What you need to know about the BIG, BAD market

by Amber Keyser
Published on: March 12, 2013
Categories: Business of Writing
Comments: 2 Comments

Old father Wolf eyes up Little Red Riding Hood. Illustration: Tyler Garrison

Once upon a time…

We writers love diving deep into our stories.  We create worlds and characters.  We prefer to live in fairytale lands.  But sadly, our stories eventually crash headlong into the BIG, BAD market.

Mine just did.

Here’s what you need to know:

The market is slow.  The books that you see being released today were drafts 3-4 years ago and were acquired by editors 2-3 years ago.  Right now thrillers are hot, but if you think you can start writing one now and catch the wave, think again.

The market is conformist.  Once something (say vampires, for example) hits.  Most houses want a vampire book on their list–but just one.  I got a very nice rejection letter from an editor who said, “I love your manuscript but I just bought a book on this topic.”

The market is fickle.  Paranormal is out.  Thrillers are in.  YA was hot, hot, hot.  Now middle grade is the thing.  For years, nonfiction has been a nonstarter.  Suddenly (and thanks to the new Common Core standards) every editor wants narrative nonfiction.  Don’t even get me started on the rumored death of the picture book.

What does this mean for Little, Red Writing Hood?

Get to know the wolf, I mean, market.  One great way to do this is to join Publishers Marketplace.  The price seems steep, but I know of no better way to get your finger on the pulse of what is selling right now.  Daily deal emails will show you that we’ve run out of steam on ghost stories and teens solving murders but there are hints that Westerns and animal stories might be the next big thing.  Follow #tenqueries and #askagent on Twitter.  You’ll get a sneak peek into the slush piles.

Don’t try to game it.  Unless you are an established writer who can call up her agent and say, “Let’s pitch a Western.  Here’s a four page proposal” (which, by the way, is how The Hunger Games was sold), you can’t game it.  New writers need finished, polished manuscripts.  That takes too much time to write to a trend.

Learn from the editors who march to their own drummers.  These are the trend-makers.  These are the people who ferret out innovative writing and create the fads.  Publishers Marketplace allows you to search deals done by specific agents and manuscripts purchased by specific editors.  Explore.  Who is a free-thinker?

Remember that the market cycles.  Your time WILL come if you are crafting compelling stories that fit the appropriate genre guidelines (no 20,000 word YAs, no sex in MG, no 5,000 word picture books, etc).  There will ALWAYS be a market for good writing.

Going back to our fairytales…

I want you to write stories you love.  I don’t want you to be paralyzed by the big, bad market.  But promise me… please… that when you delve into that deep, dark forest you will take the time to get to know the landscape.

Post Revisions:

This post has not been revised since publication.

2 Comments - Leave a comment
  1. sjp says:

    Great info and advice 🙂

  2. […] of manuscripts are and are not selling in today’s YA market.  (Get the nitty gritty details here.)  These patterns are still dominating my […]

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