Trends are hot right now….see what I did there?
But seriously, authors are really into following trends at the moment, agents seem to really want authors to do it, too…of course, they also then follow it by telling you that they are sick of all the currently trending items, so that’s a difficult road to walk…
Simply put, no matter what you’re into, trends are the thing people talk about…obviously. Otherwise it wouldn’t be the trend. But, the real problem with playing into current trends is that you’re following the herd. When getting involved in a current trend, it’s quite easy to get lost in the crowd of people already involved in that trend. Many folks will suggest that you need to look ahead to find the next trend so you can be at the top of the pile when it actually begins trending. That is, of course, quite difficult to do, at least if you plan on doing anything outside of trend forecasting, which could be a full time job.
What you rarely see anyone actually talking about, however, is forging your own path. Sure, it may be more difficult to get agents or readers to even care about what you’re writing if you aren’t writing zombie romance tales set in the steampunk era, but honestly…you are going to have a pretty hard go at it even if you are doing that. But, let’s say you’re able to follow the trend and actually get some recognition from it. You’re still going to be playing a rough game. Then you’re working to take market share from the folks who started the trend, the trendsetters, if you will. All you’re trying to do is say, well, look, you liked those folks, you should like me too!
But then again, that’s what everyone else is saying.
Writing is a difficult game, don’t let anyone tell you different. Well, writing itself can actually be fairly easy. It doesn’t take much more work to get words on a page than just sitting down to do it. But if you want to make money, it’s going to take a whole heckuva lot more than that. Most writers today don’t have the luxury of just sending their stuff off to some editor somewhere who will be able to find the perfect market for their carefully crafted piece of art. Most writers today, instead, are battling for eyes, working on their own to convince the world that their work is what should be read. This isn’t just a self-published author verses traditionally published author thing. All writers who haven’t already built their brand are forced to do this.
I’ve been shown a great variety of numbers over the years on how many sales a given author can expect to make off their books between the different publishing methods, how much a publisher will put into marketing a book, and every other number there really is. The end result of crunching all those numbers is that if you want to make it, you’ve got to do some humping.
People will give you shortcuts. Predicting trends and meeting them before they happen is one. If you go that route, I say more power to you. I can tell you that more than one of my books meets current trends making their way around the internet. I don’t see any reason to believe that those trends have done anything toward propping the books up further.
Here’s what I suggest:
Forget trends. Writers work off the concept of the muse, or at least they should. Inspiration is one of the coolest things in the world, to have an idea come upon you and following that idea until it reaches the end. Forget trends, forge your own path, follow the story in your heart and tell it the way that its supposed to be told. The old adage, “The first step to being a successful author is to write a good book” is much more true than anything having to do with trends.
In fact, there’s a much better chance that following trends, or predicting trends, could have a negative effect on your author brand. No one wants to read a book that’s pretending to be something or someone else. They pick up on that stuff almost immediately.
Example: Zombie literature is huge right now. I come across it rather frequently and will pick up a book from time to time because the genre can be a lot of fun. This Book is Full of Spiders does a fantastic job of taking on the zombie genre and doing something completely different with it. I’ve read other books where they seem much more like someone who really likes The Walking Dead decided to write a book. They end up being rather forgettable. Even if the writing is solid, if its an emulation of a much better work, the much better work will shine through stronger.
So, trends, in my opinion, are a dangerous thing to even think about. Sure, people may love zombies, or Harry Potter, or whatever else, but in the end, if you’re trying to join those trends, you’ve got some hefty competition. Maybe go after the people who like Nickolas Sparks or whatever. I mean, seriously, people could really do well hitting up the traditional romance genre with a little bit of new blood.
Or perhaps you really want to tackle the long-awaited rise of the steampunk trend. It seems everyone still believes this trend will take off, but no one’s been able to write a book that actually appeals to the masses in this poor excuse for a genre.
Or perhaps you just came up with a cool idea for a story about some guy who sits alone at his computer giving advice to people on how to sell books while trying to figure out how he’s going to do it…Yeah, don’t write that book, it won’t sell. Irony doesn’t work these days.
Alright, I’m out. Have fun out there!