It’s controversial advice that’s been given to authors since nearly the beginning of the printing press, and that is to write according to the trends. Most authors scoff at the idea citing that by the time they write this trendy story, and publish it, the trend will be over. Sadly, they’re mistaken, it’s traditional authors who are restricted by the time constraints of corporate publishing. Indie authors are flexible and have time on their side, if we don’t catch the first wave, we can always catch the next.
Besides trends are usually patterns, patterns that have repeated themselves over and over since the days of the Greek bards and campfires. Let me show you…
Trendy or Familiar?
The first modern romance novel made its debut in 1740, it was called Pamela, by Samuel Richardson. Since that time the story has been retold by generations of authors such as Jane Austen, Margaret Mitchell, Daphne du Maurier and even E.L. James. But why? Why do authors keep writing the same story and more importantly, why do readers keep reading those stories? The prevailing theory is that the reader is trying to recreate or recapture a feeling. That makes sense because according to Psychology Today: “When evaluating brands, consumers primarily use emotions (personal feelings and experiences) rather than information (brand attributes, features, objective facts).” This means readers gravitate towards the familiar but is that really a surprise? If a certain book made you feel good about yourself or the world around you, why wouldn’t you want to repeat that experience over and over again?
Trends aren’t new to the publishing industry in fact, there are people who get paid big money to predict them. There are patterns in every market whether it be real-estate, tech, or retail but if you are observant enough you can predict them too.
Everything Has Been Done Before—Everything!
Think your work is original? Hardly, just ask any agent or editor who reads unpublished manuscripts for a living and they’ll tell you nothing is original. They’ve seen werewolf billionaire erotica and even self-help books on sex in the afterlife. Your book is probably not going to shock anyone let alone, surprise them. Besides, they’re really not looking for originality, they’re looking for profitability.
Trendy or Cyclical?
Since the days of Homer and the Bible, salacious stories have been the norm in human literature. E.L. James wasn’t the first to write about BDS&M try the Marquis De Sade or Anne Desclos. Think thrillers are a bit too violent and filled with sex these days then, try the Iliad or the Cypria.
I’ll break this down even further: In 1990, vampires became huge when a series of Anne Rice’s novel Interview With A Vampire went to the big screen. Then two of the biggest stars Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt, were cast as the lead characters and the movie made a fortune so a few years later Queen of the Damned, was released. History went on to repeat itself in 2008, when Stephanie Meyer’s vampire novel Twilight, was release and made into a series of movies as well.
Around that same time in the 90’s several of Danielle Steel’s romance novels ruled the bestsellers list and were eventually made into television movies. Today, Nicolas Sparks and Nora Roberts, are enjoying that same success in the 21st century. Noticing the cycle here?
Here is a small list of the genres that become trendy over and over again.
How Authors Can Use Trends To Their Advantage
If you’ve already published an erotic novel and that genre becomes trendy again, you could relaunch with a new cover and maybe even a new title. Your book doesn’t have to be brand new, many indie authors have relaunched books from their back catalog and found great success. Why not cash in on a trend when the opportunity strikes?
Another thing to consider is to anticipate reoccurring trends, we all know that vampires will eventually come back. Ever since Bram Stoker published his novel Dracula, in 1897, they have been making their rounds. The same goes with romance novels that feature rich men and virtuous (virgin) women, remember Pamela? Sure these books get modernized but the basic elements are always there because the publishing industry won’t mess with a sure thing.
A Final Thought
I believe authors recoil at trends because of the notion of selling-out but there is no such thing in the business world. Remember as an indie author you are a publisher and you need to understand the industry or suffer the consequences. Every year millions of people start businesses all over the world and most of them fail. Don’t be that business, take advantage of all of the opportunities that present themselves. Don’t be shy and don’t apologize for making money with your art. *Stepping off soapbox*