, due in May. He's an example, says Preiss, of "our being able to use his great success as a writer and producer to promote his fiction—he's already well known to two constituencies."

"As gaming revenues continue to exceed motion picture box office revenues, we anticipate more tie-ins with settop, multiplayer and computer games," says Preiss. Defender, one of the most popular sci-fi adventure games, is the basis for an original novel, Defender, Book 1: Hyperswarm (Aug.) by Tim Waggoner. Plans, says Preiss, call for "at least a trilogy" and cross promotion with Midway Games (publisher of the Defender game), which will include information about the novel on their packaging and Web site.

In April 2003, ibooks began a graphic novel program that now has 14 titles in print. "Graphic novels are a time-consuming and expensive medium, but by combining English language translations of international hits like Icaro and Blacksad with homegrown titles such as The Best of Ray Bradbury the Graphic Novel, we feel we've effectively established the ibooks graphic novels in the minds of comic and science fiction readers."

While Preiss sees cross-pollination as a significant new trend in science fiction and fantasy publishing, it will never, he believes, "be a replacement for good writing—that remains the heart of our industry." —Lucinda Dyer


Del Rey

Tracking Younger

"For a while science fiction was aging, but now it's trending younger," says Del Rey editor-in-chief Betsy Mitchell. Whatever the reason, Harry Potter or the pendulum swinging back, she's happy to see more children's lines like Yearling (also a division of Random House) doing chapter books in the SF genre: "If we catch them at that early age, then they'll go on reading science fiction."

To capitalize on younger readers, Del Rey will launch a manga, or Japanese comic book, line in conjunction with Kodansha this spring. "We're the first traditional trade publisher to step into manga," says Mitchell. "It's one of the ways we're appealing to junior high and high schoolers." The books will be printed in the traditional Japanese format, right to left, in trade paperback original, and three of the four new series—Dundam SEED, art by Masatsgugu Iwase, story by Hajime Yadate and Yoshiyuki Tomino; TSUBASA and xxxHOLIC, both by Clamp—scheduled to be published simultaneously in May, will be marketed to children ages 13 and up. Ken Akamatsu's NEGIMA!, also set to launch in May, is geared to ages 16 and up.

"The other thing we've done to make sure our audience isn't too old," says Mitchell, "is we're doing a lot of speculative fiction for a younger, hipper audience." She singles out China Miéville (The Iron Council, July), Alexander C. Irvine (One King, One Soldier, July) and Afro-Canadian radio personality Minister Faust (The Coyote Kings of the Space Age Bachelor Pad, Aug.) as examples of young, edgy writers who are usually published in trade paperback original. Miéville will go into hardcover for the first time for his new book, the third Bas-Lag novel.

"Their work," says Mitchell of all three authors, "can be described as edgy urban fiction rather than traditional science fiction." She cites the distinctive style and humor in Faust's first novel, which is written in first person, calling his "a terrific new voice." To market his work to younger readers, Faust will be included in Del Rey's XYZ advertising, aimed at the 20-something crowd. He is one of eight writers whom Del Rey is bringing to San Diego ComicCon; both Irvine's and Miéville's books will also be promoted there. In addition, Del Rey recently relaunched its Web site, which Mitchell regards as a strong marketing tool for younger readers.

That's not to imply that Del Rey is abandoning more traditional science fiction writers to make way for new ones. Anne McCaffrey's Black Horses for the King (Apr.), for example, will be reissued in digest size as part of the Del Rey Imagine program, for ages 12 and up. —Judith Rosen


Baen Books

Mining Military Might

After a decade in the science fiction field, James Baen founded Baen Books in 1983, and is still its president and publisher. When asked to consider trends in this category in the last couple of years, he replies, "One to two years is a fairly short period within which to define a trend, but one thing I am aware of lately is a shift to a sort of naive space opera that follows many generations of a family or a particular set of characters over a long stretch of time and many volumes."

Military SF has long been a strong point for Baen, and author David Weber is the publisher's foremost practitioner of the art of SF war. (The Stars at War, written with Steve White, will be out in August). According to Baen, "David has been extremely popular for some time. His fans are tremendously devoted to his work and are always wanting more. If you include collaborative work, we do eight to 10 of his books a year, three or four of which are solo novels—really hefty books of a quarter million words or so." (One such solo effort, Wind Rider's Oath, hits the bookstores next month.) The author is not only prolific, says Baen, "He's an intense writer and his militaristic voice has real depth." Baen mentions other writers in this vein, such as John Ringo, "who have also caught on in the last few years and are selling very well." Ringo was introduced to the public through his collaboration with Weber on the Prince Roger series—launched in 2001 with March Upcountry—and his collaborations with newer authors are helping to bring them to prominence. The Road to Damascus, written with Linda Evans, was out last month; June will bring The Hero, written by Ringo and Michael Z. Williamson. "Ringo's work," says Baen, "is even more explicitly military than Weber's. Readers seem to want it that way. Having grown up in the '60s and '70s when anything militaristic was somewhat anathema, I have felt that one should skirt that sort of thing, but we're certainly not shy about it anymore—and we won't be in the future." —Paula Guran


Warner Aspect

Urban Legends

When questioned on the latest trends in this category, Warner Aspect editorial director Jaime Levine tells PW, "I would say dark fantasy is gaining ground. Although there are still a lot of vampires, more often than not writers are only using the horror trope but not writing horror. There's also a movement to do dark urban fantasy that isn't of that type—writers like Neil Gaiman and Elizabeth Hand, whose writing may be dark, but is not really horror." Warner Aspect will be launching author Kim Wilkins next February with The Autumn Castle . "Dark urban fantasy" is the perfect description for this debut, says Levine—"very odd, very dark things happen to contemporary people in this novel."

Levine also notes the increased presence of African-American writers in the SF/fantasy arena. Not many years ago, she explains, the only minority SF writers were Samuel R. Delany and Octavia E. Butler; now they've been joined by the likes of Tananarive Due, Steven Barnes, Nalo Hopkinson and Walter Mosley. "There's certainly a lot of public awareness right now," says Levine, citing a conference on Black Science Fiction held last year at Howard University. "This year," she adds, "there's a black science fiction literary/film festival in Seattle, 'Black to the Future,' which celebrates the accomplishments black artists have made to speculative fiction programs."

Levine reports that Warner Aspect is always on the lookout for new writers, though she cautions that "no matter how well written a book is, we always have to consider its salability. One of our new authors for this year is Alison Baird, a Canadian YA writer who's new to adult fantasy. We were initially attracted by her writing, but it helped that her first adult venture, The Dragon Throne trilogy, is about dragons. Dragons sell." (The first book, The Stone of the Stars, came out in February.)

Another new Aspect novelist, Robert Buettner, is representative of the popularity of military science fiction, which, says Levine, "has a long history in the field. The public's appetite for it hasn't changed." She points out, however, that there are distinctions within the subgenre. "We publish Karin Lowachee, another military SF writer, whose work is more emotionally 'in touch' and concentrates on the personal effects of war. Perhaps because Buettner is a former military intelligence officer, his book, Orphanage [Nov.], is classic military SF with more emphasis on campaigns and strategy. He definitely has a modern focus on the fears, anxieties and perils of his characters, but doesn't deal as much with the personal." —Paula Guran