“What Kind of Book Should I Write?” An Editor’s Plea to Ignore Trends

When I meet with aspiring authors, I’m often asked, “What kind of book should I write?” Everyone wants to know what the next big trend will be and if they should start writing in that niche. My answer? Ignore trends. Don’t ask someone else what kind of book you should write—write the book that speaks to you. Don’t follow the crowd—stand out from it.

Here’s the thing about publishing: it moves slowly. This may not be news to you if you’re a George R. R. Martin fan (though let’s be real, that one’s all on George), but some folks are surprised when they learn a book can take a year—or two or three—to get published. Factor in the time it takes to write a manuscript and query it, and you can be looking at anywhere from two to five years. Sometimes even more.

I won’t get into the nitty gritty of the publishing process here, though I will note that those years are well spent developing a manuscript, creating a cover, building a marketing strategy, and launching a book into a competitive market. The real point of this post is that writers should ignore trends no mater how enduring those trends seem to be.

What? That sounds crazy! Why wouldn’t you want to write in the current bestselling category? Well, the key word here is current. Although publishing moves slowly, reading fashions move quickly. By the time you’ve written, queried, edited, and published a novel, whatever trend you were chasing is probably long gone. Readers have moved on, and you’re left with a manuscript no agent or publisher will touch for another decade.

If you’re a YA fan, you’ve lived through the Twilight craze (paranormal), the Hunger Games craze (dystopian), the Fault In Our Stars craze (contemporary issue-driven), and the past ten years alone. (Okay, John Green will always be popular, but you see my point.) Dozens of books came out after those blockbuster titles, flooding the marketplace to the point that readers had topic fatigue.

I should also point out that very, very few of those titles got even close to the levels of success that Stephenie Meyer, Suzanne Collins, or John Green saw. There’s nothing wrong with trying out new styles or topics in your writing, especially if you’re feeling inspired to shake things up. In fact, I encourage you to challenge yourself and test your writing abilities! But if you set out to duplicate the success of other authors in a specific category, you’re unlikely to find good results.

Most importantly, you’re going to be a million times happier writing a book you’re passionate about instead of writing a book you hope will have a trendy readership. So rather than writing toward in vogue in the hopes of hitting it big, write the book of your heart. The book you need. The book that keeps you up at night.

As Toni Morrison said, “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” You may not be the next trendsetter, but that’s far better than being a trend-follower.

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