Pub Rants

A Very Nice Literary Agent Indulges in Polite Rants About Queries, Writers, and the Publishing Industry

Why Asking ABout The Next Trend Is The Wrong Way To Go

STATUS: I feel like I’m being pulled in 10 different directions. I’m here at the RT Convention. On Tuesday, I offered rep to a potential new client. Wednesday I did an hour phone conference with a film producer for another client. Yesterday, I reviewed 5 different offers for a UK auction going down. Today let’s talk about romance. It’s almost time for Pitch-a-Palooza!

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? IF IT’S LOVE by Train

But writers can’t help themselves. They still ask this question anyway.

At best, this question is unhelpful. If you start writing for the “next hot trend” by the time you finish your project, that particularly trend is on the way out.

Not to mention, if you ask me the question, “What are you looking for?” I can ramble on about something I’d love to see (such as a completely charming, witty, and fun historical romance a la Julia Quinn) but what I offered rep for just this week would never have landed on my “This is what I’m looking for” list.

I’m constantly taken by surprise by what I fall in love with.

After being here at RT, certainly I can tell you that editors are weary of paranormal romance. That everyone is talking about erotica because of 50 Shades (by the way, I don’t rep erotica so please don’t query me for that.)

That “hook-y” women’s fiction novels (i.e. hooks like a knitting club or cupcake club) are still on editors’ wish lists (which by the way, are topics that don’t ring my bell much).

I can tell you that a lot of the romance editors also rep YA and they might be moved to violence if just one more YA paranormal romance lands in their submission inbox.

I can tell you all these things and then I can also tell you that the minute the “right” project lands in that same inbox–even if it contains any of the above–but it blows them away, they’ll offer for it.

So I can’t tell you what I’m looking for as an agent. I can only say that I’m going to know it when I see it and this: I haven’t taken on a romance author in over the year. I’m opening my universe up to that possibility as I’d love to read an awesome romance right now.

I’ve been in my “dark” phase for the last 7 months by taking on dark and gritty SF.

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15 Responses

  1. Rachel Menard said:

    We ask because we want to succeed! Often I’ve had a few partial MS floating around and not sure which one to focus on. Hearing YA paranormal romance is ‘out’ and YA thrillers are ‘in’ gives me some direction. I’ll still write the best book I can no matter what it’s about. Why should trends be kept such a tight secret?

  2. Angela Brown said:

    I admit I used to wonder about that same question. But an agent at a conference mentioned that trends come and go and what’s getting published today was accepted like 12 to 18 months ago. So they recommended sticking with what you have a passion for, what you know and love. That seems to be the best thing as the end result of the work will be something the writer can stand by.

  3. R. E. Hunter said:

    I don’t know if trends really change so fast that by the time you spot it, it’s already on the way out. Of course it depends on how long it takes you to crank out a book (I see some authors doing 4 a year!).

    I’m still waiting for the whole vampire and zombie thing to pass. It can’t happen soon enough for me.

  4. Anonymous said:

    I’ve seen one “agent” hocking authors on facebook and twitter for what she considers “the next Fifty Shades of Grey.” She’s actively looking for it, in public forums. It looks shabby and no matter how hard they try it never happens. It’s like trying to get the next Harry Potter. And we all know how that worked out.

    This kind of request on social media, where a publishing professional actually asks for something like “the next Fifty Shades of Grey” should be an automatic red flag for all authors.

  5. Ryan Stuart Lowe said:

    Writers want to think that the readers’ market is somewhat predictable — that if you do your research, you can turn out something that will pop with a crowd.

    In the end, the only guarantee is: good writing, good characters, good plot. Oh, and steampunk. Definitely steampunk.

  6. Stephsco said:

    I live in Chicago area and checked out info on the RT booklovers convention last year, wondering if I should go (it’s quite expensive) I didn’t know it was the type of convention to have pitch fests with agents. But I guess every event seems to have that sort of thing. Anyway, just found that interesting, I’m not ready to pitch anything unfortunately.

    I’m wondering if the buzz about 50 Shades at RT is people who like it or who are scratching their heads at how it managed to get so big. I have to think some of the established erotica and romance authors who write good material might be miffed at 50 Shades’ success – specifically because of the fanfic angle and the um, not so wonderfully literary angle.

  7. Jill James said:

    Well, even if paranormal is on the way out I’m still going to work on my zombie romance because I love it and it is really fun to write right now.

  8. lemon said:

    But isn’t erotica always in? What if an aspiring novelist is a snore at erotica but great at horror?

    We can try our hand at the genre that’s hot and trendy but we may not find success if it isn’t a fit for us. Write according to your interests is my motto.

  9. Karen Peterson said:

    I always feel a little bit relieved when I read things like this from agents. I write what I like to read and I’ve always believed that if I am any good, eventually someone will want to publish it, whether it’s “in” or not.

  10. Fred said:

    Since I started writing my WIP about 5 years ago, and I’m not done yet, I figure about twelve trends will have come and gone by the time it would be in print.

    Forget it. I’d rather set the trend

  11. The Writer Librarian said:

    This is directly related to an NPR article I tried to post to your Facebook page earlier today, having to do with why some books become bestsellers (though I think they’re still scratching their heads about 50 Shades of Grey).Click here for the article…

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