Tag Archives: Mass Market

Who reads urban fantasy?

Or indeed any other truly mass market fiction?

Now, let me contextualise my question. I like urban fantasy. This is not an attack on the genre. And I understand that lots of people enjoy reading it. What I don’t understand is who reads it in the kind of bulk quantities that justify the vast number of urban fantasy novels being published. It seems that almost every other living human being is making a living writing urban fantasy novels at the moment. How can this be?

My confusion must stem from the fact that I am a certain kind of reader. I might classify myself as a ‘skimmer’. I float through the world of books, looking for *special* books, brought to me by word of mouth, or recommendation from another writer I like, or particularly good reviews, or even simply hype. (Which brought me to Justin Cronin’s The Passage, where I am happily still ensconced.) I demand a high level of return from any book I invest time in, and will willingly abandon a book part-way through if it fails in its initial promise.

But for urban fantasy or any mass market fiction to work, my reading pattern must not be typical. I’m hypothesising the existence of ‘habitual’ readers, people who plough through two or three or more books a week, and read within genres that they like and will buy one urban fantasy series after another and keep coming back for more. Hypothesising because, while I can imagine these readers, I can’t prove their existence other than by deduction. Large sections of every bookshop are packed with urban fantasy novels, ergo the urban fantasy reader must exist.

Even if the habitual reader is real, surely their numbers must be shrinking? I can believe that before television and then the media saturated internet, many more people had a need for cheap books in copious supply that did no more than entertain. But there are now so many competing ways for people to invest their leisure time that the mass market paperback or even the e-book are surely struggling for market share? How long can mass market publishing persist with its business model, if there is no longer a mass market readership?

Or am I wrong, and is there a ‘dark matter’ readership that my sensor arrays are failing to detect? And if so, who are they?