Genre Popularity and Selling Out

I was talking with my friend Matt the other day about this post on query effectiveness. It's about what kind of responses you should be seeing based on how hot your genre is right now. Here are a couple of bottom lines that interested me.

What's hot:

So what's a hot genre these days? YA and middle grade, but especially middle grade. Romance and mysteries are always hot, but their respective subgenres go in and out of favor). Graphic novels are "in" right now. High-concept commercial fiction (this never goes out of favor). And we've heard a lot of murmurs about serious women's fiction; agents are on the lookout.

What's not:

The market for traditional genre fiction has been saturated, especially for the type of fiction that was popular a decade ago. Also, genre fiction geared towards a male audience is a harder sell because women are the readers nowadays. That's why there's been an explosion of fantasy and science fiction with female "kick-butt" heroines, and thrillers and mysteries with female lead detectives.

So if you're writing traditional genre fiction geared towards men, then you're going to have a harder time.

Because I tend to write what I enjoy reading, I fall into the latter category. That kinda blows. Mysteries and commercial fiction aren't really my thing. I'd love to write a graphic novel, but I have very little experience in that area (and reading Civil War now is showing me just how different the writing style has to be). I'm not even gonna touch romance.

But here's the silver lining. The YA (young adult) genre is pretty danged freeform. Essentially, all a book needs to be YA is to have a teen protagonist, and beyond that whatever you do with genre doesn't matter. In fact, what with the tendency of my stories to mix sci-fi and fantasy, YA seems perfect.

So now I'm thinking of selling out, but not really. I mean, in order to sell out, I would have to hate YA but write it anyway. Thing is, I like YA. That's how, on the drive from Pattaya to Bangkok the other day, I found myself thinking about the next story - the one after Air Pirates that I've already planned a little - and wondering how it might change if the protagonist were one of the teenagers instead of an adult near one of the teenagers.

And what if that teenager were a female "kick-butt" heroine...


MattyDub said...

I have two words for you: SELL OUT!
Seriously, though, it's like you said; you don't really have to sell out. You could make commercially viable fiction just by doing stuff you already like.
PS I guess I should start blogging so you can have a link when you write my name. ;)

Tara Maya said...

But genres which are hot right now can burn out soon. Look how fast chick-lit came and went. I know of a couple agents who are already sick of kick-butt heroine with vampire beau and want to see male protagonists

I admit -- I've considered genre chasing too. I want to write sf/fantasy, but my two published books are in romance. However be aware of the trap of genre chasing. You will be expected to go on as you start. They will want more books from you in that genre.

I think any good writer can write one book in another genre besides their favorite, even two. But ask yourself if this is what you want to spend your career writing.

Adam Heine said...

I agree, Tara. I realized the same thing shortly after I wrote this post.