Thursday, March 19, 2009

Not Great News

Okay, new section with a new label. From now on these rants, comments and/or musings will be headed with the title of:

BT's Soapbox

If you prefer not to be subjected to my ramblings, then this heading will allow you to skip them.

Now then...

The inaugural BT's Soapbox

During my normal scoping out of industry blogs, I made a comment the other day over at The BookEnds Literary Agency Blog to this post about timing. It went like this:

Hi Jessica,

I'm interested in the holes which get filled, the hooks that are in vogue for a time and then over done a little while later.

I'm guessing during your talks with those in the industry, they tell you what they're looking for, what they'd like to see, what they've seen enough of - what hooks are in vogue, what are dated, and what holes have been filled.

I would think a regular update on this type of information would be invaluable to writers. It would be almost a type of trigger for sending in specific work.

I don't mean when someone says, "I'm looking for more historical romance, or dark sci-fi", I mean in a little more detail if that's at all possible.

What type of hooks ?
What do publishers think is becoming hot and why?
What patch of earth is looking plumb to have a new hole dug in it?

I realize this could be construed as searching for the goose laying the golden egg, but anyone trying to write something based on this info would be missing the boat by the time it was ready anyway. This info would only be useful for those with manuscripts in hand (or in drawer).

Thanks in advance


Polite type of individual, aren't I?

I mention this because over at Pubrants, you'll find this post, and I refer you specifically to the last three paragraphs:

And second, publishing is often about timing. For example, if you are currently a writer of young adult or middle grade fiction and you have a paranormal element (read: vampire, werewolf, witch or what have you), you might be stymied by the timing of putting said project on submission right now.

The market is crowded. Editors are weary in some respects. (Agents too!) Just last week I had an editor turn down even looking at a manuscript because she felt her list was too crowded with the supernatural.

That’s a sure sign that a trend is winding down. Now that doesn’t mean nothing in that realm will sell. It just means that any project that does will have to be X times better, X times more original, than similar projects sold 2 years ago.

A couple of commenter's latch onto this bit instead of the gender portion of the post (personally, I think good writing by male or female will sell if marketed correctly and claims of a bias in any genre one way or another is bollocks - nothing wrong with blokes writing romance anymore than women writing action or horror - as long as the writing is good and fits the genre). Unfortunately what comments there are on the second bit stick with the YA bit of it and there have been no replies.

I wanted to ask about the second paragraph in particular - is this all supernatural premises, or only YA?

I would also like to know how long a trend normally lasts? I'm guessing the hype about a book lasts typically 12 months, so a trilogy around three to four years. And then the movie comes out and tacks on another six or so months.

So if you started writing a supernatural book now, used about a year to get it to a standard where you could begin submitting it, you could conceivably be on the very beginning of the next surge. I'm guessing staying away from YA supernatural for a couple of years may be a good thing, but then YA and middle grade want real escapism - look at Twilight and Potter. Fantasy and Horror. So does that mean the next big thing will be YA sci-fi?


So, if any agents, editors, publishers or others within the industry who are in the know happen to pop by, would it be possible to get regular (maybe quarterly) updates, posted somewhere, on what you are looking for, and what you think may be the next big thing?

I think writers everywhere would be happy with that. Some may try to roll with the trends and produce work specifically targeted at it, but then, don't they already? I think most would continue as they currently do, but it would be nice to know if I should set my next horror story, in the past, present or future and if I should centre it around kids or adults.

Okay - rant over, thanks for listening.


  1. The supernatural is always slipping in and out of fashion, I wouldn't worry about it. If you write a fantastic book (no matter what the subject matter is) then someone is going to buy it. I remember reading once that you shouldn't try to follow a trend as by the time you get your story out, the trend is over.

  2. I totally agree Cate - in fact I thought I said that in my post. Oh God, I'm not conveying myself properly - how can I ever call myself a writer again....

    Seriously though, I agree. Good writing will always find a home. Trends are called trends because they come and go, and eventually come again.

    Still, I'd love to know on a regular basis what the industry is keeping half an eye out for. The Publishers Lunch is great for letting me know what's selling right now, but not what agents and editors would like to see.

  3. I think it's such a guessing game picking trends so I write what I write and then worry about submitting then.

    But I think economic trends is something else being discussed. I'd be hestitant about submitting (not that I have anything to submit!) as the economy dies. There might be a market from brand name writers like King, and maybe some escapist literature, but generally publishers aren't going to risk it now.

  4. If only the powers that be would separate out the good old fashioned scary 'supernatural' from the current, modern, sickeningly-romanticized boring versions of vampires and supernatural beings. Maybe then horror can go back to being horror without being ruined by the lame unscary versions of supernatural being published now