Hey, did you know that young adult dystopian novels are all the rage right now?
Of course you did…how could you miss it, what with The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner, Divergent, and a whole host of other recently published books for those younger folks coming out on the big screen.
It’s huge, it’s important, everyone wants a piece. Well, they want a piece as long as it was published a couple years back… I wrote The Agora Files when all of this was coming to a head, although, I’ll admit, I was still somewhat out of it as far as what the trends in the publishing industry were. However, this was during the peak Hunger Games selling times were happening, the first movie was on its way to being released, and the books were selling like hot cakes. Everything dystopian was being pimped as though it were the next Tickle Me Elmo. Dystopian could do no wrong, in fact, it still can’t do very wrong.
Unless, of course, you’re a no-name author trying to get publishers to care about your own little dystopian adventure tale. Then they finally believe that the industry is too saturated…even if years later they’re still pumping out more of the same stuff.
Even before that, I wrote a book about superheroes, something that’s been on the film radar for what feels like forever now, but never really had a successful launch into novels. I thought, hey, superheroes are big, I’m not aware of much for superhero novels, perhaps this is something people will care about because of the cross-promotional opportunities…Turns out, no, they don’t want them because they just haven’t succeeded in the past.
This may sound like I’m complaining. I want you to know that I’m not…or at least not overtly so. It’s more of a cautionary tale for those who wish to become the next big thing by jumping onto a bandwagon. Neither of my books were truly written with any bandwagons in mind, they were purely stories that I was inspired to write at a time in which the subject matter might have been exploding in popularity elsewhere. These are the same stories I had been working on since high school. I just didn’t happen to get myself focused enough to put them together until it was, in a sense, too late.
But that’s not the point. Not in the least.
The point is this…if you read all of the advice that is offered out there for writers, one of the big things people focus on is genre, that you need to write for the genres that are big at a certain time. One of the things many of these advisers don’t tell you is that the genre you need to be writing for is the genre that is believed to be big next at the time you complete writing your novel. This changes pretty darn close to daily. In fact, the only genre you can be certain you don’t want to write for is whichever one has a whole host of movies coming out for it during the upcoming summer season. It’s popular now, but is probably merely a fad, no matter how good your book may be.
Of course, that is, if you want to become traditionally published (which, let’s be honest, who doesn’t?). If you’re self-published, you can work purely off the inspiration, writing whatever comes to you and focusing more on the craft. One of the other nice things about being self-published is that the turn around time from finishing a novel to having it on virtual shelves is almost nothing, compared to the traditional process where it can take years to get your book into printed (or electronic) form. That idea should give you a lot to think about for how the traditional process works. Publishers today are planning for what will be popular up to five years down the line…And authors have to get a glimpse into their minds to figure out what that might be.
By the way…if you ever want to have fun (and by fun, I mean a feeling of absolute hopelessness), check out the feeds for the twitter hashtag #MSWL (manuscript wish list). This tag will show you what agents are currently looking for. You’ll be amazed at how specific genre wants can get. Looking through it quickly, I see requests for cannibalistic horror, New Adult “Gossip Girl meets Greek”, “ adult romance series based around a group of mercenaries. Anti-heroes/heroines welcome”, and “An adult thriller/suspense with a MC that possesses the wisdom and courage of Jael from Judges.” By the way, that last one…I had to look up. I’m guessing there must be a show out there about the book of Judges in the Bible, because the amount of information about this Biblical figure from the actual book of Judges appears to be incredibly minimal for basing a character on…
But that’s kind of my point. I want a book that’s got a character based on a completely minor character from something else that’s also a thriller for adults! That’s pretty darn specific. Should I just get down and write that book now to submit for you at the end of the week?
It’s frightening how specific the traditional process has gotten. It’s infinitely difficult for outsiders to crack (unless, of course, they have a brand built elsewhere, such as celebrity chef memoirs). It’s why I see more and more authors turning to self-publishing. In fact, I hear that the traditional publishing realm is so overwhelmed by talent that it’s easy to get lost in that pile by readers…meaning that your chances of succeeding with a traditional publisher could be about the same as with self-publishing…
Of course, that’s all advice from random folks, who have just as many people who completely disagree with them.
And all I really want to do is write…
I love advice, and each piece of it I receive, I take to heart. Sometimes, however, I have come to the realization that I’m not sure anyone actually knows what it takes to be an author anymore… And that’s frightening.
Speaking of which…I did receive some fantastic advice today which somewhat sparked this article. Some of it may have boiled down to “stop writing dystopia!” but that may just be me doing some heavy paraphrasing.
But seriously, it was good stuff. Just got me thinking about how impossible this industry is, and how I hope more authors decide to focus on the writing than on the making it big, because making it big will probably kill you.
Have fun out there!