I was exchanging emails with my delightful client Saundra Mitchell the other day, and she brought up Flowers in the Attic, everyone’s favorite attic incest novel. Now, you can debate whether that book had any literary merit, but it was undeniably provocative and controversial and engaging. When I started to ponder it a bit, I thought, Why isn’t anyone out there trying to write the next Flowers in the Attic? Something dark and inappropriate. A gothic page-turner. How much fun would that be?
Because while I’m sure that there are some people writing that kind of thing, I feel like I’ve spent the past few months with a slush pile full of dystopian were-vampire steampunk young adult novels with adult crossover potential. Which I mentioned to Saundra (okay, I ranted), leading her to ask whether trend-chasing in the market is a new phenomenon or whether it’s been around for a long time.
It’s always like this. I think right now we’re stuck between a few. Certainly lots more people are writing young adult because they’ve heard that’s where the money is. That also explains the sudden presence of lots and lots more YA agents. Vampires/demons/werewolves and other creatures of the night still regularly show up quite a lot in my inbox; there’s also a lot of dystopian stuff trying to cash in on what’s happening RIGHT NOW; and there is a small but dedicated group who are still trying to make steampunk happen (ah, the trend that never was). But by and large, a solid half of everything is always by people writing to the market in the most concerted and obvious way possible. Whether it’s Jane Austen knock-offs, the era of chick-lit, The Michelangelo Doctrine, or as far back as the Y2K books when I started here in ’99, far too many people are too shortsighted to even aim for the next big thing because they’re aiming for the now big thing. No matter how often I tell people the biggest books don’t follow the trends but instead create them, there will always be someone who’s all “ZOMG, I wrote the next Twilight!”
None of this is to say that these are categories I don’t want to see. I still love vampire books and would happily take more on, but only if it’s something really fresh and different, and REALLY only if I believe the author is writing the book that they want and need to write, not trying to cash in on a moment. I just think there’s an authenticity about passion projects that can’t be faked. And while I certainly want to find things that hit trends at the exact right moment, I don’t trust projects written in an effort to be timely. So stop worrying about trends. Write the books you need to write. Authenticity and enthusiasm are priceless.