Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Gulp―How Will a New Publishing Trend Affect My Manuscript?

What! Someone already wrote a book about vampires that glitter? Of all the luck....

Recently, I read an article that indicated that the topic of my YA manuscript currently being submitted to agents looks to be a new trend in the fiction world. Now, as far as I was able to discern, there wasn't―until this article―a single peep in the market about this trend; nor had I been able to even find a book that resembled mine. But lo and behold, Ta Da! I was able to―apparently―predict a new trend (if there is any truth to this article―which there seems to be as there are now several authors launching new books dealing with this topic).

Of course, that doesn't mean my manuscript will get published any more easily. In some ways, it may make it more difficult, especially if articles like this one encourage writers to go out and start pumping a glut of books featuring this topic into the publishing world. And there is always the chance that someone (in particular, someone with a big name) could potentially write and publish my story before I get a chance to do so. At the very least, I will now be riding the wave, rather than creating it (which is okay...I mean, what was the likelihood of me setting any trends anyway?)

But now I'm a bit nervous. I'm not really sure what to make of this or how it will impact my ability to sell my manuscript. Certainly, one of the worst things that an author can discover is that someone else has already written her "original" concept. To be sure, when I came up with my idea, it was entirely original (well, a new spin on an old topic, though new to the YA genre, but I digress....).

So what is a writer to do in this situation?

I think that I can safely make several assumptions (correct me in my Comments section if I'm wrong):

1. Chances are that the story you created will be different from any others (characterization, rules, narrative, setting, etc.). Our brains all work in different ways, and if there are any comparisons to be made, they are likely over clichéd tropes/images anyway and shouldn't really be occupying much (or any) space in your manuscript in any event. At the very least, they shouldn't be monopolizing it―and here, I refer primarily to fantasy/sci fi/paranormal/etc, as there tend to be certain tropes which are often unavoidable.

2. If you do discover similarities between stories, presumably they are minor. If not, then it's likely that the similarities are due to large literary conventions and common narratives. After all, there is nothing new under the sun, right? How many possible basic storylines can there be? (In fact, I think they were all pretty much written by Shakespeare already, or so they say).

3. It seems to me that following a trend in the market by placing your own original spin on a popular concept can potentially help sell your book to publishers and to readers. Take a look at the vampire legacy, for example. So long as you don't try to rewrite Dracula and you rule out glittery-skinned vampires altogether (meaning, make it new, fresh, and yours―and awesome), then a trend may very well help you.

Caveat: If, for some reason, someone else's brain has been running on the same wavelength as yours, and that writer happens to be quicker and luckier (or―gulp―better), then you will just have to suck it up and keep going, because there's always the next book. If nothing else, you've learned that your brain rocks, your creativity is on target, and you can write a book (it's not like it's an easy feat, you know). And there's always the potential to turn it into fan fiction. Not that this really dulls the pain, but you can only squeeze a lemon so hard before it bursts in your palm and makes a mess.

As always, I wish you the best in your own writing journey. Unless, of course, you are trying to write a book like mine. In which case, I hope your muse deserts you until my own manuscript gets published. Just kidding. Sort of.


  1. Yes, I think you're definitely right. I read somewhere that there are really only something along the lines of 9 plots. Every story ever told can be traced back to one of them. So coming up with something completely original, never before told - is pretty unlikely. But it doesn't matter for all of the reasons you listed. The basics of plots aren't what make stories entertaining, successful, or whatever you're going for. It's the spin on the way you choose to tell it. The new elements, the new outcome, the new twists... All that good stuff in #s 1&2

    And PS you KNOW you're not kidding at all about that last paragraph ;-)

  2. Um also - just wanted to let you know... I left a little something for ya on my blog :) check it out!

  3. This thought actually makes me cry a little, but there's always waiting until the trend dies out and then being the "revival" of it, after you've already become an established author. I've sort of done that with my faerie manuscript. I'll just wait for faeries to come back around again, and HOPEFULLY by then I'll at least have an agent which will give me credibility and make me stand out from the slush.

    However--I still think the angel topic is in its infancy. It's not like vampires, which have been coming out for... what, 5 years in YA and like 15 years in adult? (And by that I mean only as a trend--there were vampire books even before that.) I think you've still got something. Don't despair! :)


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