Monday, August 3, 2015

Time Sensitive Material May Hurt Your Books Marketability

So, you are sitting around one day and you have this great idea for a story. There is a hot new trend going on around you. Everyone is "in" on it and you are now thinking, "Hey, why not write a story based on that idea?" You might have heard a common phrase used over and over again so now you incorporate that phrase into your characters speech pattern. While this seems like a great idea, it might not be the best approach to take when it comes to your writing.

We are all told to stay ahead of those trends. Get on that wave just as it takes off and ride it for as long as it takes. While many of these "fads" do end up becoming trends, many more often die off within a short period of time. Incorporating those ideas into your book can really date it and could potentially hurt the marketability both now or in the long run.

Let's assume, you did get that book sold to an editor. Because the trend is going well, the book may just take off. You have a career and maybe you are thinking of building part of a brand around this new approach. But when that trend disappears, the readers out there will not be flocking to that book. They will be hoping you have something new, something a little "more current." As for that book that did so well, the odds are it will disappear into obscurity. Don't expect a lot in "back list" sales either.

Yes, I understand that book did well right there and then. Heck, you might have made a lot of money off of that one book, but this industry is about longevity. We want that book to keep on selling. We want people talking about that writing 5 years or longer.

I should note, I am not just talking about entire plots built around these trends. We are also talking about those little nuggets you toss into the story that might date it. I was recently reading a contemporary and was wondering why the book kept getting on my nerves. The problem was the phrasing. This author had the teenage character obsessing over "hash-tag" comments. Every time I turned a page, there was another "hash tag - this" or "hash tag - that". For me that ranks up there with the line I hear people using FAR TOO OFTEN...

"I know, right??"

That same limits to your marketability can also come from stories set around holidays. Think of those stories that come out at Christmas time. You have to understand that publishers have limited shelf space. This means that we are talking supply and demand. There are just so many Christmas stories that the market can handle. And that limited shelf space is not due to "the rise of e-books" but the simple fact that book stores have closed and the stores we used to buy books at are now filling the space with "as seen on TV" like items (but that is another story).

Think about, however, the stories that you have read over and over again. Although we know those stories were written in a particular time period, the author has focused his or her attention on the plot of the story and on the narrative. The author has also, painstakingly, kept those time markers to a minimum. By doing so, the book has remained, at some level, "timeless."

So, as you get ready to add that new "hot trend" stop and think about it first. Will this limit you with sales now or in the future?

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