Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Problem with Writing Trends

This is my weekly post about writing! And believe me I think in terms of what I am reading on literary agents blogs, and what's been going on with the Big 6 Publishers this will begin to show their particular tastes and how writing a trend is dangerous to a person's writing career.

Trends. It seems like on every shelf you look at in the bookstore, particularly in the Young Adult/ Teens sections, there are tons of shelves and cases filled with every single book that was written and published during the popularity of tat particular trend.

We as authors and the big New York publishers can't deny it, as soon as there is something new that is selling faster than the publisher can get the printed book on the shelves and makes the bestseller lists, they think to themselves, "I can write this. All publishers want the same thing; what's selling, and how can we get our well known authors to write this to make us more money. Every publisher wants to get their books sold, and the trends is the biggest way, but also dangerous.

Let's hop into the time machine and travel to the late 1990's leading up to the year 2000. In United Kingdom, the Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling were selling like mad, not just kids were interested in it, adult liked it. The vivid picture Rowling wrote about the pictures of the Hogwarts castle moving, the whomping willow tree that magically coming to life and attacked any person that came near it. When the rights for the book to be released in the U.S. and worldwide became a franchise, publishers wanted writers to write more books similar to the Harry Potter books, meaning Michael Scott's Nicholas Flammel series, when the truth is nothing will ever triumph the Harry Potter books. No one will ever write the way Rowling did. Publishers wanted something similar to Rowling's magical writing because it took Rowling practically fifteen years to write and were hoping that someone who could write something similar would hold off the readers. Think again, the public was waiting for the books.

Now we are traveling to the year 2005, when the first book in the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer hit the shelves (and why people were so obsessed with it is beyond me the writing was not even that good, and the main character of the entire series is dull and boring. What really threw people over the edge was the whole damsel in distress thing). People like the originality Meyer brought to vampires, now granted people really disliked how the vampires would sparkle but It began to sell like hotcakes, and made the New York Times Bestseller list; all authors dream of having their book on that list. Anyway, because Twilight was about vampires, the publishers saw how many copies of Twilight were selling, and began to notice how people were looking around for vampire books because those same people had already read Anne Rice's Vampire books or The Vampire Diaries by L.J. Smith which was published in the late 90s, so some of the publishers and their prized authors began writing vampire books. it was a good trend for a while, but an average person who read every single one of them began to notice how they were either a) just another retelling of the Twilight saga, and b) felt they were being overdone and the same plot was being retold over and over again. There is only so many books about vampires in a finishing school a person could read.

Then readers started to become tired of vampires, so what do publishers do? They move onto the next big trend which happens to be werewolves, and also because Twilight had wolves in them. The same thing that was happening to the vampire trend happened to the wolf trend; wolves were being overdone with the whole being changed during the full moon Then more authors started writing about werewolves. The trend only lasted for a while until sales started dropping. Now most agents won't even look at a book manuscript or query letter that has the word werewolves in it and will simply hit the delete button. Why? They say "I've seen toooo many vampires and werewolf books, it's been overdone too much. The only one that is even remotely different is Raised by Wolves by Jennifer Lynn Barnes."

Now that the werewolf trend is over and done with now, what's the next thing readers will like, in comes Aprilynne Pike's Wings Series. Wings is not an average fairy tale and when people read Wings and Wicked Lovely series by Melissa Marr people began to feel that fairies were creepy, writers were all writing fairies with dark fairy and decided to move onto something else.

Now that people found fairies creepy, because there are some books in which the readers find the way the author wrote the fairies to be disturbing, people moved onto angels. The same thing with all the other trends happened with angels. The avid reader realized that the angel trend was just like the previous ones, all the same (and if I read one more book about another another angel falling from the freaking sky I was going to go ballistic). Then when it comes to publishing the same thing happened; most agents won't even consider books on fairies or angels.

Now the new trilogy,  The Hunger Games, a dystopia (post-apocalyptic), rose high and got a movie deal, became the big franchise now with Teams for advertising, merchandise sold at Hot Topic, etc. Now the trend is growing and bookshelves are getting filled fast with dystopia novels.

So far, the dystopia trend is the one readers are becoming more interested in. The reason why is because the authors find new interesting topics that make it more appealing to readers. The dystopia novels are the most different from the other trends because they show in an interesting manner the way the world could possibly be in the future. Kids fighting to the death in a televised event, girls being forced to matched with someone (I'm too feminist for those), Author Elana Johnson wrote a blog post about dystopia whether it's being overdone like with all the other trends and the comments she received from her readers was fascinating. The readers who answered the post admitted that out of all the trends, they liked dystopia the most because it's not written the same like the other trends where it was the same description and the same story being told over and over again, the authors bring originality to dystopia as to what could happen in the future. I myself am very fascinated by dystopian because none of the books have the same plot or story line, they are all something new and refreshing in every page turn. 

In the vampire and wolf trend, readers felt like the authors were literally retelling the same story line in the majority of the books; the human falling in love with the supernatural creature. So now readers are getting thirsty for more dystopia. This blog post isn't necessarily to disrespect the trends, but I wanted to point something things that happen during the publications of these trends.

For example, when Twilight became popular, people searched for more vampire books, and then readers were accusing authors who wrote vampire books before Twilight came out, such as Anne Rice and L.J. Smith of copying Meyer. Anne Rice's books were published in the late 70s and early 80s, and Smith's were during the 90s. Meyer got inspiration from Rice, and a lot of the things Meyer put in Twilight happened in L.J. Smith's books, so now who copied who?

Suzanne Collins, author of The Hunger Games trilogy was published in 2009. Scott Westerfield, who got published a dystopia book series Uglies in 2005, was being accused by the fans of The Hunger Games trilogy of copying her. The Hunger Games was published in 2009, now it's becoming apparent that the readers should look at the publication dates of the book trends they read before going around and accusing authors of copying. 

The other day, a literary blog had stated an interesting point about writing trends. 

So let's say you do write the most current popular trend, a dystopia novel. You've spent months polishing it, had it critiqued and then start submitting it to agents. It can take you about six months to a year to find an agent and get contracted with the agency. Then you and your agent have done some polishing on the manuscript and the agent starts submitting it to publishers. Getting a publisher to buy the manuscript, book cover designers, editors, and getting the book on bookshelves, it can take about eighteen months to get the book in the bookstores.  If you write it as a series, we could be living in a dystopia world. That's another factor to consider if you write the trends, making it a single book, or writing it as a series. Writing the trend as a series has been proven to be dangerous to both authors and publishers.

If you write a trend as a trilogy that's fine, but one very good prime example of this is a book series written by my favorite author P.C. Cast, The House of Night series. It had some originality, vampires marked by the vampire goddess and sent to a finishing school to learn to control their vampire powers, a bit with the crossing of the Harry Potter books. The book was a big sensation during the vampire trend, and the series is contracted for twelve books, but over the last ten books already published, it's basically the same thing in every book just to keep the series going. Now that the vampire trend has fallen off it's pedestals, the rest of the books in the series are in danger of not selling. The series would have been fine if she compressed it to three to six books, but twelve books for the vampire trend, the publisher should have known it wouldn't last, that readers would eventually get tired of reading the same vampire books repeatedly. Which goes back to the point of the dystopian trends, if you write it as a series, we could very well be living in a dystopia world by the time it's published.

So here's the catch when you are writing; write the next trend, as far as I know, I'm not sure what the next big trend is, you could be the next one to invent the next trend. Or give the traditional trend a twist. Julie Kagawa wrote a new trilogy Blood of Eden, it's dystopian vampires, which is now has movie rights sold to it. It is different, and had pre-order sales skyrocket. I think she did genius work on that, she took an old trend that most readers weren't fond of and gave it a new twist that is giving vampire readers a new take on the trends. A great bit of advice for the writers is if you're going to write trends, have it stand out to readers, or figure out what the next trend will be and write that.

1 comment:

  1. So true, Vanessa. It's near impossible to write to trends in the traditional publishing arena. From what I've heard, 18 months would be fast to get a book to print. About a month or two ago, I saw that most new debut announcements were for 2014. And those release announcements come *after* the contract has been negotiated and signed (which can take several months).

    Self-publishing or going with an epublisher can shorten the timeframe, but once something reaches a "trend" level, that means it's broken out to mainstream book buyers (rather than just niche). Both self-pub and epub can miss out on a lot of those mainstream buyers.

    Yet more reasons I don't write to trends. :)

    However, I do have one good suggestion for someone who *does* want to write to trends. Watch the submission calls for short stories, novellas, anthologies among epublishers (Carina Press, Entangled Publishing, etc.). When they do a call for submissions, they're *looking* for stories that fit a trend. :)