THE NEXT BIG YA TREND IS…
Posted by James Dawson on January 7, 2013
So it went something like this: Wizards were HUGE, then vampires became BIGGER, they were eclipsed (arf) by angels who were soon slayed by able young women from dystopias and post-apocalyptic futures. As we head into 2013, talk amongst bloggers, readers, authors and publishers turns to the inevitable…WHAT’S NEXT?
Of course, we know what was next.
Porn Erotica. We ALL know that young adult readers were reading Fifty Shades, however with the possible exception of The Vincent Boys from Hot Key Books, young adult imprints (often attached to children’s imprints) have stayed away from this trend, doubtless over concerns of impropriety.
It may surprise you to know that one trend is being muttered about more than most. Is it mermaids? Games of Junior Thrones? ‘Sick-Lit‘? Gritty contemp thrillers? Cassie Clare rip-offs ready for the movie release? *Baited breath gasp* *writers’ pens poise over page* The answer is ‘none of the above’. It may come as a surprise to YA readers and writers alike to learn that ‘YA is over’ and ‘Mid-grade is IN’. The ‘word on the street’ is that YA authors are taking aim at a younger market and that publishers are looking for ‘New Narnias’.
Why the move away from the older end of the market, especially when New Adult was supposed to be the new Young Adult? I expect sales are probably the answer. Last week’s rundown of the top 100 books of 2012 threw up some interesting figures. The Hunger Games sold really, REALLY well but they were only YA entries in the top 100. The rest of the children’s/teen list was filled with Wimpy Kids and David Walliams’ books. High-profile YA releases sold well but not enough to make ‘phenomenon’ status. Yet.
Arguably, on the back of Twilight (and it was Twilight, because that paved the way for THG) the YA market has reached saturation point so the new way to stand out for both authors and publishers alike would be to try something fresh and new. Perhaps there is nothing new left for YA authors to try. I suppose all we can do then is leave this dying ‘genre’ and decide as YA authors if we want to write for younger readers or adults.
Hopefully, by now, you’re picking up on a loving, but nonetheless sarcastic tone. Yeah, it’s ‘trend’ time again. Trends are for commentators and, to an extent, journalists. Although in publishing and YA circles ‘supernatural’ or ‘dystopian’ were trends, to the rest of the world, YA as a whole was one such ‘trend’, erotica is a ‘trend’, during Fifty Shades fever, ‘reading’ became a ‘trend’. I’m not sure what facet of human nature makes us want to a) discuss or b) follow trends. Is it a terrible hangover from trying to fit in with the cool kids at school or is it the need of so-called trendsetters to wield their power. Does Anna Wintour derive satisfaction from emerging from her lifepod twice a year to decree ‘FANTASYPLAID’ or ‘URBAN-RUSTIC’?
All art forms are prone to trends and fashions. In art, they are called ‘movements’ and a successful film or TV series is bound to give rise to imitators. Why would fiction be any different? I don’t really think this can be said enough, but trend-predicting as writers is a sure way to go insane. Especially when I was unpublished it was hella tempting to scour the bookshelves for what would catch the eye of an agent or publisher, but now having met agents and publishers the same things catch their eyes in 2013 as in 2008 when I started: gripping plots; original and authentic voices; beautiful prose and intriguing characters. This is the only trend there has ever been.
Yes, marketing and sales people WILL react to what is selling well, but remember they’re six months to a year ahead of writers. Many of the post-Grey erotica novels were hastily repackaged works by existing authors. Release schedules are filled approximately eighteen months in advance, so trend chasing is tail chasing for authors. Further more, when have ‘thrillers’ or ‘romance’ ever been OFF trend? From Dragon Tattoo to Before I Go To Sleep from Bridget Jones to One Day. These ‘trends’ are timeless.
The best advice I’ve ever been given was from Patrick Ness, an author who has never needed trends. He told me: ‘write the book you want to write’. That is all. If you want to write vampire love triangles, do it and do it WELL. Right now, I’m in the glorious best-bit-of-being-an-author part where I’ve just finished one project and am about to embark on a new novel. I DID think about writing something for younger children, but only in the same way I thought about writing the Ultimate Companion to America’s Next Top Model – fleetingly. It wasn’t the book I wanted to write. As ever, I want to do something with young adults figuring out who they are. With some other stuff happening too.
All the original YA authors: Harper Lee, JD Salinger, Malorie Blackman, Christopher Pike, Judy Blume, Philip Pullman, RL Stine never worried about trends – they just wrote their stuff. And they wrote it WELL. I think I’d like to do that too.
Write the book you want to write. Read the books you want to read. Throw ‘trends’ insouciantly on a bullshit bonfire and walk away in slow-motion.