Thursday, March 3, 2016

Trends in Writing: To Chase or Not To Chase

There are entire writer's guides based around helping authors chase and predict trends. But how useful are trends in publishing? To find out, we went to the writers themselves.

How much time to you invest as a writer to understand publishing trends and topics that are hot for fiction?

Perry Constantine:
It depends on what you mean by trends. Are you talking only hot trends in genres? In that case, I follow them a little bit just to stay current with what's happening. But if you're talking trends in the publishing world as a whole, then I absolutely pay attention to those. The publishing industry is always changing these days and it's important for writers to understand what's going on.

Rebekah McAuliffe: Personally I don't try to write to trends. I write whatever I want however I want. And I believe that being true to yourself is always the best option.

Jesse Baruffi: Not a ton more than simply reading a lot. I suppose it's possible that someone could devise a popular book from marketing research and trend data, but it doesn't sound like the kind of story I would like to tell. Still, I pay at least some attention to what is generally popular.

How can writing to the trends help a writer become more successful?

Jesse Baruffi: I would say that if anything, it can help with timing. If a writer has several irons in the fire, and one of them happens to hit a particular trend, it can make sense to work that in one's favor by bringing it to publishers with those trends in mind. It may also be enjoyable for the reader or their audience to see a trend be acknowledged but subverted in some way.

Perry Constantine: If you're fast enough, you can make a lot of money by writing to trends. Writing something more commercial can also teach you a lot about what works and what doesn't, and those are lessons that could be applied to other areas of your work.

How can writing to the trends hurt a writer trying to sell stories consistently?

Rebekah McAuliffe: While writing to trends can help a writer make more money, it can also make a writer feel like they're not telling the stories they want, or they won't be sincere in their writing. Trust me, readers can pick up on that. Readers can spot a faker a mile away. 

Perry Constantine:
If you're not fast enough, then you can easily miss a trend that blows right by. Some trends last longer than others, but some only appear in a quick burst and are gone almost as soon as they appeared.

Jesse Baruffi: Trends are by their nature fleeting and transitory. People grow tired of them quickly and move on. If one jumps aboard a trend too late, it can appear to be pandering and be even more harmful.

What are better options than trying to chase or predict trends?

Jesse Baruffi: It's probably cliche to say that an author should just write what they like, although ideally that is true. It can be useful to find a way to write what one likes within a broad, general framework that is popular among readers. This builds their trust for you as an author and will hopefully make them likely to follow you wherever you decide to go later.

Perry Constantine: Instead of following trends, write to market. Meaning find an under-served genre you'd enjoy writing in, study the books that are successful in that genre, and write something you enjoy that also gives that audience what they want.