Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Those Blasted Trends

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.

12 comments:

  1. Thanks for the reminder and the great advice! The best thing we can do is be aware, but write what we want to and have fun doing ti!

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  2. 2nd to last and 3rd to last paragraphs FTW!!!

    Fantastic post, Natalie. As usual. :P

    And oh hey, I used the phrase "rinse and repeat" in my last post too! We're starting a trend!

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  3. Yeah trends matter...I don't follow them though at least as a reader, LOL. I tend to go for the historicals--always have. Not such a huge fan of contemporary but I will read one if the plot sounds interesting. Like you said, the best thing we do is be aware of the trends and write the best book we can, whether it's trendy or not. Who knows--you could always be the one to start a new trend!

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  4. I like this post Natalie. I tend to worry about trends for the opposite reason. I love paranormal romance. I can't help it I just do. Since that's my primary reading stack, it only makes sense that I write it too. But the market is so full of it... It makes me nervous, but I love paranormal romance. And I get these crazy ideas that must come out sometime, so while I'm not opposed to writing something else, I don't think I can ever stop writing paranormal romances.

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  5. Beth, I so get what you mean! But I really don't think paranormal romance is going anywhere, so don't worry. Everything goes in cycles.

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  6. I've never been much of a trendy person anyway, to I don't worry about tapping in to one. If it happens, great. If not, I don't worry about it!

    Great post.

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  7. Yea, well...since it takes me so long to write a book, I'd say for me following trends is definitely out.

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  9. I agree with trends too. I remember wanting to start a dystopian fantasy a while ago and now since it's the "big thing" I have to hurry up and write it. But you're right when you say that by the time the book is ready for submission, it might not even be relevant anymore.

    I think the ultimate trend though is just a good story that just sucks you in and doesn't let you go.

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  10. We simply can't see into the future — which is why books about people who can are terribly exciting.

    You just have to go with the stuff that most excites you in the present, without trying to gook it around too much.

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  11. I can`t remember who but I read an author`s blog and she said the first book she sold was her 7th, then her 3rd, then her first. Just because somethiing`s not trending now, doesn`t mean it won`t be again. Literarure like fashion is kinda cyclical...

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  12. My WIP features vampires -- I already know that to write in such a saturated fantasy market invites both a lot of intrigue and conversely, a lot of eye rolling.

    I agree that trends do matter, at least to the publisher, but it's certainly nothing the author should worry about.

    Think about it: the process of writing your manuscript, acquiring an agent and publisher, having the publisher set a release date, and so forth, can take years. There's no real way to determine whether what you're writing at the moment will be "hot" when it comes out.

    Best not to worry about it, since you can't change a damned thing about it :)

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