Novelists Chasing Fads?

It’s trendy. It’s a hot topic. But should it be the subject of your next novel?

We authors want to connect with our readers.  But the question is: Should we follow trends and fads to do this? Is writing to fit into a trend a formula for success?

When you are writing magazine articles, the turnaround from conception to publication happens in a snap. Then you have to cater to fads and trends, or you may miss out.  But how do you pay attention to trends when you write novels?

Say you get a trendy idea for a novel. It can take you anywhere from 3 months (if you are extremely quick) to 2 years to complete it and send it out to an agent.  Then there is a lag between when your agent receives it (if you have an agent), and when it’ll get sent to publishers. (If you don’t have an agent, add another 6 months or more and a ton of luck into the mix, simmer and stew.) Then, once your agent finds a publisher who accepts it (and that can take time, too), it’s still not published.  Some publishers are working on books that won’t appear for 2-3 more years.  So, if you are talking about approximately 4-5 years before a book idea that you have goes into print, then why are we talking about fads and trends again?

Castle drawing by Marie Lamba...click on this image for an excerpt of her newest novel DRAWN

Hm. The funny thing is that even though publishers are working so far ahead, you will hear that, say, paranormal romance is hot now, or that houses are suddenly hot for thrillers in an urban setting.  I think the message is that if you have already written one of these, the stars have aligned and you will suddenly have people looking at this work with greater interest.  Will this mean that a few years from when the trend took hold that there will be a glut of said trendy lit coming out way past its freshness date?  Cough cough, vampires, cough cough.

So, then, you would expect me to say that my writing IS ABSOLUTELY NOT AT ALL AFFECTED BY FADS. But that’s a lie. I don’t write to meet a fad, but if there is something about that fad that speaks to me, then what the hell? I’ll be more motivated to write on that subject, even if, by the time I’m done writing the book, it’s waned on the trendometer of hip. Crazy, right?

But that’s exactly how my newest novel Drawn came to life.  I’ve had the idea simmering in my mind for years: A girl channels a hot medieval ghost through her drawings…then she meets up with him and their lives intertwine.  So when paranormal romance started to emerge I thought, yeah, it’s a sign (a paranormal sign?), and time to put this novel onto paper. So the story lives, and books are timeless. A fad helped bring it to life, and, since readers and editors are still loving paranormal, this will hopefully help bring my novel into readers’ hands very soon!

On the flip side, if I’m in the beginning stages of a novel and I hear that it’s absolutely dead because editors are sick of looking at stuff about that subject, well, if I’m not unbelievably married to that book, I’ll shelf it and work on something else. You should see my shelves.  Stacks and stacks of half-written manuscripts. Doesn’t mean I won’t finish those books some day, but just not today.

Fact is, writing is a business, and we do have to cater to our consumers.  It’s not perfect. It usually doesn’t make sense.

Hey, welcome to the wonderful world of publishing!

*This post also appears on The Liars Club blog