Fantastic Insights

What fantasy readers really think

Banner for the Fantastic Insights reader survey 2020

People with telepathic powers will already know what fantasy readers think. For everyone else, there’s the Fantastic Insights survey.

What is the Fantastic Insights survey?

I wanted to know more about readers’ attitudes and opinions towards the books they read, so I polled over a thousand readers across age, gender, and location and found got some fascinating insights?

Is epic fantasy more popular than grimdark? Yes.

How many readers download their books illegally and why? 37.5% of readers claimed to illegally download books to sample them before buying.

How much do fantasy readers pay for their ebooks? 2.99 and 5.99 were the most popular price points.

What can you learn from the Fantastic Insights survey?

A dragon on a hoard of treasure.

There were a wealth of secrets to be found in the Fantastic Insights 2020 survey report.

For instance, did you know that 42% of readers claim to have never read a paperback or hardback?

Or that morally ambiguous heroes are twice as popular as any other kind?

Would you be surprised to learn that readers under the age of 30 read on their smartphones more than any other device?

What did the Fantastic Insights survey cover?

The Fantastic Insights survey delved into a huge variety of topics, including:

  • Genre
  • Paper vs Screen
  • Who Needs a Hero?
  • Word of Mouth vs Reviews
  • Modern Values
  • Politics
  • Pricing
  • Illegal Downloads
  • A Typical Reader
  • Tips for Writers

Of these, the section about modern values was perhaps the most interesting.

Modern values

This section of the survey asked readers whether fantasy novels should reflect modern values, or adhere to a perceived “accurate” representation of how women and minorities would have been treated in a fantasy setting?

Overall, 62% of fantasy readers agreed that fantasy novels should represent modern values. Interestingly, this figure rose to 67% for men, and fell
to 58% for women.

Science fantasy readers were more open to modern values, perhaps because the scientific elements make the genre feel more modern. Steampunk readers were the least open to modern values.

When asked for further thoughts, readers were more than happy to provide their opinions!

“Social justice doesn’t have to be everywhere.”

“Fiction has the ability to influence reality; wouldn’t it be nice if someone rethought their value system based on what they read?”

“I think that fantasy books should be more about adventure than political correctness.”

“If you don’t use diversity in a fantasy novel, you’re artificially limiting yourself for no good reason.”

“I’m an old fart, I like the old ways; I’m not PC.”

“I prefer not to have to deal with sexism, racism and anti-gay themes in my fantasy. I get enough of that in the real world.”

“Representation matters.”

“Values are constantly changing. I do not agree with political correctness in stories”

And one reader said only, “Coco.” Make of that what you will.

Values meet politics

Flying dragon in stained glass style

Perhaps unsurprisingly, there was a link between attitudes towards modern values in fantasy novels and attitudes to the issues of today.

Over 90% of readers who agreed that modern values have a place in fantasy novels also agreed that racism is a serious problem in the modern world.

85% of them also believed that women did not yet enjoy gender equality.

But while those figures were not as high for readers who did not agree with modern values in fantasy novels, they were not low by any stretch. Almost 80% of these readers thought racism and gender equality were serious issues in the modern world.

And the politics of fantasy readers isn’t the same as those who don’t read fantasy books.

Fantasy readers tended to adopt more progressive positions than people who don’t read fantasy novels. For instance, fantasy readers were 15% more likely to feel that there is a long way to go to achieve equality for women.

Fantasy readers were also 10% more worried about both the political climate and about climate change.

What makes fantasy readers tick

Of course, a survey is a flawed beast at the best of times, if only because people rarely know themselves as well as they think they do.

But it was still interesting to get an insight into the way fantasy readers think, even that insight was into how they thought they think.

Who knows, perhaps I’ll do it again sometime! If you want to take part, be sure to sign up to my newsletter.


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