Sunday, January 27, 2013

Being Internly: Predicting the Future

Yes, it's a little known fact that when you are looking for a job in publishing, clairvoyance is a necessary job skill. I admit to being a little taken aback when my boss told me that it's not so much what's selling now, but what will sell two years from now that's important. Why two years? Because that's when the open slots are in the publishing world. The catalogs for this year are already printed, books have already been scheduled. Pubs are businesses. They try to space out what they are banking on as their 'big titles' so that the releases correspond with their financial quarters. Also, certain books do better at certain times of the years. A glossy coffee table book is going to do better being released in October so it gains a little momentum before the holiday season when shoppers are looking for these types of books. A light, frothy, fiction title gets released in May/June for Mother's Day and primarily so it'll be in position for the 'beach read' displays. Somebody somewhere has the title list for the next five sales Barnes and Noble will be holding.

So what does this mean for the aspiring author? If you're going to write to the trend, do so at the beginning of it. Look at the 50 shades phenomenon. D/S bondage erotica wasn't exactly mainstream. Publishers didn't have anything comparable to market so they could ride the wave. So they snapped up self-pubs and reissued anything similar, like Sylvia Day's older titles. Day's Bared to You, by the way, was originally a self-pub. You can get the story of its journey to traditional publishing straight from the source via a Dear Author podcast

If the wave has hit, however, you're going to have a much harder time selling. For example, when The Hunger Games came out in 2008, it launched the YA dystopian trend. Readers were looking for something to tide them over in between books and publishers wanted to meet that need. Two years later, books in this subgenre began to roll-out: Matched by Allie Condie in 2010, Divergent by Veronica Roth in 2011, Delirium by Lauren Oliver in 2011, Enclave by Ann Aguirre in 2011, The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken in 2012, Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi in 2012. Yes, dystopians existed before the odds were in our favor (The Giver by Lois Lowry in 1993, Uglies by Scott Westerfeld in 2005), but Katniss was the match that lit the flame. It's now 2013. Editors and agents have been flooded with dystopian YAs for FIVE YEARS. Your manuscript has to be pretty damn spectacular to stand out in the slush pile, let alone to get an editor to gamble the readers won't be burnt out on dystopians in 2015. 

How do you predict the future? Personally speaking, I look for the match. If I can pinpoint what might spark a new trend, I can get ahead of it. I check out the TV pilots for the next year's season, glance at upcoming movies, and I read the trades for what's being published next year, Publisher's Weekly in particular. I'm active on social media, I talk to young adult librarians, and I look for things that I, as a consumer, might enjoy. 

I've long been an advocate for more fairy-tale based books due to Once Upon a Time and Grimm. My boss has been actively searching for high fantasy and the fact that we have three Hobbit movies rolling out make this a safe choice. I think outer space/science-fiction might make a bit of a bounce-back and personally speaking, I'd love to see a YA where the future doesn't suck, like a futuristic contemporary. 

But if you have a fantastic manuscript, one that makes your critique partners cry or sigh or gives them nightmares, it doesn't matter what genre your book is in. A wonderful book will always sell eventually.  Who knows?  Your book could be the next match. 

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