Monday, May 15, 2017

Finding Trends - Keeping Up With The Times

Editors and agents hate being asked the question of what seems to be the latest trend in publishing. We always end up saying, "If we knew that answer, we could predict the future." Still trends do happen in publishing and it is important that authors pay attention to those trends. Their writing has to adjust to the trends that are out there, or, they will find that their writing may flat-line. Your writing will end up looking like someone in the present day wearing a leisure suit.

When we talk about trends, we are talking about it on two different levels. The first would be the plots of the stories. The second would be the voice of the story. Let's talk about each.

The plots of the stories do change over time. Yes, I understand this is an obvious, no duh type of statement, but, it is a reality. What we are talking about here are what storylines work and do well and what plots are just not going to sell. There will be times when specific stories sell like hotcakes and then the next year, even marketing that story will result in more rejections letters than you can image.

Consider in the early 2000's the meteoric rise of the "chick lit" genre. Editors and agents were clamoring all over each other to get a piece of that pie. We saw paranormal writers jumping from the dark side to even creating vampires with an amazing sense of humor.

And then it stopped.

If you were to even breathe the word chick lit, those same editors and agents ran screaming.

We saw this in paranormals. Vampires and werewolves were hot. And then not.

In historicals, western's were really great stories, and then the tide shifted to these stories having a limited market.

Now please, do not get me wrong. There are still a few authors out there that can hold on, but for these authors, it is because of their following, not necessarily because of the general market.

So, as an author, what do you do? You adjust your writing. You find a way to tweak what you are doing and move it closer to the current market trends. No, you don't have to give up what you are doing, but you will need to adjust.

The second trend that we see is that of voice and style. Here too, you will see a lot of small changes. Sometimes the voice will shift to a high level, literary fiction level, and then it shifts to something much lighter and really the summer read.

But there is also another level. This is simply the style and the voice of the time. Topics, attitudes, word choice, etc. All of these go through huge transformations, and it is up to the author to make those shifts.

I see this a lot with authors who were published earlier and then took a hiatus from writing. Now that the kids are out of the house and they have time, they are returning to their writing. Unfortunately, too many of these authors may have moved into the future, but their voice is still that of a decade or two earlier. If you don't believe me on this, go back and find some of those old romance novels from the 80's and even the 90's. Not something like you would read today, that is for sure.

Again, as an author, you have to adjust with the times if you want to sell.

Now I know that some of you are saying that this is selling out to the establishment. You don't want to write what others are telling you to write. You want to write "Your story." Let me just say, no one is telling you to give up your own voice. This is just an issue of editors and agents wanting you to write a book that will sell. Remember, when your book sells, EVERYONE wins.

Keep your writing, just remember to adjust to the time. Unless you want to look like that person in that wonderful polyester leisure suit!

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