Nathan Bransford, Author

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Summer Rerun: Trendspotting

This week I'm mining the archives while the blog is on hiatus. I'll be back on July 23rd with query stats.

February 20, 2007:

One of the most popular pasttimes at Writer's Conferences (besides the free alcohol) 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.


Other Lisa said...

Great post. You see this a lot in films/TV (anybody need a spare torture movie?).

Conversely, I'll always remember the reaction to X-Files when it was previewed - basically "this has got to be a prime contender for dog of the season" - no one expected it to run more than a couple of episodes.

KingM said...

On the other hand, if you've already got an agent and he tells you, "Hey, monkey stories are hot right now," and you're a fast writer, you might be able to have a monkey novel to submit in three months. Your publisher could fast-track your publication and you could ride the wave.

Someone must be doing this, because every time there's a new trend, a bunch of other books come out within a couple of months that do the same thing. Some of them are obvious piggybacks on the original story.

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