Saturday, May 14, 2005

Trends

Trends in the market are a hot topic among writers, but mostly in the negative. Over the last couple of weeks I've seen a lot of anti-trend rumors on paranormals, for example: no one is buying them, the market is flooded, don't even go there.

There will always be people lining up to tell you what not to write. Have you noticed that?

Before I get into this, trend watching should not make you a rumor slave. Rumors are not data, they're rumors. Also, if you've written an amazing book, no matter what subject/genre/trend it is, there is an editor out there who will buy it.

Trends in genre fiction are like fashion or fads. Most enjoy short-term popularity and fade out almost as soon as they show up. Others take a couple of years to wear out. A select few will hang around for a decade or more, and those are the ones most likely to create a new sub-genre. Trends very rarely stick around or change a genre permanently.

Judging the endurance of a trend is tough. Yesterday Michelle asked me as an example "...how long will erotica or paranormal 'boom' before they 'bust'? Are they established enough now that the genres will become cyclical with both downswings and upswings?"

Erotica (or romantica, as the romance genre version is now being called) is an old, sort of homeless genre presently disguised and packaged as a trend. Writers have been writing erotica since the first cave dude drew a picture of himself and his woman rolling around the furs. Until we lose our fascination with sex (hint: never), erotica in some form or another will always be around.

The trend of what's being packaged as romantica is snowballing, and because so many publishers are requesting it, it should have a very strong presence on the shelf for at least three to four more years.

Paranormal romance, especially the vampire sub-trend, seems to be following in the footsteps of romantic suspense. Five years ago, all editors wanted to see were romantic suspense proposals, with a decided preference for trilogies. We had a dozen authors become established reads within a two-year period. Now there are so many talented romantic suspense writers in print that editors currently aren't as eager to buy them as they were even two years ago.

This is the down cycle in a trend, and it's when the rumors start, but it's not that no one will buy vampire paranormals. It's that the market demands better, stronger books than most writers can write to compete with what's already out there.

Rumors are one thing, opinions are another. I like listening to what other writers think is happening within their genre. I went over to Jim Winter's weblog to bug him about the mystery genre and he offered some thoughtful insight on why thrillers are hot and cozies are not at the moment.

13 comments:

  1. Let me give you a reader's view of trends. Unlike you, a lot of writers can't write well in all genres. When something gets hot the publishers shove nearly all writers into that slot. Then the public has to try to find their way through all the sludge to find the good ones. When the sales don't go well, the rumors start that that genre is becoming terminal. Believe me the readers find the ones they enjoy and ignore the rest.Would be nice if publishers could be infected with common sense. Let each do what they do best.

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  2. Edie wrote:

    Would be nice if publishers could be infected with common sense.

    I volunteer to be Common Sense Mary. :)

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  3. Edie--great comment! Love what you said.

    PBW--thanks for blogging this. Unlike you, I am a slow and unversatile (is that a word?) writer. I didn't pick my genre, it picked me and I can't imagine writing anything else. If the market for it goes south I am s.o.l., which is why I am anxious about trends.

    Thanks again,

    M

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  4. Mandy9:43 AM

    Whatever happened to the system of sending in your manuscript to a publishing house, having it sent to an editor in the house and then being read and decided on upon its merit???

    Just a reader who is perplexed by the mysteries of the publishing world.

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  5. PBW:

    Very interesting post and something I've been thinking a lot about lately.

    I write romantic suspense. It's what I sold last year, and it's coming out next year. Everyone was telling me that romantic suspense had peaked, but since that's where my voice is, it's not like I can just hop into another genre. I tried. It doesn't work. I'll always write some version of suspense.

    So while I am a market hound in the sense that I do listen to what's being bought, who's selling, who's buying, yada yada, I don't let that dictate what I write. And I'm glad I didn't listen to the naysayers who said the RS market was saturated. If I had, I'd never have finished my book and sold it, ending up with a three book contract.

    I think that the big NY houses are trying to broaden the RS base into more mainstream suspense -- still with the HEA that RS commands. I've been following the cover trends and the RS covers are becoming less obviously romance. "Suspense" or "fiction" is on the spine and many publishers are trying to cross-shelve RS writers in both the romance and suspense sections, though I haven't seen that particularly successful except for the mega authors in my local stores (Tess Gerritsen, yes--her older titles are in romance and her new titles are in mystery/suspense; but Suzanne Brockmann is all romance and most others who have moved more on the suspense line.)

    I might have a different opinion when my books come out. I don't know what they'll say on the spine yet, but knowing the publisher I think it'll be nothing or it'll be suspense. Whether that'll help in sales or not, I have no idea.

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  6. I follow the trends too, but I don't write to them. I'm not a fast enough writer for that. At this point, I'm trying to reconcile what I want to write with what others think I should be writing.

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  7. zornhau4:57 AM

    I'm told folowing trends is doubly problematic for the newbie because what you're seeing on the shelves is what publishers were buying 2 or 3 years ago.

    I'm with the others. I don't write fast enough to jump on a trend.

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  8. I trend-watch mainly to keep prepared for any writer-for-hire jobs that may come up, because trends are what creates those jobs. I also like seeing what goes into creating a trend, how they peak, and what kills them. It's like watching a stock perform; you can apply what you learn to a different stock in which you want to invest.

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  9. zornhau7:33 AM

    Ah, writer for hire. That would be fun. (Alas, got to earn my credentials first.)

    I don't suppose you have any tips on following the trends, other than looking on the shelves?

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  10. Zornhau wrote: I don't suppose you have any tips on following the trends, other than looking on the shelves?

    I try to pick up reliable data wherever I can get it. Hard numbers are extremely difficult to collect, not to mention verify. I watch what other authors are selling and pitching. I check what hits the bestseller lists each week and look for patterns. I recon the book stores, not only to see what's on the shelves, but how it's being marketed and whether it's moving or not. I regularly talk to other writers, indy booksellers and dedicated genre readers to get their take on the state of the industry.

    I tend not to put a lot of weight in what the industry subscriber services predict. They're too easily led by the nose and otherwise manipulated. Your milage may vary.

    William C. Robinson put together a current awareness page here that I thought was interesting, and could easily be applied to trend-watching.

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  11. zornhau10:16 AM

    Thanks for sharing!

    I suspect I need to practice trendspotting now so I can do it in earnest if required.

    (I'm glad you turned your comments on, btw)

    Z

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  12. So as a new writer who writes what comes to mind and not what is popular should I worry about trends? I probably wouldn't be able to follow them anyway. I would just have to be lucky enough to get a book out that fit in at the time.

    I wonder mostly because I am about to submit my first book, and I wonder how much harder it will be for the promotion if it isn't in the current trend? Granted, I don't even have a pub date yet, so it might not even be an issue later.

    Thanks,
    Phoenix

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  13. What an informational blog I've landed on. I am currently preparing my first query letter and proposal package for my romantic suspense novel.
    If you know my name in a few years,then the RS genre must not be lagging! -Suza Kates

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