Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Trends - Why You Should Ignore Them

Do you have an opinion on the fiction market? A couple years ago, I seemed to get a better response from my query. This past year, with a better project, I got less interest. I’ve also had some agents tell me they no longer represent fiction. What do you think the future holds? All I seem to see out there are non-fiction and memoirs involving pets.

I don't know what the future of the fiction market is. What I do know is that you should write your manuscript independent of any trends or other work you see, because by the time you see those books on the shelves, we're sick of them (not the books themselves, but the trend) and not taking many new ones. Also, the story (or non-fiction discussion) should be something you care about, not something to capitalize on a trend.

A year ago we were getting tons of thrillers that somehow involved the Vatican, and stuff about New Orleans and/or Katrina. We rejected all of it immediately. The words "Dan Brown" appearing anywhere on your query meant an auto-reject. Why? Because we knew the market was going to cool off, which it did, and we stopped getting those queries when everyone forgot about Katrina and when the Da Vinci Code movie came out and it sucked.

There's usually a fairly direct parallel between what's on the NY Times bestseller list and what kind of queries we're getting. #5 right now in hardcover non-fiction is "Marley & Me," which is, and I quote, "A newspaper columnist and his wife learn some life lessons from their neurotic dog." Political books always sell, and you can basically make a living right now - a GOOD living - representing anti-Bush books. Inspirational stuff always sells, but lately it's been more Christian-themed.

On the fiction list, I see a huge variety of topics, which is normal for the fiction list. I'm actually surprised at the number of names I don't recognize; generally bestsellers are by famous authors. John le Carre is #13. Laurell K. Hamilton is #8. We're also seeing more British imports than usual.

None of what I just said in the last three paragraphs matters to you writers. Write what you love and want to write about. Write a book you would want to read. Then polish it, write a good query letter, and send it out to at least 40 agents. If it's a great book, at least a few of them will be interested, regardless of what's going on in publishing.

7 comments:

Joyce said...

Great advice, Rejecter!

And if a writer's book is good enough, she might be the one starting a trend.

The Rejecter said...

That's pretty much how trends get started.

Anonymous said...

I agree.

But someone must be following the trends--or else we wouldn't see the same kind of books out at the same time.

Perhaps they sell a Magic Eight Ball for writers that I don't know about.

Q: What should I write about?

A: Write about how your chickens helped you through your divorce

kitty said...

Remember all the memoirs people wrote after Frank McCourt's book came out? Especially the Irish ones? I even saw articles on how to write a memoir.

I saw an interview with McCourt on TV. It sounded as though he wrote his memoir to exorcise his demons, not to write a best seller or start a trend.

Kanani said...

Excellent!
I always remember these words to unpublished writers from Francine duPlessix Gray, which was about avoiding the tryanny of the genre, or even the trends:

Read voraciously, keep the reader seduced and never worry about what "category" your texts might fall into. The world, alas, will pigeonhole you before you know it, griping and caviling when you stray from the niche into which they've glued you. For the time being each of you is free to gambol and frolic in the delectable, Lord-given fields of the human language. How we envy you."
Francine duPlessix Gray, 1994

Stephen M (Ethesis) said...

Though, while Laurell K. Hamilton was still off the charts, I remember Suzette Haden Elgin (who writes feminist SF) complaining on how editors were pestering her to write vampire novels.

Anonymous said...

The words "Dan Brown" appearing anywhere on your query meant an auto-reject. Why? Because we knew the market was going to cool off, which it did, and we stopped getting those queries when everyone forgot about Katrina and when the Da Vinci Code movie came out and it sucked.

How Dark the Con of Dan...