Nathan Bransford, Author

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


One of the most popular pasttimes at Writer's Conferences is discussing the latest trends in publishing. People want to know what genres are hot, what's not, and who should be arrested by the book police. Of course we agents answer the question dutifully -- we do, after all, want to appear like we know what in the heck we're doing. But here's the thing about "what's hot/what's not" trends in the publishing industry: they're kind of pointless to worry about.

Let's say, for instance, that today you looked at Publisher's Marketplace and saw that lots of books have been sold about monkeys. Monkey fiction, monkey nonfiction, monkey memoir and, of course, monkey romance. You go to a Writer's Conference and hear an agent say, "I'm looking for historical fiction, narrative nonfiction.. oh, and monkeys are really hot at the moment, so if you have a great monkey book come talk to me." You think to yourself, "Hey! I should write a book about monkeys!"

So you sit down to write the book and a year later you have a finished monkey manuscript. Then you try and find an agent, and that takes six months. Then your agent sends around your monkey manuscript to publishers, and that takes another couple of months. Your book comes out a year later. That's THREE YEARS from when you first heard monkeys are hot. Three years for people to get really really tired of monkeys. And, wouldn't you know it, by the time your book comes out monkeys are like so totally over and everyone wants books about jackrabbits.

If you try and write your book according to trends you're playing a risky game. It could be that the industry has moved on to the next thing by the time you've even completed your manuscript. So don't worry about the fads and don't follow the trends. You know certain genres are going to be around for a while -- science fiction as a whole isn't going anywhere, spies and thrillers are going to be around, fantasy will be around. Within those genres though, and when you're choosing plots and characters, don't take your cue from the hot new thing of the moment. Be original, write what you love. Who knows, maybe you'll have the book that starts the next new trend. A monkey trend.


sex scenes at starbucks said...

So. Are you serious about that whole monkey thing, or was that just an example?


I've seen others express these thoughts, and it made sense. Now I've seen you monkey with it, and it still made sense but was amusing to boot. Have a banana.

Nathan Bransford said...


To my knowledge there is not an actual monkey trend going on in publishing, no.

Anonymous said...

Yay, Nathan. Great post, and very true.
Someone always breaks out of the pack with something completely different, and then all the derivs follow.
The longest and most awful, boring "trend" was the late '90's category brides/cowboys/babies books. Surplanted by chick lit and pink covers, which is now morphing into something more sophisticated.
Me, I just try to write the best book I can. It takes talent, work, timing and luck to sell that first book.


Annalee said...

Hi Nathan. This is my first comment here, but I've been reading for several weeks. So first of all: thanks. The blog rocks.

Second: I think I've got the opposite problem in regard to trends. My current WiP has airships in it, and suddenly it seems like they're all over fantasy. I'm afraid that by the time I'm ready to submit, everyone will be like 'dude, airships? that's so last winter.'

On a sane and rational level, I know that I'm just being neurotic and that I should write the story and not freak out about things I can't control. But we all know that writers are neither sane nor rational, so every time I see a post like this (from you, or from Miss Snark, or over on Absolute Write, etc), I freak out and start wondering if there's a way for me to get rid of my airships.

But that'd mean pretty much nurfing my whole world and starting from scratch, and at that point I might as well go write something else. So I keep trying to hit myself with a clue-by-four and get back to work, but for some reason it's not working.

Wow, this got long. My apologies.

Nathan Bransford said...


Thanks so much for posting. Don't sweat the airships. But if you're still having Hindenburg nightmares (which of course are really just displaced fears about the airship trend), you could always invent a new way for your characters to get around. And then a couple of years from now you'll be inspiring a new wave of anxiety among people working on their novel, who start having nightmares about magic carpets (or whatever else it is you choose).

But seriously though, I really can't imagine an editor is going to read your work and go, "You know, this is perfect... except for the airships." So don't worry.

Annalee said...

But seriously though, I really can't imagine an editor is going to read your work and go, "You know, this is perfect... except for the airships." So don't worry.

Yeah, that's what I keep telling myself. I figure I'd be in much bigger trouble if it was something to do with my plot instead of just a wicked cool way for people to get around (I've had a thing for airships since I learned that joke about the hindenburg in third grade, and all my teachers thought it was funny that a third grader knew what the hindenburg was). So as long as no one catches on to my totally awesome plot about an influential religious organization sending an albino assassin to go defend its secrets*, I should be safe.

Unless I suck. But if that's the case, a lack of airships probably won't help.


BuffySquirrel said...

I have airships too.

sex scenes at starbucks said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
sex scenes at starbucks said...

Darn. I was really hoping for the monkeys. They're so cute and mischevious. :)

Don said...

Oh man, I've got a great monkey novel finished right now too...

Roxan said...

I'm glad to hear there is no monkey trend. I hate monkeys. LOL
I believe it is possible to have a genre novel that does not follow the crowd. Not all fantasy has to take place in medieval times or have orcs, ogres and dragons. Not all witches have to fly brooms.
I set my fantasy novel in modern times and there's not a single sword fight in the entire novel.

David said...

Good Heavens, you forgot to include Hot Monkey Love in your list!

I actually published a book a couple of years ago that had hot monkey love in it. I think I was ahead of my time. Or behind.

Annalisa said...

Annalee, love the name!

I agree with Red Stick Writer--the monkey thing made Nathan's words of wisdom funny as well as valuable. Monkey romance, that's kind of an icky thought!

Call me naive, but I'm always surprised how many people and companies get away with following the trends so closely. I couldn't believe that The Da Vinci Code had so taken the world by storm that customers were truly craving tons of rebuttal books, nonfiction books, and apparently (only judging by the cover) similar fiction stories about some Da Vinci secret. That's not just monkeys, it's a highly specific event/movement/conspiracy/historical ficture. It still amazes me.

A Paperback Writer said...

Well, political cartoonist Pat Bagley has published three very amusing political satires that are parodies of Curious George. I believe he calls it the Clueless George series. Perhaps this would count as a monkey trend.... about monkey business in the government.
Ah, this comment will probably get censored. Oh well. Sorry.

Ozal said...

Oh dear.

My fantasy WIP has monkeys, but no airships. No ogres, orcs or dragons, either.

I didn't set out to ignore all existing trends and start the monkey thing, honest!

(No broomsticks. Not even a lost talisman. And before this work? I was writing an Contemporary Urban Fantasy... set in the forest. I kid you not.)

Gerri said...

The best example I can think of for setting your own trend is Tamara Siler Jones. She created her own sub-genre of forensic fantasy at the perfect time to go with TV trends such as CSI and Crossing Jordan. Amazing, amazing stuff.

December Quinn said...

This is the kind of post that makes me want to curl up in a ball and cry.

What if what you love to write is what's suddenly hot? And you think, but I've been working on this for ages, just trying to get my foot in the door, and now that I know what I'm doing everybody is doing it and there will be no room for me...?

PattiTheWicked said...

Thanks, Nathan. Thank goodness MSWord has that handy "find and replace" feature. All my monkeys are now jackrabbits.

Demon Hunter said...

I never did like trends. I ended up writing what is considered a dark urban fantasy. I called it horror fantasy, but was told it was the same thing. I hate labels, and people can label my work if they must. I just want to write well and don't care about the category.


Since Nathan got a banana for his humor, Pattithewicked is at least deserving of a carrot for her jackrabbit comment.

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