Then a lone voice spoke up (a reader/reviewer) and begged authors not to give up on the genre.
So how did this happen? And what is an author to do when publishers are shying away and readers still want books?
On the former, there are only theories.
- The typical glutted market argument. Too many books not enough readers. I, for one, don't buy this argument as urban fantasy was not a sudden surge genre and hadn't had some random book or three that was a colossal hit and made everyone sick of it. *NOTE: for the purpose of this exercise, paranormal romance is a different animal, and as far as I know that's still selling okay.
- People have burned out and moved on. Again, based on that reader who spoke up (and I don't know about anyone else, but jumping into a convo with a bunch of authors was always hard for me as a reader, so I'm not surprised there was only one) people still want these books.
- They want unique but not too unique. Pretty much this same book, only different. New authors hear this all the time. We want a series like ______ only without vampires. Maybe, but too many books that are supposedly "different" still feel "the same." From the outside, it seems as if New York is afraid of anything really unique, which leads to the genre feeling stale.
So what do I really think happened to urban fantasy? Too many series that dragged on past their prime (or are still dragging on). Rather than finding a good spot where the story could end strong, series were teased out until even die-hard readers were done. And if the ending was unsatisfactory? Why would those readers invest in another series, knowing it could be equally disappointing?
You know what I miss? What I would love to see revived to reinvigorate the urban fantasy genre? Limited run series. Three books and done. Five books and done. Whatever number the series REQUIRES to tell the story--and then it's DONE. No stretching it out because it's selling like mad. Let the profit be in a great story told start to finish. The problem with this is it would take publishers to really commit to an author.
Think about Harry Potter (not urban fantasy, but a good example for my purposes). A SEVEN book series by an untested author. Can she do edits? Can she meet deadlines? What if book one tanks?
Obviously I don't know the ins and outs of the contract Jo Rowling signed but I've heard of publishers trying to back out of signed three-book contracts when they don't feel the first two have lived up to their expectations. That's right, trying to renegotiate on the last book.
But if we can't get New York to commit (and small press/digital publishers are still performing best in the romance arena), the only way for urban fantasy to survive it seems is through authors self-publishing. The commitment there is from the author direct to the readers--with no one else standing in the way.
I don't know about you, but if New York doesn't want to find new ways to support and sell urban fantasy, I'll look to the people who love it like I do--the authors who are willing to go it alone and give the readers what they want.
For me, I want more vampires, werewolves, witches and zombies in my life. Don't you?