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Let’s Talk About Trends

Today I’d like to talk about trends in fiction. This is a subject I could discuss for hours; I find it fascinating how one book or series can impact the publishing industry in such a major way.
I first became aware of how all-encompassing a publishing trend can be after I read Twilight. Many have criticized the writing – and everyone is certainly entitled to their opinion – but I was too engrossed in the story to notice or care about the writing. I just wanted to know if Bella was going to hook up with that vampire, and I stayed up until 2 a.m. so I could find out. Though the concept of a vampire and a human interacting was not 100% original (Anne Rice anyone?), Twilight put a fresh spin on it the day Edward Cullen showed up at a high school. Suddenly, paranormal romance was hot, and so were books for young adults.
After I read Twilight I went on to read many more paranormal romance novels. Some were hits, some were misses, and eventually I reached a level of reader fatigue where I didn’t want to read paranormal romance anymore. The last few I read were pretty derivative, and it made me wonder if they were published solely because the trend was hot (the answer is probably “Yes.”). Lucky for me a book called The Hunger Games was released and I was off again, chasing the dystopian trend. I read lots of dystopian and post-apocalyptic books and I enjoyed them until eventually, my interest waned.
In the spring of 2012, the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy dominated the bestseller charts and a new trend was born. Interest in contemporary romance and erotica skyrocketed, and new adult eclipsed young adult as the hot age range for main characters. New adult titles, especially if they were on the steamy side, sold very well. Not only do I enjoy writing contemporary romance, I like reading it too, so I was very happy to see this category finally getting its due after being virtually ignored during the paranormal years.
Trends are a normal part of the publishing cycle, and the market (in this case, the readers) creates a demand, which is readily met by the publishing industry. When a reader enjoys a book, they naturally seek out more of the same, so more of the same is published, which perpetuates the cycle. Self-publishing has allowed even more of what’s popular to hit the marketplace at lightning speed.
But eventually this happens:
I’m the first to admit that I’m a fairly picky reader and I probably reach trend saturation much sooner than others. Your mileage may vary; these are merely my very subjective thoughts as a reader, not a writer. And to be clear, my reader fatigue has nothing to do with the way books are published. I don’t care if it’s self-published or traditionally published, I download the sample first, and if I’m hooked I click the buy button, regardless of the publisher, price, or author.
But lately I haven’t found many books that make me want to hit the buy button. This makes me sad because there is nothing I love more than discovering a book I can’t put down. Once again, I’m seeing a lot of similar plotlines that seem like watered-down versions of the ones that came before them, and everything feels a bit unoriginal right now, which is what happens when a trend starts to lose a little of its steam. As a result I’ve been reading more memoirs, literary and women’s fiction, some historical romance, and even a few mystery/thrillers.
Some fellow writers and I have been talking about trends and the direction we think the publishing world is headed in. The consensus is that we don’t really know – because no one really knows what the next trend will be until it arrives – but what we do think is that there has never been a better time to TAKE A RISK. If someone were to ask me my advice right now, I’d tell them to look at what is selling really well at this moment and don’t write that. Write something completely different. You might just end up being the frontrunner of the next trend, which would be awesome. But even if you aren’t, it’s still better than limping across the finish line at the end of the current trend, after the crowd has gone home and the winners are long-past celebrating. If what you’re burning to write isn’t selling well right now, write it anyway. You never know what can happen.
So, what’s on my wish list of things I’d like to see as a reader?
  1. A little more emphasis on the heroine. It takes two people to fall in love, and if all the attention is placed on the hero, the heroine can end up looking like a mere backdrop for the man, or worse, like a giant Mary Sue who doesn’t have an opinion of her own. I like book boyfriends as much as the next girl, but I also need a story. Show me a smart, handsome hero with a complete character arc, a man who grows and changes, a man who is not a giant douchebag, and I will come along willingly for the ride.
  2. Beautiful writing. I will be the first to admit that On the Island’s prose is quite simple. It was the first book I ever wrote and I was still learning and trying to find my way. With Covet I tried to challenge myself by making my sentences a bit more lyrical, with some added heft. It’s a skill I will be working on for as long as I write. As a reader I will always choose story over craft because it takes more than lovely sentences to keep me engaged in a book, but I do think that it’s important to aspire to both. And without sounding like I’m standing on a soapbox (but excuse me for a moment while I climb up), why are books still being published without even a minimum level of editing? I receive book recommendation on a daily basis, and if the title and synopsis interest me I’ll download the sample. But I often stop reading after the first chapter because the editing is so mind-bogglingly bad. There are many readers out there who don’t care, because for them story trumps everything, but I can’t stick with a book that has so many typos and errors in the first chapter that I’m editing it in my head as I read. There are too many well-written books out there. So why not tell the best story you can, with words that can hold their own?
  3. Characters who aren’t quite so damaged. I feel like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo sort of set the stage for this way back when, and it’s still continuing. I’m all for flawed characters, and heroes and heroines who don’t always do the right thing. Fiction is all about conflict, right? But now I feel like it’s a race to have a character with the most horrifying backstory, which I think is supposed to make me root for them but mostly makes me wonder how they’re able to function without a therapist on speed-dial.
  4. Plot twists. I love it when something happens that I did not expect. I would love a big old OMGWTF along the lines of Gone Girl. You guys? I did not see those twists coming.
  5. Adult characters. It’s not that I don’t like younger characters (T.J. Callahan, anyone?), but I’m dying to sink my teeth into an epic romance with characters who are at least in their thirties, with the wisdom and life experience that accompanies that age group.
  6. Fast-paced commercial novels like The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown or anything by John Grisham. Stories that appeal to the masses and generate lots of talk around the water cooler.
So tell me, what trends are you tired of? What would you like to see more of? What are you hoping sticks around for awhile?
And what’s your prediction for the next big thing?
Tracey
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This Post Has 33 Comments
  1. YES! To everything you said. I also burned myself out reading paranormal after Twilight until I could not tell one series apart from the next, they all seemed the same. The “experience” of your book was amazing. It was so difficult to get my friends to read it because guess what? no vampires, warewolves, etc….but oh man once they did! Finding what to read after a great book is what depresses me and I know they cannot all be great. Yours was a terrible one to find something to follow it with. I can no longer read the top sellers on Amazon because I just do not agree with all the five star reviews. It takes a while but if you search outside the “box” you will find amazing reads…(while we wait for covet)

    The love me with lies series was fantastic.
    As mentioned here before Me before you is really good.
    Downside ghosts series- phenomenal.
    Lumatere Chronicles- also great

  2. This is so fascinating for me, from the dual points of view of a reader and as a (newly published) author.

    First, Tracey, I want to say that I absolutely loved ON THE ISLAND, and I loved learning about your journey to publication. So inspiring! I wrote about your story & your book on my blog a few months ago, and described the affinity I felt for your circumstances–I’m a working mom with young kids and I write in the wee hours of the morning, too.

    Anyway, chasing trends was a dilemma I faced many years ago when I started writing, and decided to do exactly what you recommended in your post above–to take a risk. I decided to ignore the trends and write what I loved. Of course…I know, now, this was part of the reason it took a looong time for me to finally get published–what I heard over and over was “we love it, but we have no idea how to market it”. But I stuck with it and kept writing and kept pursuing publication because I believed in my story. Flash forward several years…my agent finally found a publisher willing to take a chance (Kensington) and my debut was just released last month, the first in a series of three–booyah!!

    Thing is, I know I’m still going to have a struggle finding my readers. My stuff doesn’t fit easily into one genre…I was at the RT conference this year, and I spent the week feeling like I wasn’t exactly in the right room…the International Thriller Writers just accepted me into their association, but I’m not sure I’m strictly a thriller writer either.

    It’s a tricky thing, when it comes to trends, and writers trying to break through those trends–people become entrenched in the genre they already know & like. And of course they do–I get it, absolutely! It’s always a risk when you invest your time (not to mention money) in a new author with a book you can’t easily categorize. As a reader, I agree, we do seem to be a little in-between trends at the moment, and I’m ever hopeful that something fabulous is on the horizon.

    I love your wish list, Tracey, and I feel much the same. And, if I might humbly suggest, my own book fulfills many of your criteria: strong, grownup heroine (who happens to be a professional jewel thief–the book is all about her, actually), with lots of twists and turns, and a super-fast plot. Dash of romance in the form of a love triangle…) See what I mean? Not strictly romance, not strictly thriller. (The title is A BEAUTIFUL HEIST if it sounds intriguing to you.)

    Who knows? Maybe “female-driven caper/thriller/romantic suspense” will be the next trend 😉

    Thanks for indulging me in this super-long comment, way longer than I intended…hmmm, perhaps I should write my own blog post on this topic…

  3. I pretty much agree with everything you said, Tracey although I never did get on the Twilight or Hunger Games wagons.

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    The NA market atm is flooded with self-published works. Readers seemingly can’t get enough of these often OTT stories. But with self-pubbing often comes lack of attention to editing. Mind you, it’s not just NA.

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    Which I think accounts for the huge response to your On the Island. TJ may have been young, but he was mature. The romance built slowly, convincingly. And what a romance!

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    I am utterly sick to death of the FSoG-type novels. So sick of the emphasis being on insta-love/lust. Tired of unrealistic plots, characters and dialogue.

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    ROMANCE!!….ROMANCE not just the sex…although the ideal for me would be both. 🙂
    Some plot originality. Real, everyday characters. And dialogue – particularly from the H – that doesn’t sound cheesy or flowery like the author took a correspondence course with the late Barbara Cartland. I love men to sound like men, they usually aren’t spouting poetry during sex.

    << And what's your prediction for the next big thing?>>
    Sorry, no idea.

  4. I listened to On The Island (audio) on a recent road trip and it was just what the Dr. ordered after finishing The Orphan Train and Language of Flowers! It was easy and enjoyable and FUN … so thank you!

    My only comment on this interesting post for now is yes … less damaged characters! I’m down with that. I don’t mind some of that, but too much is tiresome and makes my brain hurt 🙂 Glad I found you and your writing and your blog!

    1. Thank you so much!! Sometime easy and enjoyable really fits the bill. 🙂

      A little damage is fine – perfect characters are often boring characters. But just like with anything, there’s a certain point where it can be too much. But many readers prefer a really angsty read, so it all comes down to personal preference. 🙂

  5. I read your post and felt like you wrote down my thoughts. I myself have gone through that same pattern, reading the same genre and then overdoing it. This is why now, I switch genres every next book. Keep it different every single time. So far it has been working.

    I also agree, do not write about the hot genre, its probably been already written. Become creative and try something new.

    One great example was when Julie Kagawa after writing her YA series The Iron Fey, she went and jump into dystopian but here is the twist, also paranormal. Vampires, Humans and a futuristic post-apocatlytic world. GENIUS!

    I know I am one reader/book blogger that would be all over new things!

    1. I agree!! I also have a tendency to burn myself out on a certain genre and then I get frustrated when I can’t find something to read. I have a lot of respect for authors who switch genres. It shows me that they’re not afraid to take risks and try new things.

  6. Sigh, editing – the occasional typo is fine, but what really drives me insane are obvious continuity errors (especially in regards to the timeline of the story), and switching of tenses between past and present. First person present tense is one of the hardest tenses to write, yet that’s what many self-pubbed books are written in, and they fail all the time because the author doesn’t bother with an editor.

    As for trends, I’ve been hoping for a trend that features more mature characters in contemporary romance. Why is it that if the heroine is in her 40’s, the book is always written as women’s fiction, instead of romance? Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against women’s fiction, but I’m primarily a romance reader, and I’m of a mature age, so I want heroes and heroines that I can relate to, rather than all these youngsters. I recently read a romance featuring leads both in their 40’s (A Basic Renovation, by Sandra Antonelli), and it was so refreshing, as well as being very smartly written. I want more of those!

    1. I share your sentiments, Jen. I would love to find a smartly written romance novel with lead characters in their 40’s. One thing I’m really tired of is the woman who’s been kicked to the curb by her husband (she discovered him cheating, or whatever), so she moves to a small town and opens a B&B. The handyman she hires to help with renovations is, of course, the romantic lead and they ride off into the sunset together. I’ve seen this same premise a million times. I want to see something fresh!

      I’m going to check out Sandra Antonelli’s book. Thanks for the recommendation.

  7. One of the things I like is seeing what books crop up AFTER the trend has lost its steam. You kinda know if it’s coming out when it’s no longer popular, it’s likely to have that extra something. Good books are good books no matter what genre or marketing pigeon hole they fall into.

    The thing is, there are books I absolutely love and are excited about that happen to fall into trends, but I don’t read to trends. I get really annoyed if people assume I’m reading a vampire book because of Twilight. I got into urban fantasy well before then and, hello, Dracula? So I’m really happy for trends to pass so I can go back to reading what I like without fear of people labelling me as a sheep.

    Fortunately, I’m not into the current erotica or NA stuff, so I’m prefectly happy picking through all the non-trendy books right now!

  8. Love this analysis, Tracey! I’m actually getting tired of trends in general. I love the freedom self-publishing has awarded me, however, I hope that I never find myself writing to trends only because I can. It seems that many self-publishing authors (whom I love) are stepping away from their own brand to chase a trend and make a buck. The accountant in me appreciates the business decision, but the creative/artist in me cringes.

    While I think writers are becoming experts at taking charge of their careers, I’m now ready for writers to prove to the world that they are still artists who strive to entertain but, at the same time, woo the world.

    1. Thank you, Heather!

      It’s a double-edged sword. Writing what the market is clamoring for is never a bad thing because it allows a writer’s work to become more commercial and to sell well. There’s nothing wrong with that. But what I’ve noticed when the market becomes oversaturated is that the overall originality begins to suffer. Readers (myself included) seek out the thing that made us jump on the trend bandwagon in the first place (but then we get frustrated because it all sounds the same). It becomes a bit of a vicious cycle.

  9. Hooray! I was just thinking this lately while being stuck on what to read next. So glad you “put it out there”. As an avid reader and newer book blogger, I went against the grain and write about ANY book that strikes my fancy. That’s just me, I am picky and easily bored. I agree with 100% of what you wrote but would add one more to your wish list for me personally. I am tired of the book series. Many are wonderful and are necessary but I have read quite a few that were complete let-downs. I’m all for hearing about another main character’s point of view, but not the entire first book regurgitated with another perspective. Also some “sequels” just seemed to drag out the original story. I prefer an epilogue or novella that gives a reader a glimpse of the future and/or answers some lingering questions. Thank you for this! Will definitely share this article with fellow readers.

    1. I totally agree with being annoyed with the trend of rewriting a book from another character’s POV. I feel like it’s a copout. If I wanted a rehash I’d just read the book again. I think some authors are afraid to try something new when their other book was successful. I like that Tracey took a leap with Covet. It was terrific and very different from On the Island.

      I can deal with a few editing errors. It doesn’t bother me as long as it’s a good story. If there are too many though it gets irritating. I do believe that more self-published authors need some proofreaders.

    2. I’m with you, MR. I will read whatever holds my interest and lately I’ve been reading across many genres. But I love romance and really wish I could find something that holds my attention and gives me all those good feelings. 🙂 I want to fall in love with some new characters.

      I don’t have much experience personally with writing alternate POV, but it’s very popular right now. Writing an alternate POV or a sequel/series can be very tricky. As with all things, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

    3. Tracey, I’m going to keep this convo going on my blog. It’s great hearing what readers are looking for. As far as Romance goes I love them also but lately the Romance genre is getting blurred. Way too much shock and awe as well as tortured souls for my taste. I love the quirky, funny and tamer plots from Kristan Higgins (Adult)and Jennifer Echols and Colleen Hoover (YA). Jojo Moyes is a new favorite of mine. Me Before you and The Last Letter From Your Lover are epic love stories. Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor and Park was amazing as well (YA/Teen). But I agree finding more “adult” romances with people in their 30s without horrendous tortured pasts are hard to come by. From the sneak peak of Covet, I have a sense you will make me sooo happy! 🙂

    4. I LOVE Kristin Higgins and Me Before You was one of my favorite reads! I haven’t started The Last Letter From Your Lover yet, but it’s on my Kindle. 🙂

      Maybe the adult contemporary romance genre – with relatable characters – will be the next big thing. One can hope!

  10. I couldn’t agree more! I’m beginning to recognize other books and movies in the stories I’m reading lately. I’m bored as well.

    I’m also a stickler for the editing. I’ve noticed in traditionally published and self-published (more so in self-pub) that the editing is atrocious. My personal pet peeves, aside from punctuation and simple sentence structure, are the commonly misused words (then, than, your, you’re, etc.) and pronoun/antecedent agreement. Call me picky, but I pay for my books, and I prefer as near-perfect as possible.

    1. I agree, Kathy. A lot of new releases are pretty derivative and lack originality. There was an instance the other day where sections of two very popular books were plagiarized by a new author – and the book sold very well (obviously). Thankfully, the book was taken down.

      As for typos, it definitely happens. Now that I’ve been on both the self-published and traditionally-published side of things I can say it’s something everyone works hard to try and prevent. But whenever you get human hands in a file there are always opportunities for mistakes to be introduced. However, I’m with you on the misused words. Typos are one thing, but not having a grasp on simple grammar is a completely different issue.

  11. I recently started reading again (after having two kids) after picking up Fifty Shades of Grey. I’ve devoured the NA market. My cousin recommended On The Island. What I loved is the older female lead (30s), along with her doing the right thing (waiting to become physical with TJ). I loved how you incorporated a really interesting story with the romance, and found myself reading the descriptive scenes, as well. I find that I skim the paragraph after paragraph of descriptions, as it’s boring. I just really like it when there is a good love story with a good back story. I’m also with you on the damaged character trend. I’d like to see some regular every day normal people 🙂 My cousin just went to ALA and got me a signed ARC of Covet, which I am about to devour this weekend. Based on the summary, I’m thinking this might be where you are going, as well, which I am extremely excited about.

    Another topic I would love to see approached is a married couple falling in love with eachother again, or something along those lines when the butterflies are gone. (Perhaps Covet is that…just haven’t gotten there yet).

    Either way, I suppose readers like to read a bit of relateable content in the story line – so that might be why I want to read about married couples with kids 🙂

    And, I’m 100% with you on the proofreading. Seriously, some of these typos are ridiculous!

    1. I think that’s one of the most important things in romance (and maybe the one I feel is lacking the most). The romantic elements are wonderful, but there still needs to be a strong story, otherwise I’m not going to care as much about the characters. I want to see their motivations and the reasons behind their actions. With On the Island I wanted the reader to have a very clear picture of Anna’s struggle regarding her feelings for T.J. And I, too, enjoy reading books with characters who are normal, everyday folks.

      Hmmmm…..Covet…..must not spoil, must not spoil, must not spoil. All I can say is that it’s going to be right up your alley.

  12. I’m pretty open to the type of book, but the ones I love are the ones that I become emotionally invested in. Definitely a difference between a story I enjoy and a book that I absolutely LOVE! There are some stories where the characters are flat, the chemistry doesn’t really develop, unlikeable characters with no redeeming qualities, or repetitive scenes/descriptions (which lead the reader to skim over too much of the book). There definitely needs to be balance in having enough detail to give the reader a real sense of the image the author is conveying, but not going overboard where it seems like page fillers. It’s sometimes nice to leave some to the reader’s imagination. I like having unexpected twists and stories that feel real…I like books that I “live” after I’m done reading them (either having them replayed in my head or becoming part of a discussion amongst friends). I’ve always loved books, but got bored several years ago and went on a break – On The Island is what revived my interest! I still suggest it to friends who ask for my book recs, as it continues to remain a favorite of mine (and everyone has responded favorably to me after reading it, and ask for more recs!). So many books become unmemorable because it’s the same story with different names. I’m a little tired of series – but my opinion on that changes when there’s a story that I love (and can’t get enough of!) or that really needs/deserves more story telling time. 🙂

    1. Aw, thank you Kim! And thank you for recommending On the Island to others. I really appreciate it. 🙂

      I’m with you on the “too many details” thing. It can often slow down the pace. Besides, readers are smart. It’s okay to let them fill in a few things on their own.

  13. This is amazing, and I agree with pretty much everything you said. ESPECIALLY the editing thing. I’m having to put books down because I can’t even read them, the editing is so bad. I am the opposite of a grammar Nazi, but theoretically, if you’re writing a book, you finished middle school. My 7th grade English teacher would have a fit. And I’m beyond tired of the “tragic” characters too. Bad things happen, I get it. But I’m not sure how some of these people would even function. Mostly, I want real life. I mean, I get that it’s a book. It’s fantasy. But I’m tired of every single girl and every single boy being “perfect” (except for their tragic past). How ’bout a girl that’s not the most beautiful woman on the planet. Maybe she doesn’t have “miles and miles of perfectly toned legs”. Is it not possible for a regular girl to get the guy? I’m tired of reading about heroines that are nothing like me. What’s the point? Beautiful girl ends up with beautiful guy. Fabulous. I am interested to see what the next trend is though.

    1. I think “real life” novels can be very engaging for a lot of readers. I like characters to be a bit “larger than life,” but at the end of the day I still want to see them struggling with something I can relate to. Finding that perfect mix of fantasy and reality is tough, but if you can it often makes for a really great reading experience. I’m always searching for it.

  14. I, too am tiring of so many of the trends out there. I have preordered some sequels that would have excited me months ago, but now I can barely get through them. My wish is to get a hold of a work of fiction that has mature characters, well developed romance and enough plot twists to keep me guessing. I am not particular to a specific genre, I just want good. Enough candy and appetizers. Give me the full meal deal.. (:

    1. I agree, Heidi. I’ve definitely noticed a lot of sequels being published in the last 6 months. It’s too bad that you’re not as excited for them as you once were.

      Finding a book with romance, mature characters, and plot twists would make me very happy!

  15. I think you must have been reading my mind. I am so tired of reading the same old recycled story time and time again. I NEED something different. Something with a little substance and less fluff. I can’t tell you how many books I have started in the last month and got about half way through and thought…I don’t care what happens to these characters. The stories are unbelievable and just plain boring. I swear if I have to read about one more college love triangle I am going to loose my mind!!

    1. Yes, that’s been the hardest thing for me lately. I’m having such difficulty sticking with a book. Either I get bored or I have trouble connecting with a character in a way that makes me want to keep reading. I’m desperately searching for that “can’t put down” book.

Let’s Talk About Trends

 
Today I’d like to talk about trends in fiction. This is a subject I could discuss for hours; I find it fascinating how one book or series can impact the publishing industry in such a major way.  
 
I first became aware of how all-encompassing a publishing trend can be after I read Twilight. Many have criticized the writing – and everyone is certainly entitled to their opinion – but I was too engrossed in the story to notice or care about the writing. I just wanted to know if Bella was going to hook up with that vampire, and I stayed up until 2 a.m. so I could find out. Though the concept of a vampire and a human interacting was not 100% original (Anne Rice anyone?), Twilight put a fresh spin on it the day Edward Cullen showed up at a high school. Suddenly, paranormal romance was hot, and so were books for young adults.
 
After I read Twilight I went on to read many more paranormal romance novels. Some were hits, some were misses, and eventually I reached a level of reader fatigue where I didn’t want to read paranormal romance anymore. The last few I read were pretty derivative, and it made me wonder if they were published solely because the trend was hot (the answer is probably “Yes.”). Lucky for me a book called The Hunger Games was released and I was off again, chasing the dystopian trend. I read lots of dystopian and post-apocalyptic books and I enjoyed them until eventually, my interest waned. 
 
In the spring of 2012, the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy dominated the bestseller charts and a new trend was born. Interest in contemporary romance and erotica skyrocketed, and new adult eclipsed young adult as the hot age range for main characters. New adult titles, especially if they were on the steamy side, sold very well. Not only do I enjoy writing contemporary romance, I like reading it too, so I was very happy to see this category finally getting its due after being virtually ignored during the paranormal years. 
 

Trends are a normal part of the publishing cycle, and the market (in this case, the readers) creates a demand, which is readily met by the publishing industry. When a reader enjoys a book, they naturally seek out more of the same, so more of the same is published, which perpetuates the cycle. Self-publishing has allowed even more of what’s popular to hit the marketplace at lightning speed.

 
But eventually this happens:
 
 
I’m the first to admit that I’m a fairly picky reader and I probably reach trend saturation much sooner than others. Your mileage may vary; these are merely my very subjective thoughts as a reader, not a writer. And to be clear, my reader fatigue has nothing to do with the way books are published. I don’t care if it’s self-published or traditionally published, I download the sample first, and if I’m hooked I click the buy button, regardless of the publisher, price, or author. 
 
But lately I haven’t found many books that make me want to hit the buy button. This makes me sad because there is nothing I love more than discovering a book I can’t put down. Once again, I’m seeing a lot of similar plotlines that seem like watered-down versions of the ones that came before them, and everything feels a bit unoriginal right now, which is what happens when a trend starts to lose a little of its steam. As a result I’ve been reading more memoirs, literary and women’s fiction, some historical romance, and even a few mystery/thrillers. 
 
Some fellow writers and I have been talking about trends and the direction we think the publishing world is headed in. The consensus is that we don’t really know – because no one really knows what the next trend will be until it arrives – but what we do think is that there has never been a better time to TAKE A RISK. If someone were to ask me my advice right now, I’d tell them to look at what is selling really well at this moment and don’t write that. Write something completely different. You might just end up being the frontrunner of the next trend, which would be awesome. But even if you aren’t, it’s still better than limping across the finish line at the end of the current trend, after the crowd has gone home and the winners are long-past celebrating. If what you’re burning to write isn’t selling well right now, write it anyway. You never know what can happen.
 

 
So, what’s on my wish list of things I’d like to see as a reader?
 
  1. A little more emphasis on the heroine. It takes two people to fall in love, and if all the attention is placed on the hero, the heroine can end up looking like a mere backdrop for the man, or worse, like a giant Mary Sue who doesn’t have an opinion of her own. I like book boyfriends as much as the next girl, but I also need a story. Show me a smart, handsome hero with a complete character arc, a man who grows and changes, a man who is not a giant douchebag, and I will come along willingly for the ride.  
  2. Beautiful writing. I will be the first to admit that On the Island’s prose is quite simple. It was the first book I ever wrote and I was still learning and trying to find my way. With Covet I tried to challenge myself by making my sentences a bit more lyrical, with some added heft. It’s a skill I will be working on for as long as I write. As a reader I will always choose story over craft because it takes more than lovely sentences to keep me engaged in a book, but I do think that it’s important to aspire to both. And without sounding like I’m standing on a soapbox (but excuse me for a moment while I climb up), why are books still being published without even a minimum level of editing? I receive book recommendation on a daily basis, and if the title and synopsis interest me I’ll download the sample. But I often stop reading after the first chapter because the editing is so mind-bogglingly bad. There are many readers out there who don’t care, because for them story trumps everything, but I can’t stick with a book that has so many typos and errors in the first chapter that I’m editing it in my head as I read. There are too many well-written books out there. So why not tell the best story you can, with words that can hold their own?
  3. Characters who aren’t quite so damaged. I feel like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo sort of set the stage for this way back when, and it’s still continuing. I’m all for flawed characters, and heroes and heroines who don’t always do the right thing. Fiction is all about conflict, right? But now I feel like it’s a race to have a character with the most horrifying backstory, which I think is supposed to make me root for them but mostly makes me wonder how they’re able to function without a therapist on speed-dial.
  4. Plot twists. I love it when something happens that I did not expect. I would love a big old OMGWTF along the lines of Gone Girl. You guys? I did not see those twists coming.
  5. Adult characters. It’s not that I don’t like younger characters (T.J. Callahan, anyone?), but I’m dying to sink my teeth into an epic romance with characters who are at least in their thirties, with the wisdom and life experience that accompanies that age group.
  6. Fast-paced commercial novels like The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown or anything by John Grisham. Stories that appeal to the masses and generate lots of talk around the water cooler.
 
So tell me, what trends are you tired of? What would you like to see more of? What are you hoping sticks around for awhile?
 
And what’s your prediction for the next big thing?
 
Tracey
 
*Quick reminder: Because of spam, all comments are moderated, which means I have to approve them. Don’t worry if you don’t see your comment right away.
 
 
 
 

    This Post Has 42 Comments
    1. I like books that make you feel good inside, and have originality. When I first read the Twilight stories years ago, I thought, “This has originality and great story telling as well as it’s own Lore.” After that, everyone started copying and jumping on the band wagon, so now every vampire book I see makes me cringe.

      When it comes to romance, I’m not really big on reading explicit wording. You can write about sex beautifully and not exploit it. There is not a lot of that anymore, I feel like people are trying to be crude and raunchy as they possibly can to outdo the other. That kind of writing makes me close the book. It’s very easy to drop explicit words into a book because it’s the easier way to get the point across I suppose. However it’s not very tasteful as well as not thought out. I understand writing a bad person in that way, but lately these are good people and main characters. That’s just my opinion. But also strongly believe that kind of writing is not original and doesn’t promote creative thinking, so I choose not to read it.

      1. I agree 100% about the explicit words, Daniel. In my new book, most of the profanity comes from the villain. I’m really trying to be cognizant about whether or not my characters need to swear at all. I have to ask myself if there’s a better way to convey what they’re feeling.

    2. I am an avid reader and will read any genre. The books that I truly enjoy are the ones that make me think and take me out of my comfort zone. If I can remember what the book is about without going back and reading the summary. It is probably a good book . An example is Gone Girl by Gilliam Flynn. When I finished reading the book I told my hubs that I hated it. But in reality, it took me out of my comfort zone because it could probably be a true story. Several of my girlfriends have read it and we still discuss this book, a year later. Therefore, I have to admit that it is a good book but I was uncomfortable reading it. Maybe the next trend in books will be “Could that really happen?”.

      1. I felt the same way about Gone Girl. When my husband asked me if he should read it, I completely spoiled it for him. I didn’t mean to; I just couldn’t stop the words from spilling out. The writing was pure perfection, but the storyline had me all knotted up. I loved it. I hated it.

        You may be on to something with your “Could that really happen?” trend hypothesis. It will be interesting to see if it pans out!

    3. My friend and I were talking about how we love reading BDSM books but wish it didn’t always stem from a dark place. There’s always a background story of abuse. I wish there were other explanations for it…or is it so unbelievable that people just like it?

      Also, being a thirty something married woman, I wish there were more stories about us women. We have stories too!

    4. I started reading a trilogy, and it was so similar to The hunger Games that I stoped at #2. It not that is not good, but I got the feeling it was the same thing and I hate went that happends. Its hard to find a book that takes your breath away, but I was lucky this year.

      In addition to On the Island (waiting for the spanish edition so I can Recommend more) I read “The sea of Tranquility” “Seing Julia” ” I wrote This for you” and “Carrie” but books like this are hard to find.

      I just wanna try to get out of the trends and read away, to see if I can find diamonds on my own.

    5. Hello!!

      My friend (and office-mate) and I are very recent fans of yours (as of today, actually) having JUST finished ‘On The Island’ on Audible. We LOVED it! (And we thought Heidi did a fantastic job reading it.) Thank you so much for writing such a compelling, captivating, adorable, refreshing book!

      I loved this post. I agree with EVERY word you wrote. I am trying to write my first book and it’s been a struggle to decide if I should follow my heart and write the kind of book that I want to – or the kind of book that is selling right now. Trends are just that … trends. My goal is to write the kind of book that could be considered timeless, and to be the kind of writer who could be considered timeless.’ On The Island’ is that kind of book, and you are that kind of writer!

      You said in your post that you’re looking for an epic, mature love story with older characters. Boy do I have a recommendation for you. Not sure if you like historical fiction or not, but if you haven’t already, you should tackle Paullina Simon’s ‘The Bronze Horseman’ series. Absolutely epic. And SO grown up. WWII, Russia, soldiers, earth-shattering love, ice cream … it’s all there. And the whole series is, like, a million pages long, which is always good, too!

      Thanks again for writing ‘On The Island’ – I can’t wait to order myself a hard copy and add it to my favorites bookshelf. It will stay with me for a long time! 🙂

      ~Eliza

    6. YES! To everything you said. I also burned myself out reading paranormal after Twilight until I could not tell one series apart from the next, they all seemed the same. The “experience” of your book was amazing. It was so difficult to get my friends to read it because guess what? no vampires, warewolves, etc….but oh man once they did! Finding what to read after a great book is what depresses me and I know they cannot all be great. Yours was a terrible one to find something to follow it with. I can no longer read the top sellers on Amazon because I just do not agree with all the five star reviews. It takes a while but if you search outside the “box” you will find amazing reads…(while we wait for covet)

      The love me with lies series was fantastic.
      As mentioned here before Me before you is really good.
      Downside ghosts series- phenomenal.
      Lumatere Chronicles- also great

    7. This is so fascinating for me, from the dual points of view of a reader and as a (newly published) author.

      First, Tracey, I want to say that I absolutely loved ON THE ISLAND, and I loved learning about your journey to publication. So inspiring! I wrote about your story & your book on my blog a few months ago, and described the affinity I felt for your circumstances–I’m a working mom with young kids and I write in the wee hours of the morning, too.

      Anyway, chasing trends was a dilemma I faced many years ago when I started writing, and decided to do exactly what you recommended in your post above–to take a risk. I decided to ignore the trends and write what I loved. Of course…I know, now, this was part of the reason it took a looong time for me to finally get published–what I heard over and over was “we love it, but we have no idea how to market it”. But I stuck with it and kept writing and kept pursuing publication because I believed in my story. Flash forward several years…my agent finally found a publisher willing to take a chance (Kensington) and my debut was just released last month, the first in a series of three–booyah!!

      Thing is, I know I’m still going to have a struggle finding my readers. My stuff doesn’t fit easily into one genre…I was at the RT conference this year, and I spent the week feeling like I wasn’t exactly in the right room…the International Thriller Writers just accepted me into their association, but I’m not sure I’m strictly a thriller writer either.

      It’s a tricky thing, when it comes to trends, and writers trying to break through those trends–people become entrenched in the genre they already know & like. And of course they do–I get it, absolutely! It’s always a risk when you invest your time (not to mention money) in a new author with a book you can’t easily categorize. As a reader, I agree, we do seem to be a little in-between trends at the moment, and I’m ever hopeful that something fabulous is on the horizon.

      I love your wish list, Tracey, and I feel much the same. And, if I might humbly suggest, my own book fulfills many of your criteria: strong, grownup heroine (who happens to be a professional jewel thief–the book is all about her, actually), with lots of twists and turns, and a super-fast plot. Dash of romance in the form of a love triangle…) See what I mean? Not strictly romance, not strictly thriller. (The title is A BEAUTIFUL HEIST if it sounds intriguing to you.)

      Who knows? Maybe “female-driven caper/thriller/romantic suspense” will be the next trend 😉

      Thanks for indulging me in this super-long comment, way longer than I intended…hmmm, perhaps I should write my own blog post on this topic…

    8. I pretty much agree with everything you said, Tracey although I never did get on the Twilight or Hunger Games wagons.

      <>
      The NA market atm is flooded with self-published works. Readers seemingly can’t get enough of these often OTT stories. But with self-pubbing often comes lack of attention to editing. Mind you, it’s not just NA.

      <>
      Which I think accounts for the huge response to your On the Island. TJ may have been young, but he was mature. The romance built slowly, convincingly. And what a romance!

      <>
      I am utterly sick to death of the FSoG-type novels. So sick of the emphasis being on insta-love/lust. Tired of unrealistic plots, characters and dialogue.

      <>
      ROMANCE!!….ROMANCE not just the sex…although the ideal for me would be both. 🙂
      Some plot originality. Real, everyday characters. And dialogue – particularly from the H – that doesn’t sound cheesy or flowery like the author took a correspondence course with the late Barbara Cartland. I love men to sound like men, they usually aren’t spouting poetry during sex.

      << And what's your prediction for the next big thing?>>
      Sorry, no idea.

    9. I listened to On The Island (audio) on a recent road trip and it was just what the Dr. ordered after finishing The Orphan Train and Language of Flowers! It was easy and enjoyable and FUN … so thank you!

      My only comment on this interesting post for now is yes … less damaged characters! I’m down with that. I don’t mind some of that, but too much is tiresome and makes my brain hurt 🙂 Glad I found you and your writing and your blog!

      1. Thank you so much!! Sometime easy and enjoyable really fits the bill. 🙂

        A little damage is fine – perfect characters are often boring characters. But just like with anything, there’s a certain point where it can be too much. But many readers prefer a really angsty read, so it all comes down to personal preference. 🙂

    10. I read your post and felt like you wrote down my thoughts. I myself have gone through that same pattern, reading the same genre and then overdoing it. This is why now, I switch genres every next book. Keep it different every single time. So far it has been working.

      I also agree, do not write about the hot genre, its probably been already written. Become creative and try something new.

      One great example was when Julie Kagawa after writing her YA series The Iron Fey, she went and jump into dystopian but here is the twist, also paranormal. Vampires, Humans and a futuristic post-apocatlytic world. GENIUS!

      I know I am one reader/book blogger that would be all over new things!

      1. I agree!! I also have a tendency to burn myself out on a certain genre and then I get frustrated when I can’t find something to read. I have a lot of respect for authors who switch genres. It shows me that they’re not afraid to take risks and try new things.

    11. Sigh, editing – the occasional typo is fine, but what really drives me insane are obvious continuity errors (especially in regards to the timeline of the story), and switching of tenses between past and present. First person present tense is one of the hardest tenses to write, yet that’s what many self-pubbed books are written in, and they fail all the time because the author doesn’t bother with an editor.

      As for trends, I’ve been hoping for a trend that features more mature characters in contemporary romance. Why is it that if the heroine is in her 40’s, the book is always written as women’s fiction, instead of romance? Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against women’s fiction, but I’m primarily a romance reader, and I’m of a mature age, so I want heroes and heroines that I can relate to, rather than all these youngsters. I recently read a romance featuring leads both in their 40’s (A Basic Renovation, by Sandra Antonelli), and it was so refreshing, as well as being very smartly written. I want more of those!

      1. I share your sentiments, Jen. I would love to find a smartly written romance novel with lead characters in their 40’s. One thing I’m really tired of is the woman who’s been kicked to the curb by her husband (she discovered him cheating, or whatever), so she moves to a small town and opens a B&B. The handyman she hires to help with renovations is, of course, the romantic lead and they ride off into the sunset together. I’ve seen this same premise a million times. I want to see something fresh!

        I’m going to check out Sandra Antonelli’s book. Thanks for the recommendation.

    12. One of the things I like is seeing what books crop up AFTER the trend has lost its steam. You kinda know if it’s coming out when it’s no longer popular, it’s likely to have that extra something. Good books are good books no matter what genre or marketing pigeon hole they fall into.

      The thing is, there are books I absolutely love and are excited about that happen to fall into trends, but I don’t read to trends. I get really annoyed if people assume I’m reading a vampire book because of Twilight. I got into urban fantasy well before then and, hello, Dracula? So I’m really happy for trends to pass so I can go back to reading what I like without fear of people labelling me as a sheep.

      Fortunately, I’m not into the current erotica or NA stuff, so I’m prefectly happy picking through all the non-trendy books right now!

    13. Love this analysis, Tracey! I’m actually getting tired of trends in general. I love the freedom self-publishing has awarded me, however, I hope that I never find myself writing to trends only because I can. It seems that many self-publishing authors (whom I love) are stepping away from their own brand to chase a trend and make a buck. The accountant in me appreciates the business decision, but the creative/artist in me cringes.

      While I think writers are becoming experts at taking charge of their careers, I’m now ready for writers to prove to the world that they are still artists who strive to entertain but, at the same time, woo the world.

      1. Thank you, Heather!

        It’s a double-edged sword. Writing what the market is clamoring for is never a bad thing because it allows a writer’s work to become more commercial and to sell well. There’s nothing wrong with that. But what I’ve noticed when the market becomes oversaturated is that the overall originality begins to suffer. Readers (myself included) seek out the thing that made us jump on the trend bandwagon in the first place (but then we get frustrated because it all sounds the same). It becomes a bit of a vicious cycle.

    14. Hooray! I was just thinking this lately while being stuck on what to read next. So glad you “put it out there”. As an avid reader and newer book blogger, I went against the grain and write about ANY book that strikes my fancy. That’s just me, I am picky and easily bored. I agree with 100% of what you wrote but would add one more to your wish list for me personally. I am tired of the book series. Many are wonderful and are necessary but I have read quite a few that were complete let-downs. I’m all for hearing about another main character’s point of view, but not the entire first book regurgitated with another perspective. Also some “sequels” just seemed to drag out the original story. I prefer an epilogue or novella that gives a reader a glimpse of the future and/or answers some lingering questions. Thank you for this! Will definitely share this article with fellow readers.

      1. I totally agree with being annoyed with the trend of rewriting a book from another character’s POV. I feel like it’s a copout. If I wanted a rehash I’d just read the book again. I think some authors are afraid to try something new when their other book was successful. I like that Tracey took a leap with Covet. It was terrific and very different from On the Island.

        I can deal with a few editing errors. It doesn’t bother me as long as it’s a good story. If there are too many though it gets irritating. I do believe that more self-published authors need some proofreaders.

      2. I’m with you, MR. I will read whatever holds my interest and lately I’ve been reading across many genres. But I love romance and really wish I could find something that holds my attention and gives me all those good feelings. 🙂 I want to fall in love with some new characters.

        I don’t have much experience personally with writing alternate POV, but it’s very popular right now. Writing an alternate POV or a sequel/series can be very tricky. As with all things, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

      3. Tracey, I’m going to keep this convo going on my blog. It’s great hearing what readers are looking for. As far as Romance goes I love them also but lately the Romance genre is getting blurred. Way too much shock and awe as well as tortured souls for my taste. I love the quirky, funny and tamer plots from Kristan Higgins (Adult)and Jennifer Echols and Colleen Hoover (YA). Jojo Moyes is a new favorite of mine. Me Before you and The Last Letter From Your Lover are epic love stories. Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor and Park was amazing as well (YA/Teen). But I agree finding more “adult” romances with people in their 30s without horrendous tortured pasts are hard to come by. From the sneak peak of Covet, I have a sense you will make me sooo happy! 🙂

      4. I LOVE Kristin Higgins and Me Before You was one of my favorite reads! I haven’t started The Last Letter From Your Lover yet, but it’s on my Kindle. 🙂

        Maybe the adult contemporary romance genre – with relatable characters – will be the next big thing. One can hope!

    15. I couldn’t agree more! I’m beginning to recognize other books and movies in the stories I’m reading lately. I’m bored as well.

      I’m also a stickler for the editing. I’ve noticed in traditionally published and self-published (more so in self-pub) that the editing is atrocious. My personal pet peeves, aside from punctuation and simple sentence structure, are the commonly misused words (then, than, your, you’re, etc.) and pronoun/antecedent agreement. Call me picky, but I pay for my books, and I prefer as near-perfect as possible.

      1. I agree, Kathy. A lot of new releases are pretty derivative and lack originality. There was an instance the other day where sections of two very popular books were plagiarized by a new author – and the book sold very well (obviously). Thankfully, the book was taken down.

        As for typos, it definitely happens. Now that I’ve been on both the self-published and traditionally-published side of things I can say it’s something everyone works hard to try and prevent. But whenever you get human hands in a file there are always opportunities for mistakes to be introduced. However, I’m with you on the misused words. Typos are one thing, but not having a grasp on simple grammar is a completely different issue.

    16. I recently started reading again (after having two kids) after picking up Fifty Shades of Grey. I’ve devoured the NA market. My cousin recommended On The Island. What I loved is the older female lead (30s), along with her doing the right thing (waiting to become physical with TJ). I loved how you incorporated a really interesting story with the romance, and found myself reading the descriptive scenes, as well. I find that I skim the paragraph after paragraph of descriptions, as it’s boring. I just really like it when there is a good love story with a good back story. I’m also with you on the damaged character trend. I’d like to see some regular every day normal people 🙂 My cousin just went to ALA and got me a signed ARC of Covet, which I am about to devour this weekend. Based on the summary, I’m thinking this might be where you are going, as well, which I am extremely excited about.

      Another topic I would love to see approached is a married couple falling in love with eachother again, or something along those lines when the butterflies are gone. (Perhaps Covet is that…just haven’t gotten there yet).

      Either way, I suppose readers like to read a bit of relateable content in the story line – so that might be why I want to read about married couples with kids 🙂

      And, I’m 100% with you on the proofreading. Seriously, some of these typos are ridiculous!

      1. I think that’s one of the most important things in romance (and maybe the one I feel is lacking the most). The romantic elements are wonderful, but there still needs to be a strong story, otherwise I’m not going to care as much about the characters. I want to see their motivations and the reasons behind their actions. With On the Island I wanted the reader to have a very clear picture of Anna’s struggle regarding her feelings for T.J. And I, too, enjoy reading books with characters who are normal, everyday folks.

        Hmmmm…..Covet…..must not spoil, must not spoil, must not spoil. All I can say is that it’s going to be right up your alley.

    17. I’m pretty open to the type of book, but the ones I love are the ones that I become emotionally invested in. Definitely a difference between a story I enjoy and a book that I absolutely LOVE! There are some stories where the characters are flat, the chemistry doesn’t really develop, unlikeable characters with no redeeming qualities, or repetitive scenes/descriptions (which lead the reader to skim over too much of the book). There definitely needs to be balance in having enough detail to give the reader a real sense of the image the author is conveying, but not going overboard where it seems like page fillers. It’s sometimes nice to leave some to the reader’s imagination. I like having unexpected twists and stories that feel real…I like books that I “live” after I’m done reading them (either having them replayed in my head or becoming part of a discussion amongst friends). I’ve always loved books, but got bored several years ago and went on a break – On The Island is what revived my interest! I still suggest it to friends who ask for my book recs, as it continues to remain a favorite of mine (and everyone has responded favorably to me after reading it, and ask for more recs!). So many books become unmemorable because it’s the same story with different names. I’m a little tired of series – but my opinion on that changes when there’s a story that I love (and can’t get enough of!) or that really needs/deserves more story telling time. 🙂

      1. Aw, thank you Kim! And thank you for recommending On the Island to others. I really appreciate it. 🙂

        I’m with you on the “too many details” thing. It can often slow down the pace. Besides, readers are smart. It’s okay to let them fill in a few things on their own.

    18. This is amazing, and I agree with pretty much everything you said. ESPECIALLY the editing thing. I’m having to put books down because I can’t even read them, the editing is so bad. I am the opposite of a grammar Nazi, but theoretically, if you’re writing a book, you finished middle school. My 7th grade English teacher would have a fit. And I’m beyond tired of the “tragic” characters too. Bad things happen, I get it. But I’m not sure how some of these people would even function. Mostly, I want real life. I mean, I get that it’s a book. It’s fantasy. But I’m tired of every single girl and every single boy being “perfect” (except for their tragic past). How ’bout a girl that’s not the most beautiful woman on the planet. Maybe she doesn’t have “miles and miles of perfectly toned legs”. Is it not possible for a regular girl to get the guy? I’m tired of reading about heroines that are nothing like me. What’s the point? Beautiful girl ends up with beautiful guy. Fabulous. I am interested to see what the next trend is though.

      1. I think “real life” novels can be very engaging for a lot of readers. I like characters to be a bit “larger than life,” but at the end of the day I still want to see them struggling with something I can relate to. Finding that perfect mix of fantasy and reality is tough, but if you can it often makes for a really great reading experience. I’m always searching for it.

    19. I, too am tiring of so many of the trends out there. I have preordered some sequels that would have excited me months ago, but now I can barely get through them. My wish is to get a hold of a work of fiction that has mature characters, well developed romance and enough plot twists to keep me guessing. I am not particular to a specific genre, I just want good. Enough candy and appetizers. Give me the full meal deal.. (:

      1. I agree, Heidi. I’ve definitely noticed a lot of sequels being published in the last 6 months. It’s too bad that you’re not as excited for them as you once were.

        Finding a book with romance, mature characters, and plot twists would make me very happy!

    20. I think you must have been reading my mind. I am so tired of reading the same old recycled story time and time again. I NEED something different. Something with a little substance and less fluff. I can’t tell you how many books I have started in the last month and got about half way through and thought…I don’t care what happens to these characters. The stories are unbelievable and just plain boring. I swear if I have to read about one more college love triangle I am going to loose my mind!!

      1. Yes, that’s been the hardest thing for me lately. I’m having such difficulty sticking with a book. Either I get bored or I have trouble connecting with a character in a way that makes me want to keep reading. I’m desperately searching for that “can’t put down” book.

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