THE LORD OF THE RINGS is a classic. It’s the series that revived fantasy and gave the genre a place on the shelf and a slice of the market. I love LotR and wrote and read my share of fanfiction.
But LotR isn’t good. It’s not good writing, nor the best storytelling has to offer. Plenty of folks can’t survive reading it cover to cover.
It’ll always be classic. But if it debuted today, it wouldn’t sell.
Many beginning fantasy authors write LotR retellings. They don’t call them that, of course. When I state in my rejection, “it reminded me a little too much of Tolkien,” I can get heated replies.
I read fantasy for a living. It’s clear when I read the first page these authors haven’t read much else in the genre. All ideas are recycled. The prose is as stale as a history textbook with stiff dialogue — much like LotR.
The characters have no personhood or truthful motivation to them. Like Aragorn, who’s a hero because it’s who he is. Or Sauron, who wants to turn the world dark and ugly because that’s what evil, all-powerful tyrants do. Tolkien’s characters were each monoliths to a character trait or universal arc. It’s beautiful, but not repeatable.
The solution to this problem is simple: read more. Read broadly. Read both YA and adult. Read recent fantasy: they show where the market is. Read diverse authors. Then you’ll see which tropes to avoid and which to play with.