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(ALSO SEE: Part 2: What Editors are asking for! )

Everyone in publishing likes to talk about trends, it seems. Its one of those things that comes up constantly in tweet chats, conferences, phone calls, PW articles, etc.
What's hot? What's not?  How can I capitalize on that?

Here's the problem:
A) The next big thing never looks like the last big thing, so you'll never be able to predict it
B) As a writer, by the time you hear about a trend, its too late to jump on the bandwagon if its not already written.

Case in point: About the time PERCY JACKSON went gangbusters, the slush pile went crazy with greek retellings. And when HUSH, HUSH debuted big time, everyone wanted to write about angels.

But those books were written and sold years ago, long before you ever heard of them. If you see something is hot and you want to write it, let's say it takes you three months to write and polish it, and a few months to find an agent. You're already six months behind. Then your agent will work with you on revisions and sell the novel, which may take another 3-4 months. Now you're 9-10 months after the BIG TRENDY BOOK. Next, it'll take an average of 12-18 months for your book to hit shelves.

That trend you were chasing? Ended two years ago.

I see queries on a daily basis, apologizing for not being trendy, or warning me, "I"m sorry, but this isn't a paranormal."

Your book does NOT have to be trendy to stand out, and chances are what YOU think is trendy is based on books you see on shelves today, not based on the big deals that have been made in the last month or two.

NOW, there's also the flipside to this problem: You already wrote  a novel you love and adore and believe in, and you  jsut found out about three major deals with various houses that feature a simliar creature, time period, plot element, etc, and now you worry it's too late.

At the end of the day, good writing almost always rises to the top, and if you believe in your work, then why  not battle against the odds? Sure, it might narrow your chances a little bit becuase if RandomHouse just shelled out mid-six figures for an epic adventure with flying purple dinosaurs and you wrote something with flying purple dinosaurs, they may pass on your project at the pitch level. It's simple business-- they cant have two products competing with themselves and the same marketing dollars/catalog space/etc. But it doesn't mean that Harper isn't looking for THEIR flying purple dinosaur. So keep your head up and hope your writing stands on its own. Publishing is all about taking chancese and beating the odds, so does it really make a difference if one more card is stacked against you? You're a kickass writer, right? You'll rise above.

Here's my thought on trends: Be Aware of them, and take them into account when possible. Like, if you have three ideas in your head battling to be written, maybe don't write the vampire/angel one, not if you have something else fresh and new  you're just as excited about.

But after you're aware of the trends and you take them into account, write the book that begs to be written. Writing for the market is a mistake, if you're doing it just becuase you want some easy path. It's not the topic that sells us, it's the writing, and if you dont love it and if it doesn't have everything that makes up a good book, chances are it wont survive in the slush pile, or on subs to editors.

SO, all that said, I know you all want to know my thoughts on what the current trends actually ARE, and what I'm seeing a lot of in the slush.

Here goes:

Paranormal in general:  Makes up a huge chunk of my slush. Between paranormal and all the categories of fantasy, it makes up probably 60-70% of the slush pile. BUT, on the flip side, publishers are still buying this. As long as the writing is stellar and the story is  fresh.

Vampires: This market is saturated, saturated, saturated. I still see that occasional sale in PM, but there MUST be a new and original twist. I've heard about a new book called "Fat Vampire" about a chubby boy who becomes a vampire and realizes he's going to spend all of eternity pale and fat. Not exactly TWILIGHT, right? If your story is Twilight 2.0, go back and figure out how to give it a new twist we haven't seen 54 times.

Angels: One of the most common things in the slush. And again, you need to stand out. Find your angle and give us something new.

Werewolves: Keeping pace with vampires and angels. I think there could be room for more werewolves becuase there's still a lot of room for new and different directions. I've seen a couple that I actually requested becuase they did manage to feel new and exciting.

Dystopians: PW did a big article on the rise of dystopians. I think there's plenty of room for them (I chatted with an editor just yesterday who said they'd be open) but its ALL about the world building in a dystopian. We need to feel like we could wake up in your dystopian society-- that it's alive and breathing and well developed. Voice-driven books do really well in the dystopian market too, a la THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH.

Mean Girl fiction: Titles like GOSSIP GIRL, THE A-LIST, THE CLIQUE, etc, have kind of run their course. They're still selling to consumers, certainly, but they have the name and marketing behind them already. It might be hard to break out with a mean girl/boarding school novel without some extra layers ot the story.

Possible Holes in the market: 

Realistic Romance: There is simply  NOT ENOUGH of this for my tastes. Where are they? Historicals can be tough to sell (major retail like Target or Walmart are reluctant to pick them up) but I love them so much I don't care, so I'm open to contemporary OR historical. A HUGE breakout last year was PERFECT CHEMISTRY by Simone Elkeles, and I think that's going to open the eyes of some publishers in wanting to follow that lead.

Middle Grade: The middle grade market is pretty wide-open. Editors are hungry to fill their MG lists, because the focus has really been YA heavy in the last couple of years, and they're seekin to balance that out.  Just make sure, again, not to be too derivative-- no orphan wizards, people.

Literary with a hook: Everyone is looking for their own Jay Asher-- a literary novel with a hook. A hook can be used by marketing and sales staff to get people excited about a book, and the really good, literary writing can win awards and propel word of mouth.


( 46 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 5th, 2010 03:46 pm (UTC)
Great post - thanks for giving us your take on all of this!

I hope you're right about the possible holes. My YA coming out next year is straight up realistic romance.

And I'm focusing on MG stories for the rest of the year because I also think there is lots of room there!!
May. 5th, 2010 04:35 pm (UTC)
what do you think about teens in the first year of college?
May. 5th, 2010 04:56 pm (UTC)
I actually did a whole post on that here: http://mandyhubbard.livejournal.com/218600.html

But basically, its really, really hard. If you want it to be college, you better have a really good reason for it. Publishers dont like to buy books set in college for the YA market, and supposedly consumers actually buy fewer copies, too. It's just a tough spot.
May. 5th, 2010 05:05 pm (UTC)
It's funny, because as a librarian, I see that as hole in trends - something that junior/seniors in high school would read, while still in the YA realm and not jumping to adult fiction yet.
May. 5th, 2010 05:16 pm (UTC)
Yeah, it does SEEM like a hole there, but then a publisher takes a chance on one and puts it out there.... and it doesn't do well. So the teens aren't picking them up like we think they will.

*shrug*. I guess its just that there are plenty of adult books set in college that have YA crossover (Prep, SECRET SOCIETY GIRL, etc.)
May. 5th, 2010 04:56 pm (UTC)
and if you meant more in terms of whether its a trend-- I keep geting queries for "new adult" books, which really is NOT YA. They are adult books that may be marketed by one publisher as new adult....but they aren't YA books, and I dont sell them.
May. 12th, 2010 01:47 am (UTC)
I want to read that. Diana Peterfreund's SECRET SOCIETY GIRL is one of the best series I've ever read, and it fits in that genre, though for some reason it's put in the adult section of libraries and book stores.
May. 5th, 2010 04:39 pm (UTC)
I love this post. Thanks for sharing the holes and what's getting old. Personally I'm tired of vampires, and I actually love them :/

And I could go for some realistic romance, too. :)
May. 5th, 2010 05:05 pm (UTC)
re: Middle Grade
Great post, Mandy. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Quick question...when you say MG is open do you mean the entire spectrum of MG? ie: lower/chapter books up to upper level/Tween books.

I ask because I don't see much new coming out on the lower ends of MG. I do see lots of "tween" which are really the sweet YA's (like the old Dorchester Smooch line).

What is your opinion?
May. 5th, 2010 05:18 pm (UTC)
Re: Middle Grade
What I'm hearing from publishers is they're looking for a broad range of MG-- the whole spectrum.

Personally, though, I tend to focus on the middle and upper MG. I've sort of grown into the MG from YA, so it might eventually transition even lower, but for now I focus more on the older, tween kind of stuff.
May. 5th, 2010 05:38 pm (UTC)
Re: Middle Grade
Thanks for the answer, Mandy!

May. 5th, 2010 05:37 pm (UTC)
Glad I bounced over via "Twitter" Great info here. Thanks, Mandy!
May. 5th, 2010 06:22 pm (UTC)
I'm always frustrated by people chasing trends. I'll never jump on a trend. Just can't do it. I write what I write when I write it. Then again, I'm still unpublished!
May. 5th, 2010 07:33 pm (UTC)
So are the legions of trend-chasers in the slush pile. :-)

Stick with it! Writing the books that call you be written is the first step, and you're already doing that. :-)
May. 5th, 2010 06:55 pm (UTC)
Great blog. I'd like to see some new flips, too, just for the sake of NEW. Heck, someone should write about a world full of vamps where the normals are the paranormal...lol.

May. 5th, 2010 07:33 pm (UTC)
Re: Oye
I'm not sure if it was ever a book, but there's a movie about that coming soon-- Vampires dominate the world, and the only humans left are kept in warehouses where they are farmed for blood...... I was like HOLY CRAP because I was so impressed that someone had a new take on vamps!
May. 6th, 2010 01:36 am (UTC)
Re: Oye
Kind of sounds like the Showtime series, True Blood. I'm so sick of trying to figure out trends. One editor's trend is another editor's circular basket file. Everything is so subjective (and as you get more involved in the publishing industry, you will learn to HATE the word *subjective*.)
May. 12th, 2010 11:01 am (UTC)
Re: Oye
It was called Daybreakers and it was really good! I was really impressed with the unique concept.

Great post!

May. 5th, 2010 11:10 pm (UTC)
I don't really see why the college scene is difficult - I would love to read MORE books with college aged protagonists. It doesn't neccesarily have to be centred around college though. I am someone who loves YA but likes crossover YA as I'm a bit beyond my teens now. There is definitely a gap in the market to cater for people like myself - an older audience who fell in love with the likes of Twilight, Shiver, Vampire Academy etc.
May. 6th, 2010 12:12 am (UTC)
The thing is, those books ARE there. It's just no one has figured out how to market them, and they seem to just do better in adult markets. Try rachel vincent's werecat series (I think the first is STRAY? blanking...) she has teen characters but its an adult book.
May. 5th, 2010 11:29 pm (UTC)
Did you see the vamp book coming up where some nerdy kid becomes popular at his school b/c girls think he's a vamp? Pretty clever take on a tired genre.

Plus, the Paranormalcy book coming out seems exciting, and it has vamps.
May. 6th, 2010 02:48 am (UTC)
I did! I almost added that to this post while writing it, but wasn't sure of the title/publisher.

Paranormalcy just fits the "cool, fresh concept" thing.
May. 6th, 2010 12:24 am (UTC)
Thanks for this Mandy! Great info.
May. 6th, 2010 12:28 am (UTC)
Hey! A purple dinosaur that flies. Named Barney... and he sings to little kids... then eats them.

Anyway... nice post. Thanks.
May. 6th, 2010 01:43 am (UTC)
Here's a funny take on Nicholas Sparks books
They aren't YA, but he definitely has a formula and has tired out this "trend," yet he still does really well. Go figure.


May. 6th, 2010 02:47 am (UTC)
Re: Here's a funny take on Nicholas Sparks books
well, it's really not a trend. It's his brand. Big difference.
May. 6th, 2010 02:35 am (UTC)
Great Post, Mandy. I tried to write realistic romance, but inevitably some ghost shows up. Can't be helped sometimes. :)
May. 6th, 2010 03:11 pm (UTC)
Thanks for writing this.

Of late, I've been asked a lot about how to break into the angel-vampire-werewolf mix, and what nobody seems to fathom is that I started working on these books in 2002. And at the time, I was really wanting to say something, to make a contribution to the Gothic tradition/themes.

In fact, I distinctly remember looking around and hoping that a publisher would take a chance on a book about monsters for teenagers.
May. 8th, 2010 03:01 pm (UTC)
Such a great post, Mandy! And really smart. I am so in love with realistic romance that I'm glad to see you think it's opening up.
May. 12th, 2010 01:39 am (UTC)
So tell me more about this flying purple dinosaur book. When will there be ARCs?
May. 12th, 2010 01:45 am (UTC)
I hope all the trends you list that currently saturate the market die soon. I hate every bit of that stuff. I'm tired of all the black and moody covers in the bookstore!
May. 12th, 2010 02:02 am (UTC)
Thanks for the post! I'm glad to hear that editors are still interested in dystopian literature. I started writing one because it's what I love and it was the idea that I couldn't shake, and suddenly they exploded and I realized I might have to shelf it if I was too trendy. But, like you said, if the writing is strong enough and the take is fresh, I'll still manage to stand out. And if not, then there's always the next book...and the next one ;)
May. 12th, 2010 03:02 am (UTC)
Sometimes it feels pretty lonely writing books that are straight-up contemporary.

I don't think I could write a sparkly vampire if I tried!
May. 12th, 2010 03:52 am (UTC)
Well, I'm not chasing a trend: No mean-girl vampires in love with werewolf angels in the dystopian future for me. On the other hand, would I know I had written "literary with a hook" if it was lighting up my screen at this very moment? Nope. I'm not that astute. I have no idea how a person builds that kind of animal.
May. 12th, 2010 05:13 am (UTC)
Great post Mandy! I didn't see zombies on your list, which I'm happy about. I've seen conflicting reports on other lists about too many zombies or not enough.

Interesting take on the other subjects, and I know someone that has a realistic romance. It's good, too. Will have to point her over to this post.
May. 12th, 2010 03:41 pm (UTC)
You know, I just dont see as many zombies as anything else. I think they're going to maintain their own niche without exploding all over the place. I could be wrong, though.

May. 12th, 2010 03:55 pm (UTC)
I hope you're right, Mandy. Thanks for sharing that info!
May. 12th, 2010 10:22 am (UTC)
This is such a great and interesting post Mandy. Thanks for sharing. What are your thoughts on multi-cultural stuff- both in fantasy and historical? That's pretty much all I write. :-)
May. 12th, 2010 03:42 pm (UTC)
Editors LOVE multi-cultural! I've got tons on my list asking for that stuff.

Personally, I go for stories with multi-cultural characters, but not stories that are ABOUT a person discovering/learning about their culture.

In other words, I like diverse characters in a story in which the culture is not THE story.
May. 12th, 2010 11:09 pm (UTC)
Great to know. Thanks again.
May. 12th, 2010 11:49 pm (UTC)
Wonderful post. Thanks so much, Mandy!

Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse
May. 13th, 2010 05:01 pm (UTC)
I hope editors want realistic romance YA, but my months and months on sub with one aren't looking promising for it. Blockbuster potential series seem to be what's getting snatched up.
May. 13th, 2010 05:04 pm (UTC)
Well, sure. We're kidding ourselves if we think "blockbuster potential" aren't two words that make editors salivate.

But there are lots of editors out there who take chances on things that are just plain well written and have potential to break out because of word of mouth.
May. 13th, 2010 05:22 pm (UTC)
You just made my "to query first" list with this, Mandy.

Sorry! ;-)

Why we don't get more great info like this from more agents/editors is beyond me.
May. 15th, 2010 02:15 pm (UTC)
What about YA suspense, YA romantic suspense, and YA thrillers? Is there any demand for them
Jul. 20th, 2010 10:43 pm (UTC)
chasing trends
Thanks so much for all the cool things you blog and tweet about, all the information has been extremely helpful. I am polishing my novel and will soon start my query process again. I sent out some pretty crappy query letters in my first round and have worked hard to make the next round excellent and desirable. If my book is a literary novel with a hook is it a good idea to include (using those words) in the query?

Thanks so much in advance, I think you’re pretty cool.
( 46 comments — Leave a comment )
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