How many SF/F books are published in a year

Over at the Locus Blog, from Gary K. Wolfe, are some interesting figures.

In 1954, when I was nine years old, there were approximately 74 science fiction titles published. Locus reports 1,669 titles (including fantasy, horror, etc.) for 2008 – there were 254 SF novels and 436 fantasy novels alone (690 books). The rest would presumably be horror, anthologies, novellas, collections, things that don’t really fit into either category.

Gary says lots of other interesting stuff, so take a look. I just want to think about those figures…he doesn’t say if they are all totally new titles, rather than some reissued from some past time as well, but let’s assume they are.
I am also assuming that he is looking at all English-speaking countries – USA, Australia, UK, NZ, Canada, South Africa, etc etc.
(I am also assuming that they are all “first time in the English language” so there will stacks of other SF/F books written in other languages as well, which we will disregard.)


  • 436 fantasy to 254 science fiction. That’s a ratio of 17:10, not quite 2 fantasies for every SF. It means that fantasy writers have a better chance last year of being published than SF writers…
  • It means that if you had a particular SF/F book out in 2008 published for the first time* that book was 1 in 690. Not a bad ratio.
  • Some authors would have had more than one book out for the first time in 2008, so it means you would be one author in considerably less than 690 authors getting a particular book newly published in SF/F in 2008.
  • If you were a brand new fantasy author getting published for the first time, then you were one in considerably less than 436 authors world wide who finally made it. Congratulations. I mean it. (I have no idea how many brand new fantasy authors there were first published last year but I suspect quite a few less than 50. And even more impressively low if you write SF). Think about those figures for a moment. The odds against you succeeding are staggering…and you did it. Wow.
  • And here’s another figure that is bandied about from time to time – the ratio of MSS handed in to a publisher versus actually published is said to be somewhere about 5000 to 1. (Sorry, can’t remember where I got that figure from now.)
  • If you haven’t made it yet, just make sure you enjoy the journey. It may not be worth it otherwise. If you do enjoy the journey, then of course it’s worth it! We don’t all play tennis because we want to get to Wimbleton, or golf because we have our eye on the Masters…do it because you love writing. That way you have fun no matter what happens.

*(I didn’t have any out in 2008 for the first time – books that came out in UK for the first time had been published in Australia the year before…)


How many SF/F books are published in a year — 4 Comments

  1. I remember a time when reading Fantasy was very much looked down upon. Sci Fi was generally accepted, but not Fantasy. It took me years to pick up my first fantasy book and now I am well and truly hooked into the genre.

    Not to mention that, at my age, I can read what the hell I like without worrying whether anyone else approves LOL

  2. 400-odd fantasy books in one year – no wonder I can’t keep up with my reading! Yet there must be thousands of others, some of them just as good, that languish in drawers because they can’t find a home with a publisher. One thing e-publishing has done is to give a voice to some of those.

    I think that as e-publishing becomes more accepted, there will be more books than ever published -and hopefully, the standard of e-publishing wil rise and the price of readers like Kindle will come down. But how the heck are we going to keep up with the volume?:-)

  3. I remember a time when SF was equated with poor writing skills across the board. Fantasy, however, was thought to belong to children and could be well written. You grew out of it – or were supposed to – when you got older.

    There will be more SFF/F published if more people buy it. If people buy secondhand or don’t buy at all, then what’s the point in producing more books if you are a publisher? It’s all supply and demand. With E-publishing, costs go down and we could hope that as a result, more books will be sold – but it doesn’t necessarily follow…

  4. Of course I have been reading e-books way before the Kindle came out. I read them on my Palm and certainly wouldn’t have liked to shell out the cost of the kindle on a one use item. I carry about 4 books on my Palm, sometimes more, plus games, addresses, calendar, pictures, etc. etc. etc. As far as I am aware the Kindle is only a reader.

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