There's Big Money (and Business) in Epic Fantasy Novels, Publishing Industry Insider Says

Nicholas Barron

Is epic fantasy the literary genre where the most riches lie for authors?

That’s the question publishing industry expert Jane Friedman attempts to answer in her latest publishing newsletter, The Hot Sheet.

Friedman relays that Alex Newton of e-book analytics company K-lytics said that sales on Amazon Kindle’s epic fantasy bestseller list rose 58 percent over the past 12 months.

“Newton says a couple of factors are behind this: overall escapist literature improved during the pandemic, but also the Amazon and Netflix adaptations mentioned earlier are likely driving book sales,” Friedman writes.

Those adaptations include Netflix’s “The Witcher,” based on a fantasy book series of the same name by Andrzej Sapkowski. “The Witcher’s” first season ranks as the fifth-most watched Netflix series of all time.

And Amazon’s “The Wheel of Time” was the most in-demand new show in the U.S. last year, according to Parrot Analytics. The series is based on the Robert Jordan “Wheel of Time” novels.

Amazon has another new fantasy show in the works. “The Power of the Rings,” a prequel to J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” series, is scheduled for release in September.

The company paid an estimated $250 million for the rights to make “The Power of the Rings.”

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What is epic fantasy?

Friedman defines epic fantasy stories as being on a “grand scale (like Lord of the Rings) with a lot at stake.”

“There’s a threat or conflict that affects the entire world or universe, and the story might span centuries or ages—and multiple books,” Friedman writes.

Friedman says epic fantasy stories selling well on Amazon involve dragons, gods and goddesses, guilds, and elves. Meanwhile, books involving pirates, ghosts, angels, and spirits aren’t as popular.

And Friedman cautions that epic fantasy and a related genre, high fantasy, are not the same.

“High fantasy usually focuses more on character and setting than on the epic scale of events, with fewer characters and less complex story structures,” Friedman writes.

According to Friedman, most epic fantasy novels sell for $4.99 on Amazon, although the best-selling books tend to go for $9.99.

As of Feb. 8, 2022, the three books topping Amazon’s epic fantasy bestseller list include:

  1. House of Sky and Breath by Sara J. Maas (Amazon | Bookshop)
  2. Gild by Raven Kennedy (Amazon | Bookshop)
  3. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sara J. Maas (Amazon | Bookshop)
  4. Backyard Dungeon 2 by Logan Jacobs (Amazon)

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