LitRPG (otherwise known as GameLit) novels are doing great this week, they’ve made their way onto plenty of other genre’s charts, including Horror, Fantasy, and Science Fiction. This shows that the different styles of LitRPG are each doing well, from those that are more on the Fantasy end of the spectrum, to those that cling more tightly to the Science Fiction route. It is surprising that more is not being done to promote them to Paranormal Romance readers, there is a limited number of books from this genre crossing over there. But given how well everything is selling perhaps we should accept that the authors and publishers in this genre know what they are doing. But, what niches and trends are doing well in amidst this profusion of success?
The simple answer is a tonne, so many in fact that attempting to list them all off would be difficult and reading the resulting post would take all day, so instead we have narrowed it down to three main categories which cover the vast majority of the books on the chart this week. Essentially these niches cover the books that cater to those wanting a Romance or Erotica story, those wanting a story in line with a Fantasy or Science Fiction epic or military book, or the interesting niche that appears to be almost entirely belonging to this genre, that of a character focused on crafting or resource management.
First up, is the Romance and Erotica Sub-genre, easily identified by the multitude of young women on the covers of these books in very impractical clothing for adventuring. Generally these are focused on the straight male demographic, something made clear in the plot and character choices. Often these books are populated with young men pulled from the real world and dropped into the game world. In these new worlds, their lives are focused on the fulfilment of fantasies, whether these fantasies are romantic, sexual, or based on fighting the bullies they never had a chance to to fight in real life, the reader gets to live out their own wish fulfilment through the characters’ adventures. Often these books are sexually explicit and there is an ongoing trend focused on Harems. The books in this niche tend to be less focused on plot or realism than some of the others, plus the game mechanics tend to be pretty skewed and in particular the options for character customisation are pretty much all pushed over to the “as attractive as possible” setting. There is a huge blank spot in this niche waiting for books with any other demographic in mind other than straight male, it is hard to say if you would sell hundreds of thousands of copies or not, but from the look of the best selling charts you would at least not have much in the way of competition.
Another trend is for these books to feature versions of Earth where an apocalypse has come, or death on an individual scale, forcing the characters to flee into the servers of a video game to cling to some form of life. This trend is particularly popular with the LitRPG novels where real life people are inserted into Sword and Sorcery style of fantasy games. These settigns tend to by hyper-violent, pre-industrial, and featuring a great deal of magic and terrifying monsters. The faux-medieval style of the game setting is typically a foil for the more Science Fiction and Futuristic styles of “real” life. There is also generally a sub-textual criticism of modern society, either focused on the treatment of the environment, or of the actions of those seen as the elite in society. Often, the villain manifests as one of these criticisms, usually in the role of the billionaire who built his own (almost always his, by the way) game universe to play out his fantasies. This niche tends to borrow from a lot of pioneering narratives, and writers should be aware of the risk that they may fall into unfortunate colonising and invasion tropes. In particular, writers should be careful around any plot line where the phrase “Noble Savage” might come up. People have already fallen into those traps, learn from their mistakes.
The third niche that will be covered today, is that of crafting focused books. In these books rather than going off and fighting an evil lord or an undead army or the forces of capitalism and unfair work environments, the character will play a humble crafts person, or the founder of a community, or of a dungeon itself, and will spend the story collecting the needed equipment and allies to build their dream, whatever that dream might be. These books tend to be presented as more wholesome, or at the very least there tends to be less explicit on page scenes. And they are more likely to mimic tactical and resource focused games, rather than violent or plot heavy games. This does not mean, however, that the books are lacking in plot, and often the need of the characters to analyse their surroundings and make careful judgements is reflected in detailed plots, settings, and characters. They can be a little slow however, and writers should take care to sign post very clearly that their book belongs to this niche, as unhappy readers often take to the reviews to vote down books they feel did not align with their expectations.
So, what to take from all of this? Simply, that everyone has a fantasy they wish to see lived out, whether that is a sexual fantasy, a revolutionary one, or one about making the perfect sword, and this is a genre built around providing outlets for these fantasies. The easiest way to succeed in this genre is to figure out what fantasy you want to give life to, and then pick the game style and book niche that will work best to create it. Protagonists in this genre are predominantly male, which may show an opening in the market, and straight, which, likewise. The games being used are typically of the World of Warcraft style, or a sort of simplified Dungeons & Dragons style. Different authors have their own takes on how to adapt game play mechanics to fiction, some ignoring it almost entirely, while others use it almost religiously. It seems to be mostly up to the individual writer to decide, though going one way or the other in too extreme a fashion can cause problems, from making it difficult to follow or making plot or character choices unfathomable, to cutting away at what makes a LitRPG novel, a LitRPG novel. Be careful to balance it correctly.
I hope this has been helpful. Good luck to anyone writing in this genre, leave a comment if this has been of any help to you. We can’t promise Exp or loot but we here on the website will be grateful nonetheless!
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