That's right, I'm talking about the T-word today. Oh, trends. What's the current one? What's the next one? The one after that? What should be the trend? Why aren't the trends more this or that and are people crazy?
Forgive my eye roll, but yeah, I pretty much revert to my resist-all-things-trendy teenage-self when I start thinking about trends. I try very hard to write different books, to explore things I haven't seen much, to write about what I love.
I'm doing the right thing, yes? That's what writers are supposed to do (I'm told), and I'm not about to change it because I honestly love what I write. I do want to share my take on stories. And yet...trends still tug at me.
There is no denying that most everyone will tell you—don't write to trends. What's in now might not be in when your book is ready. Or the market might get over-saturated and you'll have tough competition. Or your book will just blend in with everything else out there and never make an impact. Basically, trends don't really matter! Chill out!
I partially agree with this, but I've learned a bit this year about the truth of trends:
They DO matter, BUT there's absolutely nothing you can do about it.
Publishers want books that will sell. It is a known fact that when people finish a book they love, they will likely look for similar books. So if 4 million people read a certain book and are desperate for more, you better bet publishers will be looking for what those 4 million people want next! It's good business. People read in moods—I know I do. I went through a HUGE paranormal binge, then fell in love with contemporary, and now I'm in this fantasy/sci-fi kick and kind of craving a historical, too. But then I'm also starting to miss paranormal, so I'll likely cycle back.
When the big seller on the shelf is a post-apoc/dystopian, you better bet editors will be keeping their eyes out for something else like that, but a little different. Readers will want it, plain and simple. And while publishers are certainly in the business of publishing Good Books, they are also in the business of, well, making money. So if the book happens to be post-apoc/dystopian AND good? Yeah, it will likely win out over the epic fantasy AND good.
Sure, this kind of sucks. But it's not personal and not in your control, really. Either you get lucky and fit enough within a trend that things work out, or you get lucky and find an editor who wants to take a risk against the trend. Notice luck is a factor in both scenarios.
What can you do? Well, you can write a great book and hope you hit a trend. It might sell really fast. You can also write a great book and prepare yourself for the fact that it won't hit the trend. It might be a harder sell. It might not sell at all. Notice writing a great book is a factor in both scenarios.
A book dying in submission happens—a lot. I think we forget how often it happens. We also forget that it is not a reflection of our talents for the most part; it is simply an issue of a market with only so many slots. That's why you keep going forward, because it'll work out. The market is constantly changing, and if you keep trying you're bound to hit the mark sometime.
To sum up: Trends do matter, but they are so out of a writer's control that it does no good chasing them. I think that's why they're so stressful to think about. I also think that's why we like to think about them so much—we can blame the trend if the worst comes. Heck, I've done it. In the end all you can really do is write a fantastic book and hope for the best. Then write another fantastic one if that doesn't work out. Rinse and repeat.