30 Apr Should you join a genre “trend” in order to get published?
Remember when the Twilight series became popular, and suddenly the world couldn’t get enough of vampires? Or what about when The Hunger Games took pop culture by storm, and shelves began overflowing with dystopian novels? Remember when zombies were everywhere–in hypothetical apocalyptic accounts, in retellings of myths, and in Jane Austen?
There’s no denying that certain trends dominate the publishing world every few years–and, by extension, pop culture as well. A successful novel can start a trend, paving the way for dozens of similar novels to get published–and perhaps even famous. Trends can lead to big opportunities, exposure, and (yes) money for enterprising (or just plain lucky) authors who are riding the crest of the cultural zeitgeist: movie franchises, multi-book deals, even products and brand deals. However, trends can also be fickle and unpredictable.
Is it worth trying to tailor your writing to “fit” a genre trend in order to get noticed or published?
Some will see writing to capitalize on a genre trend as “selling out.” Others will see it as a savvy business move. No matter which side of the debate you fall on, there are some practical tips that every writer should adopt in order reach as wide an audience as possible:
Know your genre. No book is “for everyone.” The better you define what genre your book falls into, the better you will be able to understand–and reach–your target audience.
Choose your comparative titles carefully. Comparative or “comp” titles are books that fit squarely within your genre, and are as similar to your book as possible. They should have been published within three years (at most) of when your book is releasing. Seeking new(ish) books that are similar to your book is actually an important marketing strategy because a). Comparing your book to other similar (and reasonably successful) books will help your target demographic easily recognize why your book will appeal to them (“if you liked this book, then you’ll love my book!”), and b). You may learn lessons from your comp titles’ success (or lack thereof) that you can apply when marketing your own work!
Keep up with current events and cultural trends. To be a writer, you have to be a reader, and not just of books in your preferred genre. Read the global and national news regularly in order to stay aware of what stories are shaping public opinion and discourse. Keep up with broader popular culture (particularly as it applies to your target audience) to maintain a sense of what trends are already at work–and possibly upcoming.
Stay aware of new, upcoming books and media. Find out what books are popular right now by regularly reading The New York Times Bestseller List and Publishers Weekly. Discover what books are forthcoming by subscribing to the Publishers Lunch newsletter and reading about which books and authors publishers are buying to add to their future lists. Pay attention to new movies coming out, and binge-worthy streaming series that have people buzzing. All of these outlets can give you a feel for current and future trends.
If a new trend is on the rise, there’s no shame in jumping on the bandwagon. Getting a foot in the door in the publishing world is hard, and you should use any advantage to get noticed by publishers and/or (more importantly!) by readers. If a popular genre or trend can help you get your work noticed, give it a try! Adapt an old or abandoned work to fit the trend, or write something new (think of it as a fresh, fun writing exercise). You may even discover you have a natural talent or interest in a genre / subject that you wouldn’t have discovered otherwise! If you do decide to follow a publishing trend, the last piece of advice we’ll add is to write / adapt quickly — trends come and go after all, and you’ll want to make the most of the potential opportunity while it lasts. But if you miss the zeitgeist, don’t worry–there’s always another trend around the corner.