Writer Wednesdays #3: Trends
Hello my fellow wordsmiths, it’s another Writer Wednesday and today we are going to scratch the surface of Trends. As you wade further into the publishing world, you will often hear the word ‘trends’ bantered about, but what exactly does ‘trends’ mean in regards to the wide, wacky, world of writing?
Trends can refer to the market side, which genres, tropes, etc, are selling faster than couture cupcakes. Or they can refer to the industry side, which is following the shifts in the massive entity that is publishing and how those shifts ripple down to the individual author. It is not a bad thing to keep an eye on trends and how the industry is changing. Knowing how and what direction publishing is moving can help you make marketing decisions and give you a starting ground to bounce ideas from, but be careful not to let trends dictate how you proceed.
The Trends of Industry
Following industry trends does give a wallop of insight to the current mindset of industry professionals, however, trends are also predictions and are susceptible to world events. In the resource links below is a link to the top 10 trends predicted for 2020, an article that was released in January, before the bookworld and the world at large were well and truly sucker punched by Covid-19. We have yet to see the full impact on the industry after months of quarantine and consumer financial instability, but keep in mind and take to heart that no matter what shape the industry is in after this world event has passed, there is still a need for stories. Some of the trends predicted in the article may prove true to form, possibly because of current events, such as the rise of audio books, the growth of the e-book market, and big houses turning to KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing). Publishing feels like a microcosm, but it is definitely impacted, heavily, by the world at large. Take trends in stride.
Write to Trend- The Bear Trap
We often hear about ‘writing to trend’ as a cautionary tale. To be honest, it’s a bit of a bear trap. To clarify, writing to trend is not the same as writing to market.
Why is writing to trend an iffy venture?
Trends Change- This is a given. The very nature of trends means they rise and fall, and considering the time it takes for a trend to gain enough steam to be considered a trend, they are often on the decline as soon as they make a noteworthy splash. If they do last longer than a season, you see the next pitfall.
Market Saturation- If a trend has staying power, markets saturate quickly. To cite a well known example, think back to when a certain infamous sparkling vampire appeared on the YA scene and the surge of paranormal Twilight-esque YA that flooded the market in what seemed like months. Between the series and film franchise, Twilight proved its staying power. The result was mass market overload in the YA paranormal genre to chase that success, everything from Twilight with fairies to Twilight with aliens. Even novels published today with similar tropes are often held up in comparison to Twilight, though some recent novels purposefully play off it.
The Time Sink- Publishing takes massive amounts of time. Ready for this run on sentence? Once you write a book, which can take weeks, months, or years to pen the first draft, and after you’ve taken the weeks, months, years to get this draft query ready, and after the months you queried, then you finally sign with a smaller or larger publishing house, which will then take months to a solid year or two before you finish their edit and production process….well you get the idea.
Books take time.
Acknowledging the flip side of this coin, there are self-pub and indie authors who rapidly release titles, but there is still a lot of planning and production costs that goes into making this happen. This usually comes with an intense writing schedule or writing the entire series ahead of release. There is also the question of quality control and having enough funds set aside to properly format, edit, package, and market a series released this way. There is no one set path to publish, but always do your research to see if it is the right one for you. This is our mantra and we say it often.
The Creativity Cost- There is a reason publishers tell you to write what you want rather than what is currently selling. Taking in the rapid change, the market saturation, and the time sink, writing to a trend can also knock on your creative capabilities. The upside of not chasing trends: you may become a trendsetter.
“When writers decide not to chase trends, they sometimes turn their backs on the market entirely, determined instead to write the book they wish to write and never mind the people reading them. On occasion this results in wildly creative, exciting stories that end up starting trends of their own, but more typically the results are books that strongly resemble the writer’s favorites without twists to make them something new.”
-Nephele Tempest, The Knight Agency
Trend vs Market: I repeat, writing to trend is not the same as writing to market. Writing to market involves a lot of research and finding a niche. Niche markets and genres tend to have more staying power and a consistent audience. If someone loves sports romance, it is a niche they will come back to often. Niche markets can also explode out into the mainstream through the magic of space, time, and consumerism. It’s a lightning bolt effect and hard to pinpoint exactly what crosspoint of culture, world events, and literary need will trigger it. Arguably, despite its gargantuan success, when it was released, Harry Potter would have likely fallen into a niche market in children’s fantasy more than the mainstream market. Hard to imagine now with the boom of popularity in Children’s Fantasy, particularly the boarding school of magic trope.
So, what is the takeaway from all of this? You’ve heard it before and I’ll say it again. Write what you love. Trends change, trends revive, trends skew in interesting ways, and it is vital that you write the novel that speaks to you. You could be a trendsetter. However, if your book does happen to echo a current or past trend, this does not dictate its chance of success. Your voice, your unique spin, and the elements of the story, are all factors. When querying, all these factors come into play, along with a smidgen of luck (which is really part research, part timing), hitting that one agent or publisher’s inbox who is looking at that moment for what you have to offer.
Passion, Patience, and Persistence, my friends. Stick to your unique creative voice and you will find your flash point of success.