Wednesday, 16 July 2008

The Next Big Thing

Many not-yet-published writers think that one of the things that will improve their chances of getting a novel published is a practice known as "jumping on the bandwagon". This is where they try to get in on whatever the hottest publishing trend is at the moment.

Several years ago it was wizard boys and religious conspiracies. Currently it's vampire romance.

However, jumping on the bandwagon is not a benefit to getting published. Quite the opposite--it is much, much harder to be published in a market glutted by vampires falling in love with wizard boys despite the warnings in St Mark 57:12.

Why? Because by the time a book hits the shelves, the "fresh and new" ship has long sailed.

For readers, sure, the trends are happening right now, and you can easily pick up a book on the current hot topic in the bookstore. But for writers, agents/editors and publishers, the trend readers see on the shelves this week happened two, three or even four years ago.

How does this happen?

An agent or editor has a novel come through that's well-written, hooky and has a fresh idea. "Cool," they say. "I think this might be a winner." Their professional instincts are right. The publisher picks this up in a nice deal and the book sells wonderfully on its first print run.

Now, sometime during this process another editor will come across a novel, also well-written and hooky, that deals with similar themes to the first novel. "Hmmm," they think. "I wonder if we have another winner?" It too, goes to press in a nice deal and does well on the first print run.

Perhaps it happens a third time, this time in a very nice deal, possibly brought on by the excellent sales records of the first two novels and the next thing you know, we have a trend!

Now, editors and publishers don't sit around and say, "I think we need a trend on fae-folk-in-captivity." The trends are arbitrary. They happen at random and nobody can really predict what will be the next big trend.

But if you wanna have a shot at it, Nostradamus, don't look at what's hot right now, but have a look and see what's not being published, and hasn't been published for the past twenty (thirty?) years. These are the areas that have the best chances at becoming the next hot trends because in the marketplace they will be seen as fresh and new.

Now, that's an awful lot of topics, and choosing the one that will be the next big trend may be a shot in the dark, but at least you'll be shooting forward instead of shooting backward at the dead rabbit that's already been skinned, hassenpfeffered and consumed.

However, hopping on the bandwagon is not what secures these nice deals or even very nice deals. It's writing well and being hooky. Books are published because of this, and only then do the trends follow.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I recently read a fantastic book, "Wannabe a Writer" by Jane Wenham-Jones, which gives fantastic advice on getting published. hope this helps someone!