Wednesday, May 27, 2015
TARGET THE TRENDS - OR DON'T
There’s a lot of talk about trends in the publishing world, especially within the umbrella of speculative fiction. Harry Potter resuscitated high fantasy and kidlit. Following close on HP’s heels was the paranormal romance explosion, which spawned endless Twilight read-alikes. Then there was The Hunger Games and the all-consuming fascination with dystopian (and violent) fiction for teens. In the world of children’s literature in particular, (As a children’s book author, I admit that I am less familiar with the trends of adult literature) rumors abound of what the next “big” thing will be. Mermaids? Science fiction? Horror?
Too many writers try too hard to keep up with or get ahead of these rumored trends. They write what’s hot now, hoping to ride on the coattails of the current blockbuster. A few do succeed, though these books rarely come close to achieving the level of recognition or success of the books that inspired them. For other authors trying to catch the next trend wave, there are several flaws in this strategy.
First, what is hot today will be cold tomorrow. Trends come and go. So by the time a writer manages to complete a manuscript, thoroughly revise it, AND (if lucky) find a publisher, a year (or two, or three) will have passed, and the genre that once dominated the market will have moved aside to make room for some new bestselling trend.
Second, trends are unpredictable. Even with all those rumors flying around, it’s anybody’s guess what the next big hit will be. The top-selling titles of recent years were all surprises. How are blockbusters born? Someone writes a phenomenal book that is different than anything else on the market. They manage to land a good publishing and marketing contract (although even this is not always necessary. Consider the popularity of Wool by Hugh Howey and 50 Shades of Grey by E.L. James, which began as self-published endeavors), then lots of people read it, like it, and tell all their friends about it.
So, then how do you write the next bestseller?
Don’t write to the trends. Don’t write books that are just “like” another book. Don’t write something you are sure will be the next big hit. Doing so will, more likely than not, land your manuscript at the bottom of a lot of slush piles.
What should you do?
Write your story, whatever that is, and write it well. If you like mermaids, or vampires, or wizards. Fine. If you’d rather write a western even though no one is buying them right now, then do it. Or maybe you really like contemporary romance, which may never make you a million dollars, but that’s where your heart is. Then write it.
Some editors and agents may indeed be hunting for the next best-seller, but all of them are searching for plenty of stories that will simply sell. If you have a story to tell, no matter what the current trend may be, you need to tell it. And then leave the rest to fate. You never know.