I go to a fair amount of writing conferences, science fiction conventions, and teach writing workshops. When aspiring authors ask me “what kinds of novels are editors looking for now?” or “what kinds of fiction are the hottest sellers on today’s market?” I respond that there’s not much point in trying to jump on the bandwagon of what is selling like hotcakes RIGHT NOW.
That’s because trends can come and go quickly.
Let’s suppose I decided to try and get in on the “paranormal romance” boom. (I think it’s still booming…?)
I sit down and come up with an idea. Young divorcee with a child meets sexy werewolf, discovers she has the ability to tell who will die within the next 24 hours. Mix that up with an evil cabal of sorcerers who are kidnapping elderly folks out of nursing homes to use as human sacrifices. Then one morning she wakes up to find the “death aura” surrounding her little girl.
I get busy thinking, plotting, and scribbling notes. I outline it, research it, and then write three chapters and a synopsis. All of this has taken me maybe three months, maybe four, from first nibble of the idea to sending it to my agent.
(And I HAVE an agent. I don’t then have to start an exhausting, frustrating agent search!)
Let’s say it takes my agent three months to find a buyer. (I’m talking from the day I turn it in to the day the deal is finalized.)
Then I sit down and write the thing. Takes me five or six more months. I turn it in, and then it takes the publisher a year to publish it, which is not at all unusual.
That’s two years. Will paranormal romance still be selling well? Or will it by then be a glut on the market?
What I tell my workshop students is that, as aspiring authors, they should write what’s in THEM to write, and not try to write “to a market.”
Usually I’m very hard-headed and practical about such things. My workshops are not about finding your muse, or how to inspire yourself, or any of that kind of thing. They’re about practical skills and techniques in producing saleable genre fiction. How to create believeable characters that readers will care passionately about, how to stay productive, how to determine which POV to use within a given scene, etc.
But writing has also got to be its own reward in these highly competitive days. While it’s fine to analyze what’s selling and deliberately include elements that are proven favorites in your stories — ELEMENTS THAT YOU, AS A READER, ENJOY READING — it’s a mistake for you, the aspiring author, to sit down and decide to write a hard-boiled police procedural type mystery, because those books are selling well, rather than writing a “cozy” which is what you really enjoy reading.
Or, worse, to decide to write a romance novel because that’s what’s selling well, rather than a high fantasy novel, which is the kind of story that you build in your head while you’re scrubbing the bathroom, and devour eagerly every time a new one appears on the market.
So…even though it sounds kinda sappy, typing it out in black and white, you need to WRITE WHAT’S IN YOUR HEART.
Otherwise, it’s just typing.
-Ann C. Crispin