Yesterday I went to our nearest city and spent an hour in Waterstones. Like a lot of readers I buy most of my books from Amazon because they are cheaper, but occasionally I will buy one or two from an independent bookstore or a high street chain - I see it as doing my bit to keep high street bookstores open.
Whilst I was distracted by the pleasure of choosing a couple of new science fiction books (I opted for Arthur C. Clarke's Randezvous With Rama and Childhood's End) I noticed something about the two genres I am currently writing in - horror and science fiction - that made me stop and question my choices: Waterstones had five mods of shelving for science fiction and only half a mod for horror. What does that say about the two genres and how they fare in the book-selling world? Was this just peculiar to Waterstones? And as an aspiring author what does it say about my chances of being published? Should I even be worried about this?
In effort to answer these questions I visited my local branch of WHSmiths and found they had just one mod for science fiction and horror, which was what I expected from a retailer that until recently devoted two mods to what I call Misery Lit (i.e. A Child Called It). I then visited two local independent bookstores and found one had two mods for science fiction and one shelf for horror - around the same proportions as Waterstones - and the other several shelves of science fiction and only Stephen King and Dean Koontz available for horror.
Are there more authors writing science fiction than horror or are there less publishers prepared to publish horror? Does science fiction sell better than horror? As someone who works on the book department for a supermarket chain, I can tell you that I have never seen an adult science fiction book for sale in our chart. But on the odd occasion we have sold a horror novel, it has sold extremly well. It makes me wonder what else would sell if they just took the chance.
Have you ever stopped to assess the shelf-space and range of authors stocked by your local bookstores? What did you find? With the range of online bookstores, ebooks and the plethora of self-promotion the internet now offers, do you even consider this a topic worth worrying about?