Just a quick note: if you’re getting ready to query, and are feeling overwhelmed by the prospect, Laura will be teaching an online class at Lawson’s Writer’s Academy beginning September 2, Submissions That Sell! You can get the details HERE.
by Sharla Rae
If we knew the next hottest genre, many of us would jump on that horse and take a ride.
Since the 1990s, editors have chanted the same mantra, “Don’t worry about what’s hot, write the ‘book of your heart.’”
Problem is, they didn’t really mean it OR we misunderstood what they meant. Many of us thought the statement meant we could write any genre we wanted as long as the book was well done with emotions that grabbed the heartstrings.
It turns out, that’s not exactly true.
Oh sure, if editors receive a super book that blows them away, they “might” take a chance. But we’re talking one in a million — especially in today’s ever-changing markets. And let’s be realistic. The economy isn’t that great. Editors want to keep their jobs and that means going with the flow and buying only the current high-earning genres.
How many of you have written the “book of your heart,” only to receive a letter like this?
Love your characters, love your plot, love your writing style, but we just can’t sell your book in the current market or it isn’t what we’re looking for.
An indie writer may choose to ignore a letter like this, but writers who want to “traditionally publish or bust” know that choosing a popular genre will probably be in their best interest.
Laurie Alice Eakes wrote about her take on this in the August issue of RWA [Romance Writers Report] in the article, It’s All in Your Head: Writing from Your Heart While Writing for the Market, she wrote: “‘Write from Your heart'” is the worst advice you will ever receive as a writer.”
The argument goes that if a writer waits until a genre is hot, it’s already too late to catch that ride. But look how long vampires have lasted!
This begs the question: Do publishers and agents know what the next hot genre will be?
I recently heard a young editor at a conference say that she believes watching the new wave of television programs is a very good way to predict the next hot fiction genre.
Ann Rice’s book, Interview With A Vampire was made into a movie and the movie made the book more famous. From there we saw the Vampire rage take off. I suppose you could argue the age old question of which came first, the chicken or the egg?
Young people have their fingers on the pulse of everything new and I’ve seen writers follow their lead to develop popular genres. Checking into subjects of the latest and greatest YA books is definitely a consideration even for adult romance genres. Being around teens doesn’t hurt either. What entertains them? What scares them? How do they see the future? What fads are they into?
What else can we do to predict future popular genres?
They say history repeats itself, and I think this is also true in publishing.
DC Comic was founded in 1932 during the Great Depression that began in 1929. From these comics we gained Superman, Green Lantern, and other superheroes. During this difficult time, the stock markets crashed, people lost their jobs and many a family lived a hand-to-mouth existence.
Is it any wonder that young and old alike glommed onto escapism and hope in the form of fantasy and superheroes?
Along with these escapism stories came great realistic stories like Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath, a story of a family seeking hope in the form of jobs in California and later they hoped to better their lives and that of others, through labor unions.
Does this time period sound familiar? Could it explain why the paranormal, fantasy and futuristics are again so popular? Could it explain why strong women surviving tough odds in Women’s Fiction novels are so popular now? It just might.
The 30s and early 40s also had its share of sweeping technology: FM radio, stereo records, Nylon, jet engines etc. These might seem nothing compared to modern innovations, but at the time, they were every bit as important as our ever evolving computers and cell phones.
What about the more affluent, post war Fabulous Fifties? This period saw women being told they must leave their wartime jobs and return to their “traditional” roles. Harlequin published many a romance about nurses, a traditional role for women who insisted on working outside the home. And don’t forget June Cleaver, the perfect TV mom in high heels!
Also during the 50s we saw many books and movies of teen rebellion, [Rebel Without A Cause] defiant young people who encouraged broader thinking than conservative parents who endured the depression as youngsters and then wartime. It was Sing Along With Mitch verses Elvis Presley. The dominant romances during this time were squeaky clean and most sex happened behind closed doors. But young people wanted it more real and times were changing. So were the novels.
I could keep comparing time periods and the novels they produced, but I don’t have the time, research, or space here. Still, I think there’s at least a vague pattern that writers can see.
Perhaps choosing the next hottest genre is a matter of understanding the theme (s) of the times and choosing a genre that supports those themes and/or hopes. Who knows for sure? I don’t.
I think we can only try to understand what our readership/target audience wants, and then do our best to give it to them on a platform that best demonstrates our creative talent.
Okay, you knew I was going to ask this: What do you think the next hottest genre will be and why? Will it make you change what you currently write?
Sharla has published three historical romance novels: SONG OF THE WILLOW, LOVE AND FORTUNE, and SILVER CARESS. SONG OF THE WILLOW, her first solo effort, was nominated by “Romantic Times Magazine” for best first historical.
When she’s not writing and researching ways to bedevil her book characters, Sharla enjoys collecting authentically costumed dolls from all over the world, traveling (to seek more dolls!), and reading tons of books. You can find Sharla here at Writers In The Storm or on Twitter at @SharlaWrites.