Is This Really Steampunk?
What are readers of Steampunk reading? If you’re new to Steampunk, where can you go to find both the classic novels of the genre as well as the new releases? And what are today’s bestsellers?
To help answer these questions, I’ve created a Steampunk Library on SteampunkNovels.com. I’m hoping my Steampunk Library will be a resource, both for those who are already steampunk aficionados as well as those new to the genre. The responsibility of curating a collection of steampunk literature is daunting. I don’t want to omit a title of importance. So where should I begin in order to create this on-line collection? And with so many novels in so many genres being published every day…in fact millions every year…it will be a hard task to keep this library up to date once it’s initially stocked. So the question…’what are today’s bestsellers?’ requires me to find a reliable search engine, one that marries published works with their sales.
Where would I find such a database? Where else?…The Great Zon, that cyber-destroyer of bricks and mortar bookstores. Surely, the place to start my search is on Amazon, right? I mean, who else has such a large catalogue of titles and such a meticulous tracking of sales? Yes, it must be Amazon. That’s a no-brainer. That’s what I thought. Boy, was I in for a big surprise!
Amazon has a Steampunk category in its Kindle Store under Science Fiction. I’ve published my own steampunk work there, The Most Peculiar Tales.
So surely that’s where anyone should start to find works from steampunk authors? Simple, right? Just put ‘steampunk’ into the Kindle Store’s search box, select ‘Bestselling’ and…voila…away you go!
Try it. See what you get. See if you become as astounded as I was by the result!
Were these the current best-selling Steampunk novels in the world? I mean, REALLY? Were these even Steampunk?
Of the Top Ten Best Selling Steampunk Novels in my Amazon Kindle search, only three of them (by the author’s description) could be classified as Steampunk. They were Jeff Wheeler’s Mirror Gate at #5 and at #9, Storm Glass (both from his Harbinger series); and in the #7 position, Magic Outside the Box (The Case Files of Henri Davenforth Book 3), a Steampunk Fantasy by Honor Raconteur.
Only three out of ten? To say the least, I was shocked! Only 30% of the Top Ten Best Selling ‘Steampunk’ Novels were actually Steampunk?
Judge for yourself. Here’s the list of the Top Ten Best Selling Steampunk Novels on Amazon (with their more accurate genre beside them):
#1 – The Prisoner’s Key (Glass and Steele Book 8) by C.J. Archer – Historical Fantasy
#2 – Heritage of Power (The Complete Series: Books 1-5): An epic dragon fantasy boxed set by Lindsay Buroker – Dragon Fantasy
#3 – Born in Fire (Demon Days, Vampire Nights World Book 1) by K.F. Breene – Vampire Fantasy
#4 – Fatemarked (The Fatemarked Epic Book 1) by David Estes – Epic Fantasy
#5 – Mirror Gate (Harbinger Book 2) by Jeff Wheeler – Steampunk
#6 – Dark Space: The Complete Series (Books 1-6) by Jasper T. Scott and Aaron Sikes – Space Opera
#7 – Magic Outside the Box (The Case Files of Henri Davenforth Book 3) by Honor Raconteur – Steampunk Fantasy
#8 – Promise of Darkness (Dark Court Rising Book 1) by Bec McMaster – Epic Fantasy
#9 – Storm Glass (Harbinger Book 1) by Jeff Wheeler – Steampunk
#10 – Eden’s Gate: The Ascent: A LitRPG Adventure by Edward Brody – LitRPG Fantasy*
(*LitRPG, short for Literary Role Playing Game, is a literary genre combining the conventions of RPGs with science-fiction and fantasy novels. Games or game-like challenges form an essential part of the story and visible RPG statistics are a significant part of the reading experience.)
So after scrolling down the Top Ten list and looking at the descriptions of the stories in detail…I asked myself…what’s up with this? Is this really Steampunk? Because if it was, I had a huge problem. Either I didn’t know what Steampunk was, or I couldn’t rely on the world’s #1 seller of literature to guide me to what it was. Something’s not right, I thought. I needed to investigate further.
I decided to drill down through the Bestsellers List even further than the Top Ten and to my amazement the situation got worse not better! Of the Top Forty titles, only six…yes, count them six…can be classified as Steampunk. This means 85% of the Top Forty Best Selling titles in Amazon’s Steampunk category, aren’t Steampunk. Not even close!
Here are some more examples from the Top Forty Best-Selling Steampunk Novels in Amazon’s Kindle Store, along with the blurbs that the authors created when they listed them on Amazon. So, tell me, are these really Steampunk? By the author’s own admission, they’re not.
#4 – Fatemarked (The Fatemarked Epic Book 1) by David Estes
In the spirit of fantasy epics like Throne of Glass and The Lord of the Rings, enter a world of magic and dragons, kings and queens, and victory and defeat, during a time when honor and valor still meant something. Fatemarked is now a #1 Amazon bestseller in NINE categories.
#6 – Dark Space: The Complete Series (Books 1-6) by Jasper T. Scott and Aaron Sikes
Ten years ago the Sythians invaded the galaxy with one goal: to wipe out the human race. Now the survivors are hiding in the last human sector of the galaxy: Dark Space–once a place of exile for criminals, now the last refuge of mankind.
“Dark Space is a thrilling action-adventure set in the far future. It reminded me a little of an exciting episode of BattleStar Galatic” – editorial review
Jasper Scott is the USA Today bestselling author of more than 20 sci-fi novels with 16,000+ total reviews on Amazon.
And finally how about this one in the #14 position on the Bestselling List of Steampunk? It shouldn’t need any further story description from me. The cover alone tells you all you need to know about the story and what genre it fits in.
In the next ten positions from #11 through #20 there are four Space Operas and four Fantasies with only two Steampunk titles. In the twenty positions from #21 through #40 there are only a further two Steampunk titles. That’s right, in the entire Top Forty, there are thirty-four non-Steampunk works and only six that actually fit the genre!
Here are some examples from the Top Forty Steampunk where even the book’s title gives away its genre: The Land: Catacombs: A LitRPG Saga… The Last Reaper: A Military Scifi Epic… The Amber Project: A Dystopian Sci-fi Novel… Renegade Descent: An Intergalactic Space Opera Adventure… Moon Dance (Vampire for Hire Book 1).
In the words of the Apollo 13 astronauts…Houston, we have a problem!
What’s going on?
The Amazon descriptions offer a clue.
Here’s an example…Fatemarked is now a #1 Amazon bestseller in NINE categories.
Nine categories? I guess that’s possible. After all, Amazon allows authors to list their work in multiple categories. If you have a mystery thriller, you can list it in both ‘Mystery’ and ‘Thriller’. Vampire Romance? List in ‘Romance’ as well as ‘Paranormal’.
Regardless of category, the goal of the author is always to achieve that elusive ‘Best Selling Author’ title. A book that sells 5,000 copies in the Thriller category is not going to achieve that in the face of stiff competition from the likes of the John Grishams and Tom Clancys of the world. So how about if the author puts it in the category of Steampunk? Well, the same sales figure of 5,000 copies might indeed do the trick. Who cares if it’s not categorized correctly? Once the book tops an Amazon list, that fact alone is now the author’s golden ticket. He or she can forever proclaim they are an Amazon #1 Best Selling Author.
Okay, a contemporary thriller isn’t going to cut the mustard in the Steampunk category. Even The Great Zon’s algorithms should pick that aberration out of the data cloud. But what defines Steampunk? Simple definitions often refer to ‘Victorian Science Fiction’. Gaslamp Fantasy even has ‘Fantasy’ in the genre’s name. So if you have a work of Science Fiction or Fantasy…whether it’s dungeons and dragons, or spaceships and light sabers…throwing your novel into the Steampunk category might just mean your sales will win you a prize. So why not? Let’s load up all the ‘niche’ categories in SciFi and Fantasy with works that don’t really fit in the hope that the sales figures in that lower sales environment will score a #1 ranking. It’s a game, pure and simple. And in this game, the losers are genuine steampunk authors and anyone who wants to find their work.
Amazon has the sales figures. But will Amazon act as a policemen in this game of ‘catch me if you can’? Don’t hold your breath.
So there you have it folks. Where is the real list of the Best Selling Steampunk? Sadly…if a work cannot be judged whether it fits into the genre or doesn’t fit…I’ve come to the conclusion such a list doesn’t exist.