Tag Archives: writing trends

Pirates, Dogs and Books, Oh My!

We had a dog.  She was a good dog.  She loved hunting, slept most of the day and was fabulous with the kids.  Then said dog got old.  She no longer hunts, still sleeps most of the day and remains fabulous with the kids.

So, as many of you know, DH bought Dog Number Two.  She hunts, she sleeps (sometimes) and she’s great with kids.  She is a Labrador, after all, and labs are famous for these abilities.  It’s why they have a long history in Dear Hubby’s family.

But just because she’s a lab doesn’t mean she’s a replica of our first dog.  In fact, Kallie is a black lab and Bailey is buff.  While she doesn’t work out in the gym, her hair is very different than Kallie’s.  She sheds more in one day than Kallie does in an entire week.  (If I would have known that pre-purchase, I would have mutinied.)

She also drools more, barks more and jumps all the freakin’ time.  Her world is run by her belly, and therefore, so is ours.  Kallie used to leave food in her bowl for days, nibbling a kibble here and there.  Bailey starts whining by 5:15 in the morning.  Yet, she’s a bit endearing in that she plays constantly and will roll a ball back and forth with her humans.  Kallie has never fetched a ball in her life.

They’re the same, but different.  Slight variations of each other.  Each better at some things than the other, and each far more annoying in their own ways.  They have one purpose: fetch pheasants.  They are the same, but different.

And that’s the thing to remember about marketability in the publishing world.  Just because a genre is hot doesn’t mean we should all write Hot Genre Novels and they will sell.  In fact, it could mean the opposite.  By the time the shelves are filled with one genre, it is likely that agents and editors are no longer looking for those types of novels.

To even be considered for purchase, a novel must truly stand out and stand on its own merits.  It must be different enough from what has come to warrant hard-earned marketing dollars by a publishing company.  It must be unique–in tone, in voice, in style, not just in characterization or setting.  Yet, it can be done.

“Dystopian is out.”  Or so I’ve heard–we’ve all heard it.  Then my wonderfully, talented writing friend, Mindy McGinnis, sold her dystop in a majorly good deal.  This tells me that dystopian–as a gravy train genre–may be heading through the tunnel and out of town, but stellar dystopian novels are alive and kickin’.

It also gives me hope, because I have a chapter book manuscript I love dearly.  (My agent loves it, too, so I know I’m not completely biased.)  And while Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean are hogging the seven seas, I believe the pirate ship hasn’t sailed altogether.  I believe that somewhere in the vast ocean of publishing is a home port with room for a tiny vessel carrying my beloved pirate family.  I believe that my tone, style and voice, along with my characters and plot, are truly unique and not just a slight variation of what’s already out there.

I will never give up on this project, but I’m smart enough to know I can’t sail aimlessly in saturated waters.  It’s why I write nearly every day.  It’s why I have nearly a dozen completed manuscripts–some ready for submission and some not quite.  It’s why I keep my eye on the hunt and why I’m not afraid to buy a new dog.

How about you, dear writers, do you chase publishing trends or stay well away from hot markets?  Why or why not?  Do you let the fate of one novel dictate the fate of all your novels?  How and why? 

As a reader, what do you believe is more important in setting a novel apart from the masses already lining the book store shelves: a unique voice, a unique story idea or unique characters?  Do you read exclusively within specific genres?  If so, does this ever get tiresome?  Do the stories run together after a while?  What truly sets one novel apart from another?

Curious minds want to know.

Trendy Titles and Novel Ideas

I’ve noticed around the blogosphere that writers are concerned with writing toward trends or, conversely, shying away from them. 

Years ago I had a pair of not-so-gorgeous, baby-blue bell bottoms jeans.  Then came the clogs and leg warmers, followed by skanky, off-the-shoulder sweaters and leggings.  When bell-bottoms returned (disguised with the new name “flare legged jean”) I vowed I would never put a pair on, so hideous were the baby blues from thirty years ago.

Yet I did.  And now I’m vowing to never tug a pair of “skinny legs” past my hips.  Of course, it could be that my hips no longer fit the skinny leg definition, but that’s a whole ‘nother post you don’t want to hear. 

The point is this: trends come and go with great regularity.  Only the names change.  This is true in fashion and in literature.

Chick lit made a huge splash a few years back.  Books flew off the shelves faster than stillettos and Coach handbags.  Markets changed and publishers pulled back, making it harder to sell the quirky life of the twenty-something, spunky gal next door. 

Next, Twilight captured vampire lovers and stole the hearts of young ladies (and their mothers) across the world.  Writers, wanting to cash in on the blood lust, buried agents and editors beneath piles of vampire manuscripts.  Some hit the shelves and sold next to Bella’s newest adventures.  Others lacked originality and never made it past the shredder. 

The market quickly saturated and vampy books are now being tossed like yesterday’s tuna sandwiches.  Acceptance rates are lower and standards are higher for this genre.

A writer cannot follow a trend.  By the time one is recognizable, the door of opportunity is already closing for most manuscripts of similar ilk.  It just takes too long from idea to publication to make trend chasing easy. 

Currently zombies are all the rage.   In the best case scenario, if I wrote a novel today–okay, in thirty days like a NaNoWriMo novel–it would take me at least three months to polish, another three to query and another three to get a contract.   Add twelve to eighteen more months for the publisher to place it on the shelves and my zombie story is already two years too late. 

And that is best case scenario.  Reality is closer to three to five years for a debut novel.  Or more.

This makes the obvious route to be a trend setter rather than a trend chaser.  Right?  Right.  So pull out your novel idea–novel in the sense of unique–and get cracking.  On the unrealistic same time line as my zombie book, your giant earthworm invasion novel will hit the shelves in two years.  Chances are another writer will have written, pitched and published a similar book in the same two years. 

Viola, giant earthworms are the next fashion statement.  A novel idea?  You might think so.  But like bell bottoms, they were in decades ago.  Mongolian Death Worms made a debut in the 1959 sci-fi Land of the Crimson Moon followed in 1961 by the ever famous and unforgettable James and the Giant Peach‘s blind earthworm.

There are no original ideas.  Only original ways of writing them. 

Four years ago I penned a piratey chapter book.  At the time I wrote it, the Carribean Craze was not quite crazy and I never put two and two together.  I simply wrote the story that begged to get out.  By the time I mustered enough courage to send out a few queries, Pirates of the Carribean was so popular the market was saturated. 

While my book has nothing in common with the movie, the ripples will influence the marketability of my book.  But that’s okay.  I know pirates will come back into vogue.  And when they do, I’ll be waiting–in skinny leg jeans if I have to.

Are you a trend setter or a trend chaser?  Or do you simply write your heart and let the market find you? 

~ cat