Trends Never Die

Recently I was part of a Q&A for writers and there were a lot of questions and anxiety around questions about the market and dead trends, and whether or not a book with vampires/talking animals/royalty/[insert your trend or trope of choice here] are doomed from the start.

This is the advice I gave then, and I think a wider audience could benefit from it, so I’m sharing it with you:

Ignore all that nonsense.

Everything Comes Back Around
It’s true of fashion, and it’s true of book trends, too. Everything old is new again. There are a finite number of stories in the world. Etc, etc, you get what I’m saying.

The market might be saturated with something at any given moment. It gets hard to sell a project that is glaringly similar to the dozens of projects that are already out there. Too much of a good thing and it all becomes noise that consumers can’t sort through and will soon tire of. Sure. All that is true.

But the publishing industry is full of time travel magic. By the time you finish drafting your manuscript, the trend might be receding, or fully over, but you still need to find an agent, to revise, to go out on sub, get an offer, and go through production. The book you start today might not even hit shelves until three years from now, and who’s to say what audiences might be craving by then?

This is also why we advise people to never ever write specifically for trends. If you try to ride the coattails of the next big thing, it’s often over before you’ve even begun.

Trends and tropes cycle in and out of fashion, they rise and fall within cultural moments, and there’s definitely always something new and fresh to say, you just have to be the one to say it.

If It’s Not Diverse, It’s Not Dead
The publishing industry is historically white across the board, and publishes a majority of white authors writing white protagonists with white takes on tropes and trends. When we say we’re sick of something, it would be most accurate to say we’re sick of the white version of it, which is the only version that has been amplified for our consumption. We need POC princesses and heist teams and chosen ones. We need LGBTQ superheroes and scientists and meet cutes. We need more diverse perspectives on everything: vampires, fairytale retellings, romcoms, horror.

So for those of us in the industry, let’s be precise when talking about what we’re looking for and what we’re not. We can’t get sick of what we’ve never had.

Fortune-Telling
Today, we all want witches (me too! I am desperate for your witches, send them to meeeee!) and in a few months we’ll want something else, and then something else after that. Those of us who work in the publishing industry are forever trying to put our fingers on the pulse of the next big thing. We try to anticipate what people are going to want to read in the future. And the scary thing is, none of us really know for sure. We have a lot of tools that help us make educated guesses, and many, many times we’re right (we’re good at what we do, after all). But there are books that everyone bet on that sunk like stones. And there are books no one saw coming that absolutely exploded.

All of us are trying to both read and shape the future at the same time. And maybe your book will be the one that convinces us that it’s time for vampires to come back around.

Just Keep Swimming
There comes a point when you’ll have to care about the market, and you’ll have to have conversations with your agent and editor and publicist about how best to position your book. But that time is not now. For now, just write the book you want to write. Do your research. Hone your craft. Make it as good as you possibly can. Tell the story you want to tell. The rest will come.

One Response to Trends Never Die

  1. Christine Monson Oct 26 2018 at 11:36 am #

    Great advice, Kelly. I am still waiting for witches, wizards, and vampires to come back around. I miss them. As of lately, I have been on a Narnia kick. I hope stories like these begin filling the shelves soon.

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