Should You Try to Write What’s HOT?

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the difference between good projects and hot projects; and I followed it up with a post about why your project can sell even if it’s not “hot.”

So that begs the question (which many of you asked): Should you try to write what’s hot? Should you be following the trends and trying to write to them?

In general, I don’t think so. Write what you’re good at. You could be the one to start a new trend, or help a genre to start trending “up” when perhaps it had been flat for awhile. If you try to chase the trends, by the time you write a good book in that genre, it might already be so glutted that it’s not hot anymore.

If you happen to be writing in a genre that everyone is saying “isn’t selling right now,” then it might just be a timing issue. These things are cyclical; you never know when that genre might start selling again.

That said, there are times when it’s helpful to be aware of what type of books are doing well. If you happen to write more than one genre equally well, and you’re unpublished, you should choose the genre that would give you the best chance of breaking in. Write the less popular genre later when you’re established. Even in non-fiction, being aware of what’s selling can help you strategize your entry into the market. Either way, you always want to choose the path that seems to hold the least obstacles (because there are already so many obstacles to getting published, you don’t need any more!)

So what do YOU think? What kinds of books do you see trending up? What’s not so hot?

Rachelle Gardner, Christian literary agent, Colorado

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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  5. Anonymous on July 7, 2009 at 7:19 PM

    >I read a ton and read widely across many genres and still find myself sometimes in a bookstore not finding a book that I'm excited about. Other times, I walk out with a handful. So my approach is to simply try to write the missing story, the one I can't find that I'm dying to read, trusting that if the story idea excites me, it might interest others.

    Still a work in progress though…will report back on how this strategy works out.


  6. A J Hawke on July 7, 2009 at 1:12 PM

    >Thanks for this blog. It is an issue that I have been struggling with. I recently returned home from a conference where I had two publisher's editors and two agents tells me that my novels were well written and had wonderful plots, but…they weren't what was selling now. It was a bit discourging.

    Then I sat myself down and asked myself the question: Why are you writing? To say I don't write to be published is an untruth. We all want to be published. Yet, I would rather write to God's glory and keep that trust in Him that in His timing publishing will happen. Although in my frail humanity, I want to pick the timing.

    I also forgot for a while to look on the bright side after the conference, I had two editors and two agents compliment my novels! That can't be too bad a thing.

    A J

  7. writer jim on July 6, 2009 at 9:41 PM

    >Write your passion…write YOUR book, that nobody else could write near as good as YOU.
    My wife is a renouned Florida artist. But once I had an idea for a watercolor; and did it myself. I entered it in a contest which was judged by the head of art for Florida universities. When the awards ceremonies took place He announced that a great artist had entered the contest…and awarded me first place. The building erupted in cheer. THEN He said my painting was so great that it would also receive the best of show award.
    A decorating company heard of my painting, and purchased it. They painted their main office a new color to go with the painting. They continually had people wanting to buy the painting off the wall; so my wife got about a dozen commisions to paint pieces as similar to mine as possible.
    The owner of the company went to New York as one of those that picked the new colors for decorating the following year. So when you look around your house, you likely have some color that was from my painting.
    The exact same thing can happen with your book; if you write your passion, with great passion. If you are doing it for God's glory with pure motives, HE can EASILY bring you success beyond your expectations.

  8. TE on July 6, 2009 at 8:42 PM

    >Hi Rachelle!

    I look forward to your posts everyday. As a beginning writer, and I do not say that passively, I need all the direction and insight that is available and credible.

    I didn't decide to write until I heard the voice of God, and even then it took several years for me to submit to the idea that it was actually Him. It was and I know that because I love to write and it consumes me. It is His gift to me.

    I cannot write what He does not give me to write. He is the boss, I just show up for work. I trust that, my God that has begun a good work in me will complete it.

    I look forward to tomorrow's post!

  9. Karin on July 6, 2009 at 7:52 PM

    >I'm not published yet, but I'm sticking with what I like, not the trends (though I was relieved when I found out I DON'T write chick lit – it's actually just humorous women's lit).

    I might miss the trends, and I might not get published for a while, but I like writing. I don't think I could stop if I wanted to, so I'll stick with it and make sure I write to the best of my ability.

  10. macromab on July 6, 2009 at 5:42 PM

    >Write about what your passionate about. J.K. Rowling didn't wait for the child wizard genre: she created it.

  11. Anonymous on July 6, 2009 at 4:59 PM

    >Thing is, the market may never share the vision God may give a writer.

    It may not be lucrative for the market. Popular in too small a niche, whatever.

    Today, it's possible for a decent craftsment with a compelling story to do Print On Demand. And they won't have a stack of boxes in the garage.

    And with some ad money, writers can get the word out.

  12. Liana Brooks on July 6, 2009 at 4:29 PM

    >The problem with writing what's hot now is that it's going to be a few years before your book hits the shelves. By then there will be a new trend and you'll look out-of-date.

    I'd rather write what I love, make my own niche, and have people try to imitate me. Not the other way around.

  13. dogarta on July 6, 2009 at 4:13 PM

    >This was encouraging to read, especially as a beginning writer. It's good to hear that I don't have to be a writing genius in every genre in order to have a shot at breaking into the market.

    What does worry me, though, is what happens when the market becomes so super-saturated with a certain genre. How hard will it be to publish in that genre after that happens? Writing something original is already difficult enough; writing something original when everyone and his brother is trying to do the same thing within that genre seems a trying task indeed.

    I'm noticing a lot of YA fantasy right now, which troubles me a bit, since fantasy is one of my strongest genres. Who's to say people won't be sick of it by the time I'm able to start the publishing process? (Sometimes it amazes me that people aren't sick of it already…) My only consolation is that nearly all of it now is urban fantasy, whereas I lean more towards epic fantasy. With that, it might be a bit easier to seem original, but…eh, I don't know. It still worries me sometimes.

  14. Heather on July 6, 2009 at 4:06 PM

    >Thanks for the reminder that we should always write what we're passionate about. Sometimes I'm tempted to write something else…something other than epic fantasy…then I remember why I love that particular genre. Thanks for a great blog over all, Rachel!

  15. Heather Burch on July 6, 2009 at 2:13 PM

    >I've done this. I was asked by an agent to work on a historical.
    It proved a terrific learning experience. But guess what? After 100 pages–even though the agent liked it and felt like she could sell it–I wasn't happy.
    I didn't believe in myself where the historical was concerned and honestly felt like a fraud.
    It' not my heart. It's not my passion or my dream. My stories tend to have a historical thread, and yes, my style suits the 'warm, cozy' feeling of a historical, but I can't write what I'm not passionate about.
    So here I am. Without an agent, but happy none-the-less. Writing is difficult enough. Live your dream. No matter what!

  16. Sharon A. Lavy on July 6, 2009 at 12:42 PM

    >Thank you for correcting me Cindy. The book Michael really touched me as a wife. I recommend it to all married women everywhere.

  17. Stephanie, PQW on July 6, 2009 at 12:35 PM

    >Thanks Rachelle. It helps to have a professional say what I believed. I remember when Harry Potter hit the big time. Shortly following its success came a blizzard of Potteresque books and stories ad nausium. The same thing is happening with the Twilight series.

    While these are areas that don't resonate with me, writing what's already out there isn't such a smart move. I will break into the market when I do, but I have to admit I would like it to be sooner rather than later.

  18. Rebecca Knight on July 6, 2009 at 11:52 AM

    >What I've heard (and what I firmly believe,) is that if you try to chase what's *hot*, not only will it be stone cold by the time your book hits the shelves (in 2 years), but it won't ring true.

    People can tell when writers are faking it in a genre they usually wouldn't write, even if the genre is still hot. If it's not what you're passionate about or not what you would have written by yourself, then it's not going to be your best work. Period.

    Write what you love, and leave the timing to God :).

  19. lynnrush on July 6, 2009 at 11:11 AM

    >Oh, Katie. I love that quote from Francine Rivers. Nicely put.
    So true.

    Write what God lays on your heart. He'll take it from there. šŸ™‚

  20. CKHB on July 6, 2009 at 11:09 AM

    >Oh, and once again thanks to Rachelle for writing a timely post, since I just got a nice decline from an agent telling me that "it's not your writing, it's the genre."

    I've written chick lit. There's no shopping, there's no endless quest for Mr. Right, but it's still chick lit (first-person, somewhat confidential narrative), and chick lit is just a tough category right now.

    WHY didn't I add zombies? WHY?!?!


  21. Arabella on July 6, 2009 at 10:57 AM

    >Yes, please, from a reader's perspective, write what you're passionate about. I will read anything that is well-written. Passion for a subject or for characters is essential, though I must admit that my biggest pet peeve is poor grammar. I. Hate. Fragment. Sentences. That, of course, is a style issue, but I hate having to read three frags in order to make sense of info that should have made up one sentence. All right, my rant is over. I just read a book that should have been funny, but wasn't due to awful grammar. It was chic lit, by the way.

  22. Tamera Lynn Kraft on July 6, 2009 at 10:43 AM

    >I agree we should write our passion. It's hard to hear and to follow when you write historical non-romance, and everyone's looking for historical romance though. I writing one historical romance, and it's turning out to be a saga instead of a romance as well. I guess I'll have to wait for the market to shift before I break in.

  23. Betsy Ashton on July 6, 2009 at 10:38 AM

    >I agree that we should write what we are good at and not what's hot. I am a writer of women's fiction who does not try to write chick lit, paranormal romance, fantasy, or thrillers. I would sound false. And I don't write quickly enough to churn out pages just because today's hot trend is something foreign to me. I'll stick with what I write best and hope for the best with my query letters.

  24. Cheryl Barker on July 6, 2009 at 10:17 AM

    >Rachelle, this question will probably show my ignorance, but what's the best way for knowing what the current market is for a particular genre? Is it just looking at publishers' current or new releases? Or seeing what is actually on the bookstore shelves?

    This is something I need to consider for a gift book project I'm working on, and I'd sure like to know if I'm approaching it right or am missing something… Thanks for all the help you offer on your blog!

  25. Terri Tiffany on July 6, 2009 at 10:03 AM

    >I was writing romance because that is what I thought was easiest to sell and what I knew. I've just written a women's fiction book because of the topic–and it's from my heart. I don't know if it will sell but I believe in this book more than anything I've ever written. I think that is what counts:)

  26. Cindy Thomson on July 6, 2009 at 9:50 AM

    >Thank goodness for agents who keep their thumb on the publishing pulse.

    Sharon: I know it was just a slip. It's Jill Eileen Smith who is writing the Wives of King David series.

  27. Glynis on July 6, 2009 at 9:40 AM

    >Mmm,I say write what is in you,if it is good it will get noticed.
    Interesting post and topic.

  28. Livia on July 6, 2009 at 9:31 AM

    >Thanks for the post. I think I'm going to write a related on my blog about this subject

  29. auxarcspublications on July 6, 2009 at 9:22 AM

    >I personally believe in hitting them where they are not! Find a niche, a unique spot where your talent, background, knowledge and style will show through, then create that market segment and dominate it. You should write what you want, but don't waste your time if it is not unique and new. If you want fans and want to be remembered, well, here is the place to be get known.

  30. Kathryn Lang on July 6, 2009 at 9:17 AM

    >Passion is one of the most important elements of anything! BUT you have to know the market and the industry. Tailor your passion to the market – which I think is much different from simply following a trend – and you should have a winner.

  31. Matilda McCloud on July 6, 2009 at 8:44 AM

    >Here is my own unscientific take on what's hot, mainly based on what I've seen in my local bookstore:

    fiction and nonfiction from writers outside the US (ie women in Iran, India etc)

    narrative nonfiction that covers one topic from every angle, but in a readable, nontechnical way. I read a book published this past year about the history of pigeons called SUPERDOVE–and it was very interesting (I'm serious). It was written by a science writer without any particular "platform."

    YA vampires and paranormal–this still seems to be going strong as long as you can do something unique with it.

    Chick lit as long as it's glitzy and different (ie Southern debutantes etc)–not young women who work in NYC etc.

    women's fiction like Jodi Picoult (sp) that reolves around some "issue" or a book about women who've known each other all their lives get together at a beach house (double yawn–why are these books still published every year? I guess to read on the beach…).

    Historical novels that use real historical figures (usually well known, but minor) or use a intriguing perspective such as the one recently published that is told from the perspective of a wet nurse for the aristocracy…or use literary figures like JANE AUSTEN AND THE ZOMBIES (can't remember exact title).

    I don't know what's hot in the Christian market, but I do think there is a market for books that deal in a mainstream way with Christianity, such as the wonderful memoir by the woman in Maine who was a chaplain for the forest service and I think was quite successful…I read it, but can't remember the title

  32. Krista Phillips on July 6, 2009 at 8:34 AM

    >I'm pretty singular in my reading preferences, and am the same in my writing preferences as well. Even when I'm reading that rare women's fiction with no romance that I picked up thinking it WOULD be a romance, I find myself pairing up couples in my head and frustrated when the author keeps them single at the end of the book. I am 100% no doubt about it a contemporary romance writer.

    What's hot? I hear Amish Fiction and Vampire stuff tossed around in jokes. Maybe that's it. But you still see a LOT of women's fiction and romance on the shelves. I think those genres are always up there on the "hot" level because they are universal and not necessarily "theme" driven. As someone else mentioned though, former chick-lit/mom-lit is being remarketed as contemp.romance and women's fiction, so the genre is a little overcrowded at the moment

  33. Lynnda - Passionate for the Glory of God on July 6, 2009 at 8:25 AM

    >Good morning, Rachelle!

    I see that your holiday weekend did not slow you down. You have another thought provoking post, this Monday morning.

    I do not have any thoughts about the hottest book types. But I do want to throw out an observation about book buyers. IMHO it appears that women read more fiction and more often than men. It also appears that men who are readers tend to read more non-fiction than fiction.

    So, assuming that my observations are correct, and IF I were to look primarily at the market to choose a book type to write, would it not make sense for writers of fiction to write for women in order to have the greatest opportunity to become published? For non-fiction writers, would the principle not suggest that focusing on men's topics might make getting published easier?

    Thanks for always helping me to think about what I am writing – and why.

    Be blessed!

  34. Gumbo Writers on July 6, 2009 at 8:22 AM


    This is great advice. I also believe if you write what you're good and topics that interest you, you will go farther than if you simply follow the trends. Write what you're passionate about and you will succeed.

  35. SM Blooding on July 6, 2009 at 8:05 AM

    >Well, I've been looking at the YA and the paranormal markets…and when I say paranormal, I'm talking about romance and fantasy and horror. What I found is that…I'm getting bored with what's out there.

    There are some freakin' awesome books out there right now, don't get me wrong. But I'm…tired of picking up books and going, "Oh, another vampire book–but this one is different because he glistens in the sunlight. Here's another werewolf book–oh, but this one is different because it has cats instead of wolves. Here's another fairy/elf book, but this this one's different because…well,I don't know how this one's different because elves drive me nuts."

    Now, even though I say that, it doesn't stop me from buying the books. However, me and several people I know, would like to see something in these genres that are different.

    Like, in YA, why not something with a different mythical creature. We've already had dragons in New York–in fantasy, not YA–but, you know, something like that. What about gargoyles. I have read one of those, but it was good and would like to see more.

    Or in paranormal…what's so paranormal about vampires and werewolves? Or mummies and zombies for that matter? What about…ghosts, witches, demons, angels, poltergeists? I would love to see more of that. And I am, but they're hard to find. And why is it that most paranormal is hidden in romance? I would like to see more paranormal thrillers or paranormal fantasy.

    But…that's my vent. I'm stepping off the soap box. *grin* GREAT post!!!

  36. CKHB on July 6, 2009 at 7:59 AM

    >"study the market, study the publishers, and write what they like"

    Wow, that's what you've heard "everywhere"? I've NEVER heard that. Study the market, yes, but for the purposes of being informed about where to place the novel that you've already written, not how to decide what to write!

    There's a new novel out right now called "How I Became a Famous Novelist" that has a main character who is very calculating and writes purely "for the market"… things don't go as planned. It's a good read.

  37. Katie Ganshert on July 6, 2009 at 7:32 AM

    >I LOVE this post. One of my most favorite authors is Francine Rivers. I have a quote from her on my blog and it is this:

    "My advice would be don't look at the market at all. Don't look at the publishers at all. You look at God. And you go where God is taking you. God will take care of the rest." -Francine Rivers

    It flies in the face of what you hear everywhere else – which is study the market, study the publishers, and write what they like. I completely understand that to a degree, this is necessary and good, especially if our goal is to be published.

    But as much as I want to be published, that's not the end-all, be-all reason I write. I write for two main reasons: It's my passion and I want to use my passion to glorify God.

    It's easy to fall into the trap of searching for the BIG BREAK…what can I write so I can break into this publishing industry? The only problem with this is that when I write that way, my writing isn't from the heart. And who likes to read writing that's not from the heart? I know I don't.

  38. Richard Mabry on July 6, 2009 at 7:02 AM

    >I don't try to time the stock market (wish I could). I don't have a clue what's going to be "in" in the fashion world next season. And I can't fathom the swings that make some books "hot" and others "not."

    Just as important, my experience has shown me that the time from getting that magic phone call about a project getting picked up to the time the book appears on the shelves is long enough for things to have changed significantly in the area of public taste.

    As always, thanks for good advice.

  39. Jessica on July 6, 2009 at 6:07 AM

    >I'm pretty sure that I'm not so good at the hot stuff. I LOVE romance, so that's what I write. I like suspense too, and thrillers, but I'm not sure I could write them. I think writers should make sure their projects are saleable (or try) but chasing trends would probably be unwise. šŸ™‚

  40. Sharon A. Lavy on July 6, 2009 at 5:58 AM

    >I had been hearing that biblical fiction was not selling. Then what do you know, Jill Nelson gets a book deal on the wives of David.

    I believe we should write the genre that is on our heart.

    Having said that, I see some "Amish" fiction coming through the critique groups that does not rig true.

    No, I am not Amish, but as a member of the larger anabaptist group of Christians, whenever I am around Amish and Plain Mennonite women and we start talking, on many subjects, it is as if we are from the same group.

    I shudder when I read a wip that makes the Amish seem stupid.

    So my request is please don't write Amish stories because you think that is hot right now.

  41. Lisa Jordan on July 6, 2009 at 5:35 AM

    >Chick lit was hot for a while and the market became saturated with it, so editors and agents declared no more chick lit. Many of those chick lit writers call their books humorous women's fiction or romantic comedies.

    Right now, I'm hearing Amish stories and historical romances are hot.

    For me, by the time I write what's hot, it will be lukewarm, so I've been writing the stories tumbling in my brain and pray God provides me with a market for them. If not, the voices can keep each other company. šŸ™‚

  42. AmyBoucherPye on July 6, 2009 at 3:26 AM

    >Totally agree. When I was an acquisitions editor for one of the big Christian publishing companies, I would repeat again and again to my (nonfiction) authors, "Write your biggest book, on what you're most passionate." Great content sells. Trends are for the making. Oh, and platform surely helps too…

  43. Sara Tribble on July 6, 2009 at 1:47 AM

    >Something is going around cause a lot of agents are addressing this issue.

    I actually love/adore fantasy so of course I wanted to write one of my own and did, but my second novel is a paranormal womens fiction, one I'm shopping around, something some agents want to take on while others won't unless the hook is strong. To me it stands an even chance because all agents are different.

    Personally-the whole vamps are just overwhelming! By all means I love vamps and am obsessed with True Blood, but really? Vampires? How come I'm not seeing any more witches or wizards–at all!? I myself love those more!

    So what do I think the next big thing will be? Well I didn't think Vamps would make it so high so I'll go with Demons. Paranormal is starting to trend along with Urban Fantasy. Why can't demons be loving? If vamps can I see no problem with it.

    As for what's not so hot, it's tough but I'd go with horror. I never see a lot of this genre but love to read it and do on sites such as SNM Horror Magazine and others. I hope to write a horror novel in the near future even if it's hard, but hopefully I'll be broke in the industry by then!

  44. Roxane B. Salonen on July 6, 2009 at 1:24 AM

    >I've heard this advice before — to not worry too much about what's hot because it's sure to change by the time your book is ready to be seen. What a relief to know that we don't have to be constantly monitoring the book scene and what's being snapped up and adjust our writing to it. At the same time, it's prudent to know what's hot. Trying to chase that down, however, just leaves too much room for error and all that is beyond our control. If we are writing from our heart, our core,and constantly growing in our craft, I truly believe that it will resonate with others.