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Tag Archives: YA

A Trend in Trends: Why No Genre Ever “Dies”

Trends are a major force in commercial fiction these days.  Forum threads, blog posts, magazine articles, even how-to-write books are teeming with theories on how to spot, find, catch, ride, avoid, etc whatever the hot new trend is.  Dystopian is dead, the nail’s in the coffin on vampires, and we’ve found the cure for lycanthropy.

 

But it’s actually a lot more complex than that.  Vampire books are still being picked up, dystopians are still coming out, readers are clamoring for the next John Green-style YA contemp.  And there’s a good reason for that.  The anatomy of a publishing trend can be summed up in a few easy steps:

  1. Someone, probably long ago, wrote a story.  A novel or not, doesn’t matter.  The knowledge of it has survived until now.  There may be a few similar books, but no one really connected them before now.
  2. Someone, pretty recently, wrote a story.  It happens to have some elements in common with our previously discussed story.  There may or may not be direct inspiration involved.  The story sells, possibly for a lot, possibly for a little, to some publisher.  The publisher puts some marketing behind it–or doesn’t–and it’s a huge success.  It might take a few years, but eventually, the book hits its tipping point and suddenly everyone is reading it.  It struck a note, embodied the zeitgeist, whatever.  Suddenly, whatever the topic is, it’s hot.
  3. Several people, with previous novels, novels in the pipeline, or novels on sub wrote similar stories.  They were probably tapping into the same spirit.  Whatever the reason, these books are now hot.  They’ve managed to get in ahead of the trend.  If their book was previously published, now it’s getting a bump from comparisons to the hot novel.  If it was in the pipeline, their publisher is sad they missed the trend-setter, but glad they have a quick follow-up, bound to be successful.  If the book is on-sub–and decently-written–agents are chomping at the bit to snag it and pass it off to a publisher for the big bucks.
  4. The follow-ups come out, make bank, for more or less than the original.  People were hungry for more of what the original gave them, and these feed that hunger, more or less.  Now we have a full-blown trend.  Everyone wants more, movie deals are going out left-and-right.  Now anybody who ever thought about writing a novel, or writing this kind of novel jumps on their computers, starts typing.  Inboxes are flooded with queries, everyone jumps at the shot for more money.  The market gets flooded with books.
  5. Publishers buy, put out new books as fast as possible.  These books also sell well.  People who rarely read normally buy into this new hot thing, especially after seeing the movies.  The market hits saturation.  Agents stop asking for these books.  Writers keep sending them.  Maybe some really good ones get picked up.  Some sell to publishers, some of those do well; many do badly.  Trend is “over”.
  6. Nobody wants these anymore.  Agents and publishers are all booked out.  Authors still send them.  Some are still trend-chasing but have missed the window.  Others are just writing what they want to write and had bad luck with timing.  They get told no one is looking for those books anymore.  Maybe, if they’re really lucky, and have a great hook or fantastic writing, they might get picked up.
  7. The trend is dead.  And then someone writes a new book.  It’s great.  Most people only remember one or two of the trend books, probably including the original.  (Twilight, for example.)  The book gets picked up; rinse and repeat.

 

We’re around step 5 or 6 for YA dystopian right now, near step 7 for paranormal romance.  Traditional high fantasy is around 7, as well.  This cycle is faster now, tending towards around 5 years from first book to first book, and around 3 years from first book to step 5.  And while you may have to update a few things between cycles, there will never be a point where a book becomes forever unsaleable based purely on having missed the trend cycle this time around.

 
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Posted by on May 18, 2014 in Publishing

 

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Less Time Writing Blog Posts, More Time Leaving Myself Behind

I read this wonderful post over on The Rejectionist right after reading Nova Ren Suma’s “What Haunted You at 17” blog series which celebrated the release of her book 17 & Gone, and I realized that I am terrible about leaving.  I hate leaving: places, people, times of my life.  Every time I think about how I’ve drifted away from someone I really cared about, it leaves me on the verge of tears.  Forums I used to be on haunt me.  Things I used to do, like running cross country make me sad I stopped, even though it was the best decision for me at the time.

Even if this post bores you, you should absolutely go and read the ones I linked to and talked about, because they’re practically beautiful shorts stories in and of themselves.

In many ways I agree with what her R-ness says in that post, and the stories in the Haunted at 17″ series say a lot to back it up.

What about you?  Is leaving important to achievement?  Does it make for good stories?  Should we be spending less time on the internet these days and more doing things for real?

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2013 in Blogging

 

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Who Are We Blogging For?

I just finished reading a fantastic post on how the Internet is affecting YA literature.  It was written by the wonderful Hannah Moskowitz over on her blog “Invincible Summer”—which I have only read about two posts on.  And that has clearly been my mistake. 😉

The gist of the post is that we writers, or at least those of us with a significant investment in the authosphere, have moved away from writing for readers, and fallen into the trap of writing for writers.  As someone whose first significant strides in writing came from the poet’s perspective, I can tell you that one of the greatest criticisms I have ever heard about the poetry community is that poetry is no longer written for everyone, but only for other poets, who have the knowledge, background, and exposure to appreciate the currently popular poems.

We do not want this happening to fiction.  We do not want to become a community of people writing only for each other, having lost track of the true purpose of our craft.  It’s all good and well to learn and discuss trends, and clichés, and how “proper” books should  be written.   But we can’t lose site of who we’re writing these books for.

I’m going to ask you now to follow the above link, so that I don’t have to repeat everything Hannah has already so elegantly articulated…

Okay, here goes.  I completely agree with Hannah that the YA writing community has moved in the direction she describes.  It has not completely lost itself, but it hasn’t stayed completely true to its mission either.  And the horrible, terrible, throw up a little in your mouth truth is…  The entire authosphere, the entire online writing community, is falling into this trap.  I see signs of it everywhere.  Writers blog for other writers, sink their valuable writing time into maintaining their status among online peers.

Part of this can be laid at the feet of the aspiring writers who have infiltrated and conquered the author community.  Everywhere, we are encouraged to start blogging, to build platforms, to make connections on Facebook and Twitter, and other blogs.  But we haven’t published anything.  What can we say to readers, who haven’t read us because we’ve given them nothing to read?

And so we build a community amongst ourselves, aimed towards our goals.  We share info, support each other, and work to build up everyone’s careers.  And it’s wonderful!  But it doesn’t really have much to do with our initial reason for joining this community:  to create things for other to enjoy.  Others who do not write, do not know the difference between submitting to an agent or submitting to a publisher, may not be fast friends with every aspiring and published writer on the web.  They do not go to every writing con they can afford, or buy six copies of a book because they want to support their best friend who wrote it.  When we take advice, and suggestions, and encouragement from those just like us, we can easily forget who we’re trying to please. 

Readers matter.  Readers have a voice.  Readers may even use that voice.  In fact, there are innumerable readers taking part in the authosphere as a whole.  But many have neither access to nor interest in the authorial, writerly community with it’s focus on mechanics and mutual support.  They want to hear about new books, win ARCs, make recommendations, and read reviews.  To those of us who are unpublished, these are not relevant to our main goal.  And so we listen more to each other, and less to the readers.  And that’s a dangerous road to take.

 
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Posted by on September 30, 2010 in atsiko, Authors, Blogging, Books, Fans, Writing, YA Fiction

 

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Why I Will SPEAK Up When Someone Says That YA Isn’t “Real” Fiction

If you pay any attention to any literary blogs or newsites at all, you will probably have heard about the “controversy” that’s been raging over Laurie Halse Anderson’s novel SpeakI will not link to any of the other posts on the subject, except these two: Laurie Halse Anderson’s Post and a round-up by the wonderful Sierra Godfrey.  That should be plenty of info for folks still not clued in to understand the situation.  (I only came across is this morning, but that’s because I’m 410 posts behind according to my googlereader.)

Basically, some fellow in Republic, Missouri has tried to get three books banned from the districts curricula, including Speak, Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut, and Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler.  As a citizen of Missouri and a reader, I am extremely upset that this kind of crap still goes down in my home state.  I have only personally read the Vonnegut book, though the other two are now on my enormously long TBR list.  But that’s really irrelevant.  I’m only using this kerfluffle as an example.

I hear all the time that YA isn’t “real” fiction.  YA authors are often looked down upon, seen as inferior, treated as if they “couldn’t hack it” in adult fiction.  After all, they’re only writing for children.

Now, to be fair, it’s not all YA authors–or even necessarily a large majority of them–who have had personal experiences with this.  There’s an enormous amount of positive commentary on the internet.  Many YA authors are extremely popular, and some are even famous.  But I personally–while not being a YA author, or any other kind of author–have many times run across the afore-mentioned prejudice against YA fiction.  People I know, especially many who went straight from MG to AF, have made all sorts of comments on how YA is “fluffy”, or lame, or shallow, or just poorly executed.

Shenanigans.  90% of everything is crap, but there’ still that 10% sticking it out.  And books like Slaughterhouse Five and Speak stick like nothing else.  If you follow the links above, you’ll find an enormous number of writers and readers exlaining how fiction, and especially YA fiction can and has saved lives.  I’ve often been kept above water by the books I read, both in merely depressing and completely unbearable situations.

I’m not a YA reader.  I’m just a general reader.  But I count many YA books among my top favorites, and it isn’t because I read them when I wasn’t capable of understanding real world issues, or because I lacked the maturity to appreciate their irrelevance.  It’s because they were damn good books and still are.

So keep up the fight YA authors, and when shit like this rolls around, remember that you’re not the only voices ready to speak up for your stories.

 
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Posted by on September 28, 2010 in atsiko, Authors, Books, Uncategorized, YA Fiction

 

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