Thursday, August 30, 2012

Following the Trends: Dangerous, or Profitable?

The Harry Potter phenomenon birthed an explosion of witch-and-wizardry readers, and opened the floodgates for the Young Adult market.

Soon, a little book called Twilight appeared on the shelves. Not long afterwards, Vampires (and, to a certain degree, Werewolves) became the genre-de-jour. In a post-Twilight world, urban fantasy is no longer a paperback genre for the bargain bins.

The Hunger Games arrived and suddenly everyone on earth wanted to explore the gruesome possibilities of our future.

Now there's a swooning tidal wave of women rushing to their kindles (and bookstores!) to buy the Fifty Shades of Grey series. And what headline did I see today? "Why Erotic Fiction is Selling by the Millions".

Looking back, each of the major book phenomenons has been quickly followed by a host of stories - each unique and valuable on it's own, but finding an audience predominently because readers are looking to repeat their experience with a well-known bestseller.

So, what is an author to do?

If you read a lot of agent and editor blogs (like I do), you'll know they warn against following the trends. But it occurred to me today that their advice is good because traditional publishing generally takes at least a year from contract to shelf - usually more like 18-24 months. If an author were to write to the trends, the market would be moving onto the next one before that book got published.

That isn't true for a self-published author. While there are time constraints even in self-publishing, the reality is that an author working independent of the publishing machine can usually get a book drafted, edited, covered and blurbed in a few months. There's definitely an opportunity there to ride a wave of popularity (assuming you're able to draft a commercially viable book inside three months).

As a reader, I'd love to see more books available on my Kindle in the genres I enjoy. And if you can fill that gap in my reading schedule... why not?

Yes, of course you have to find the muse. It has to be a story that captures your heart. But what if it does? What if you read the current phenomenon and find it inspiring? What if you come up with your own twist on the current trend?

I say, go for it.

What have you got to lose?

Your Turn: How do you feel about writing for a trend? Would you ever approach a project that way?


  1. I'm with you Aimee, just go for it. Particularly if you are an independently minded author. A story can go from concept to published in record time these days, so the whole, "Don't write for trends" thing doesn't seem to apply as much.

    Now if it's going to take two years from concept to pub, you probably shouldn't count on the trend will last.

  2. My biggest worry for people writing to a trend would be that they would rush the whole process and end up with a book that's much less polished than it should be.

    Plus, if everyone is writing to the current trend,then who's going to start the next one?

    1. I think there will always be people taking new directions and "risks", particularly in self-publishing. But I agree with you about the polished product. Definitely a risk!

  3. I think if you want to be traditionally published, you have a better chance in following the trends and appealing to an already established audience. It's a business model afterall. The most important thing is immediate sales.

  4. I'm with you Aimee, write a quality story that you love... Trends are fine, but quality work is much more important. There is always an audience for a well crafted story.

  5. Are you encouraging us to rush out and write erotic fiction to fill your Kindle? Teeheehee...

    I'm one of those people who actually gets turned off things if they become too 'trendy' so I don't think I'll be writing a book to capitalise on a trend. Besides, I'm a notoriously slow writer so by the time I finished the book, the trend would have well and truly passed. :-)

  6. Self-publishing certainly shortens the publication run - but like Michael said, if you're rushing to the market there's always a risk you'll take shortcuts on quality control.

    I'm all for following a trend - but you still need to have a great hook. I've seen a slew of vampire and dystopian books that are just same old same old - and trust me I won't be rushing to put them in my cart.

    By all means if you connect with the trend - go for it - and hopefully you'll make a killing.

    1. Connection is the thing, isn't it? I certainly wouldn't encourage anyone to write to trend for the trend's sake. But I sure wish I'd taken advantage of a trend I hit a couple years back...

  7. Aimee, I've never followed a trend. And yet, the vampire story has always been in and out of favor. Just takes the certain writer to do a little twist of their own.

    As far as writing for what an agent will take (or what publishers are looking for) I think you'll need a crystal ball to figure that out.

  8. The only thing I can really think of with Self Publishing is it takes months to market a book yourself and by that time the trend could be over. If you can fast-track that there's a high chance you'll slip into the trend.

    I'm a believer that if it's meant to be, it will be. Trend or no trend.