Don’t Ask Me About Trends

We’ve talked a lot on this blog about trends in publishing, what’s hot and what’s not, and the fact that agents and publishers are always basing acquisitions for the future on what has sold in the past. Because of this, people are always asking me: So what’s hot? What are the trends?

But I’m admitting right now, I don’t love talking about trends.

I stay on top of what’s happening. I hang out in bookstores and watch bestseller lists and cruise around the web, and I talk with other agents. More importantly, I watch Publishers Marketplace so that I know what’s selling to publishers right now (to be released in a year or so) and I talk with editors often, finding out what they’re looking for, what they’re tired of, and what their thoughts are on the future.

BUT… there’s limited value to all of that. I think we have to stay on top of trends, yet at the same time, take them with a grain of salt. Here’s why:

→ The moment I conclude that a certain genre is “out,” I’m usually proven wrong by a big sale or a big bestseller.

→ Slavishly following trends limits creativity and the possibility of finding something fresh and exciting.

→ The truth is, nobody really knows what’s going to be hot in the future. We are all just guessing. Basing future expectations on events of the past has limited success—it’s not always correct.

So this is why you don’t see me writing posts explaining “what’s in and what’s out.” I only sort of believe in the trends. I need to make a living so I’m constantly assessing whether certain projects seem to have viability in today’s market. Yet I also believe in trying to find great books and get them published regardless of—or in spite of—the trends.

Plenty of agents write great blogs about current trends. I read them and you should too. But I’m rarely going to write one – sorry!

What do YOU see as current or upcoming trends in books?

Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent

Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Gardner Literary. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!


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  3. Mechelle Fogelsong on July 10, 2010 at 1:26 PM

    >I write YA. Yeah, I know Rachelle, you don't rep us. I only follow your blog because it's so fantastic. I'm not sucking up so you'll read my manuscript. I've never even sent you a query.

    Anyway, as a writer of YA, I feel very fortunate to be a middle school teacher. My reading audience is at my fingertips every day.

    So every Monday, before I take my students to the library to renew their books, I ask each and every kid, "What are you reading?" and "How do you like it?" Sometimes I even venture into questions like, "If that book wasn't available at the library, would you buy it at the store?" or "Would you buy it as a gift for a friend?"

    I think agents who DO rep YA would find it beneficial to step into a classroom and dialog with kids once a week, like I do. They might be surprised by what they find.

  4. Jessica on July 6, 2010 at 11:16 AM

    >PicardyRose, I've emailed you! 🙂

  5. Kathryn Magendie on July 6, 2010 at 6:09 AM

    >I'm 53 yrs old and in good shape, but just because I can wear certain clothes, doesn't mean I should. And then, there's the clothes I can't wear at all, they just don't fit. And then there are those I just don't like how they look on my body. What's in my closet is my own style, my own perfect fit, even if I did try a few sales items that I regret :).

    And that's my analogy or metaphor or whatever on "what's Popular or Stylish or Trendy" right now or any other time. I am who I am and I write what I am.

    This is why small presses are beautiful-they will take a chance on something that perhaps isn't "trendy" and for that I am glad.

    I can imagine as an agent, esp if you are an agent who is also a writer, it is hard to balance what you personally may like to read or write vs what "Sells" . . . I don't envy what may at times be a dilemma.

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  7. Jil on July 5, 2010 at 10:15 PM

    >The world is not composed of only young adults (or younger) and I have read that older folks are becoming a majority. I think they will want to escape from these troubled times into true fiction that grips their hearts and takes them away from politics and present wars. Perhaps even to drama in a better time they once knew.

  8. PicardyRose on July 5, 2010 at 6:59 PM

    >Thanks for this, Rachelle. I think by the time I finish writing my novel, the subject will have come and gone in fashion many times over.

    Jessica with the WWI interest, could you email me?

    (Rachelle, I hope this doesn't seem rude to you.)

  9. T. Anne on July 5, 2010 at 1:35 PM

    >Amish, vampire, zombies, all rolled into one could quite possibly lead to a viral bestseller. I however tend to gravitate towards raw, beautiful writing. I do read outside my genre and you can find this style of writing all across the board if you look hard enough. I also tend to think humorous women's fiction is cyclical. That seemed to take a nose dive for a while, perhaps that will start trending upwards again.

  10. Anonymous on July 5, 2010 at 12:22 PM

    >I agree–I love historical novels (especially mysteries) because you can learn a lot about the period without a boring lecture. Plus they solved crimes the old-fashioned way–with their wits, not kits.

  11. MJR on July 5, 2010 at 11:52 AM

    >I don't write historical fiction, but I'm seeing a lot of deals now for historical novels with unusual perspectives on a period, ie a novel told from the perspective of a wet nurse in England in the 18th century. I think historical fiction bridges the gap between literary fiction (often dreary with no plot) and genre fiction (too predictable).

  12. Jessica Nelson on July 5, 2010 at 11:29 AM

    >Like Krista, I'd like to see more cont. romances. A few months ago I went to the store to buy some books. I write contemporary so I wanted to find some.
    There were a ton of Kingsburys but not much besides her. I ended up with one that was a sweet story but too bland to be ABA and although it was pubbed by a CBA house, not a single mention of God. I guess it was supposed to be an allegory but I kept wishing there were more, hardcore CBA contemporary romances.
    Thank goodness for Love Inspired! LOL

    It will DEFINITELY be interesting to see what the next trend is. I agree about the Angel/Demon thing. I can see that being pretty big in ABA.
    Thanks for asking!

  13. Krista Phillips on July 5, 2010 at 10:27 AM

    >I think it only takes one book to change a trend:-)

    For CBA fiction, I see a lot of women's fiction and a lot of historical romance. There are also a lot of women's fiction that are marketed at romantic comedy/romance however, personally, I'd put it more in the WF catagory.

    I'd LOVE to see more contemporary romance come out… I don't think it's "out" but I just don't see as much lately.

    Also seeing a lot of romantic suspense too:-)

    This is purely from my love of standing in the bookstore for way too long trying to pick which one to get:-)

  14. Adventures in Children's Publishing on July 5, 2010 at 10:19 AM

    >Trends should inform and maybe slightly influence us, but not totally overtake our direction in writing. Too much focus on what's hot stifles our ability to creatively write and hope that the next big idea is ours! If such an idea were predictable, everyone would be writing it.

    I appreciate the discussion about this topic.


  15. Florence on July 5, 2010 at 10:15 AM

    >Thanks for this post and thanks for asking. The current trend is what a person writes that is good. Good being the operative word. We need to believe that when it is good, it will be read.

    Sure, I might have missed out on the vampire thing, but who knew? The boat has sailed on my chance to cash in on the craze to write to a YA audience. There was a window in time when I could have tried to be inspirational and I am certain I have not spent enough time learning about "category" as opposed to every day romance.

    I know that when we write to ourselves, our best audience, and we love it, we do a good job. And good is enough of a trend for me.

    It's really that simple. Please yourself and I might be pleased also.

    Good writing to all 🙂

  16. Keary Taylor on July 5, 2010 at 10:05 AM

    >Something that I have noticed in the YA category is a huge surgance of Angel books lately. When I started writing my book about angels last year I searched and searched for anything related and found one book. Then one month after I sent out my query letters Hush, Hush and Fallen came out. Now as I continue to try and secure an agent it seems like I see a new angel based YA or PNR come out ever week! It looks to me like Angels may be replacing vampires!

  17. Jill Domschot aka Arabella on July 5, 2010 at 9:57 AM

    >I concur with Timothy Fish. Dime store novels were very popular during the Depression. However, I think people do look for meaning in their lives once they've lost a lot of the meaningless things that have kept them propped up. So, I think they will be searching for spirituality (and already are). Let's just hope that what they find will be real.

    BTW, the KJV Bible comes up on the top-seller list on my new Nook. I find that curious, but, then, it's also only $.99.

  18. Julie Weathers on July 5, 2010 at 9:56 AM

    >Thanks for posting this. I tend not to watch trends although I have to admit I am sick to death of seeing agents say all they want is YA. I know it's great for YA authors and especially paranormal YA authors, but that's not where I am right now. And, no, I can't turn this WIP into YA even though the MC is the right age.

    I agree with Ted Cross. I think epic fantasy is going to see a resurgence. Maybe that's just wishful thinking.

    Regardless, I would rather be the one setting a trend than the one chasing one. I'll continue writing what I love.

  19. Jessica Nelson on July 5, 2010 at 9:52 AM

    >Trends, schmends. Ha!

    I like this post a lot. I remember when Harry Potter was dying down and I started reading posts wondering what the next big book would be. Then up popped Twilight! Sure, they have some similarities, but mostly they're different.
    Good post! I love that publishing can be a surprise like that.

  20. Jane Doe on July 5, 2010 at 9:14 AM

    >I think the YA paranormal trend is dying, dying, dying. All the racks at BN are full of them, and that's what is called "oversaturation." The book blogging world is starting to rumble with dissatisfaction about all the swill in that genre.

  21. Lisa Jordan on July 5, 2010 at 8:55 AM

    >No matter what the trends are, people are still going to read the genres they enjoy. There are certain trends I'm getting tired of–enough with the vampires already. Romance continues to sell. I'm seeing more quality women's fiction coming out. I notice more of a trend with book cover art than the actual words. Guess I need to climb out of my hole more often and see what's going on around me.

  22. Jessica on July 5, 2010 at 8:04 AM

    >I agree with Timothy Fish on escapist fiction being popular. I've been seeing a lot that, while not necessarily set in a whole new world (i.e. fantasy, paranomal) are set in different places and times.

    And to be a little more specific, as a writer of early 20th century historical fiction, I'm really hoping to see more WWI novels out there, with the centennial approaching. 🙂 I have a few to contribute!

  23. kathy taylor on July 5, 2010 at 7:58 AM

    >I'm not seeing a lot of Southern fiction, so I hoping this will be an upcoming trends in publishing. "Don't ask: don't tell." I'm hoping this isn't an upcoming trend in your blog, Rachelle. 🙂

  24. Timothy Fish on July 5, 2010 at 7:10 AM

    >I predict a trend toward escapist fiction in all of its forms. There’s a lot of bad stuff going on right now and people will enjoy a book where they can go hide from that stuff for a while.

  25. Terri Tiffany on July 5, 2010 at 6:39 AM

    >Ummm what I'm writing, of course!!LOL

  26. ed cyzewski on July 5, 2010 at 6:30 AM

    >I don't think this is necessarily a new trend, but I have seen quite a few books that have contributions from readers in them, such as Anne Jackson's Permission to Speak Freely.

    Regardless of trends, I think we all crave to read a book by an author who is passionate and knowledgeable about his or her subject.

  27. Jan Morrison on July 5, 2010 at 6:10 AM

    >Argghh! I find writing challenging enough without worrying about trends. I figure if I think something is a trend it has peaked already. Let's make trends not follow them! Huzzah! I am now going to go write a new book on weregoldfish…they look nice in their little bowls and then SPLAGHJKIYTHG%%$#!

  28. shawn smucker on July 5, 2010 at 6:08 AM

    >Do you think that part of what's difficult about identifying the next trend is that it may not be based on what reader's want but more on what the next strong story-teller is going to write? Perhaps this is why writer's should be aware of trends but not worry too much about them?

  29. Sharon A. Lavy on July 5, 2010 at 6:07 AM

    >I see a trend toward compelling stories that touch our hearts.

  30. Tessa Quin on July 5, 2010 at 3:41 AM

    >So glad you asked!

    I've been pondering this on my blog a lot, and mostly the question if fantasy was dying. Obviously pure fantasy books will never die (you know, the fantasy/si-fi genre ones), but people have been wondering if YA fantasy might be dying down. I honestly don't think it is, and it won't. Currently it's still a huge trend, and Book Club on Facebook, for example, listed top 10 reads for last week and the week before, and they were all YA fantasy books, mostly series.

    I suppose that trends in books could be compared to trends in fashion; Designers come up with new stuff many times a year, trying to stay on top of what's next, but the general public is still wearing fashion from three years back and like it just fine.

    I'm an avid reader of YA fantasy (mostly vampires) and I sincerely hope they don't stop publishing such books just because publishers "think" that the trend might by dying.

    I also like what Ted Cross (see above) predicts – mostly because that's the kind of manuscript I wrote 😉

  31. Ted Cross on July 5, 2010 at 1:39 AM

    >I believe NOW is the time to take on high/epic fantasy. With the two Hobbit movies eventually coming out and George R.R. Martin's A Game of Thrones being produced by HBO, I think it is pretty obvious that there will be a renewed interest in these genres. It's my dream to see my book with an awesome cover face out on the shelves just as those shows come out!

  32. Anonymous on July 5, 2010 at 1:39 AM

    >Rachelle, great post. While an author should be aware of what's selling and what seems to be hot, by no means should he/she try to write to a trend. That sounds like a diaster waiting to happen.