It's pretty well known in the writing community that if one intends to commercially publish, they shouldn't write to trends. By the time you finish your book and get it out there, the trend will be over.
There have been a slew of highly-publicized, huge-amount book deals for trendy things lately. What's the trend?
You heard me. The latest is Penguin offering a 16-year-old an e-book deal based on boy-band fanfic. The now infamous 50 Shades of Gray started out as Twilight fanfic. Gabriel's Inferno also began life as Twilight fan fiction and was ALSO bought by Penguin for seven figures.
Depressing, I know. With all this money being offered for what was once considered the least professional, basically junk food of writing, it's easy to take one look at your manuscript and think, "Why the hell am I wasting my time on this?"
Well, I'll tell you why. Because these examples are TRENDS. They're exceptions to the rule. They're what people want NOW, but in six months? A year? Who knows? Next month they might want ninja mermaid aliens from Neptune (totally my idea by the way) or cranberry farmer/mushroom hunter CSI riffs. Unless you can see the future, you just don't know what will be the Next Big Thing, and you can't constantly stop and start new projects trying to keep up with whatever it is people are buying now.
Write what YOU want to write. What YOU want to read. You can't write to trends. Book trends are like any other – they come and they go. Remember stone-washed/acid-washed jeans back in the 80s? Remember? (Look, just go with me here. I realize I'm dating myself.) Jordache and Guess jeans were the big favorites. Swatch watches (about six or more worn at once was the thing). Crimped and feathered hair. Trends, all of them. They came and they went.
This too shall pass. Jersey Shore has finally been cancelled (but not before one of the, uh, "celebrities" got a book deal) but has been replaced, regrettably, by Honey Boo Boo (just when I thought television could sink no lower). Twilight is finally sinking into obscurity (please, please, please).
And why is all this happening?
Because it's what people want right now. People want to watch "reality" television and eat junk food. Sure, there are several people who want to watch other things (or nothing at all) and eat better stuff, but the majority don't. And therein lies the problem. It's all about what sells (you know, money), and ice cream sells way better than frozen yogurt. In a battle between Cheetos and carrot sticks, guess which one most people are going to choose?
Consumers set trends, and what the consumers want right now is the literary equivalent of a sheet cake. (Mini rant: DEAR ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY: STOP ENCOURAGING HORRIBLE CHOICES BY MAKING THEM SEEM "ACCEPTABLE!" STOP IT! NO MORE TRAIN-WRECK TELEVISION OR BULLSHIT "BOOK" DEALS, DAMN IT! THE MAJORITY OF PEOPLE ARE NOT ONLY CAPABLE OF BUT WILL INDEED LIVE UP TO EXPECTATIONS GIVEN TO THEM AND YOU'RE GLAMORIZING IDIOCY AND TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE BEHAVIOR! STOP IT! /rant) Pretty soon, though, they'll get tired of the frosting and want something that actually satisfies more than their sweet tooth. You can't eat cake forever (it's not like PIE!). Eventually consumers (readers) are going to want something more, and when they do, you need to be ready.
Someone awesome once said to me, "There's always going to be an audience for penny dreadfuls. It doesn't negate the need for good stuff."
I couldn't agree more. So don't pay attention to trends. And don't stop growing your carrots because people want Cheetos. There are always people who want carrots, even if it's just to make carrot cake.
And now I'm hungry.