Embracing Publishing Trends (Fyi, Afropolitans—Now is Your Moment)

The publishing industry is a fickle thing.  The lawyer side of me likes to think that the creative world isn’t so market-driven, but it’s not quite so.  Of course the best thing I (or any other writer) can do is write the stories in my heart; however, it would be a mistake to pretend like trends don’t exist in the publishing world.  Vampires can be a trend.  So can black fiction (I’m not saying that’s appropriate, but I think it’s true).

Here’s the problem with publishing trends: a book comes out that is extremely popular (e.g., Twilight or Waiting to Exhale or the DaVinci Code or whatever the first Chick Lit book was).  Publishers get excited and order millions of other books in that genre (quality is secondary).  People buy these novels expecting to pick up another Waiting to Exhale or Something Borrowed but instead they get something that just sucks.  Again and again and again.  Finally, they decide the whole genre sucks.  Or publishers decide the whole genre no longer sells.  When really, the problem was that the publishers chose far too many sh*t*y books to begin with.  Then someone comes along with a story about a vampire, woman looking for love, or a symbologist that’s actually GOOD and they don’t stand a chance.  Or at least, the process is harder than it should be given the quality of their work. A vicious cycle.

So yeah, there are some problems in the way the publishing industry works.  But trends aren’t going away.  I accept that.  In fact, I embrace it.  The key for budding authors like myself may be to become aware of the trends and then try to jump in when we can.  My novel teacher said it’s a good time to write if you’re a minority—yes!  Want to write about China?  Probably a good move.  Personally, I’ve noticed that now seems to be the moment of the Afropolitan.  I’m talking about Africans educated in U.S. or Europe writing about their experiences.  This year alone you have Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi, We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo and those are just the few that I’ve come across in mainstream magazines like Glamour and Vogue (what you thought I was reading the NYT? Actually, they’re in there too).  So if you are an Afropolitan—fyi, now is your moment.

I’m not an Afropolitan, but I’m going to go ahead and say it’s my moment too.  Or, better yet—maybe I can START a trend.  My book will be so successful, publishers will buy millions more just like it!  The only problem is, I don’t know what my genre is.  Women’s contemporary fiction? But half of it is male POV.  African American fiction?  But my whole thing is that I’m trying to write for a wide audience.  When I figure it out, you’ll be the first to know!

Have you noticed any other publishing trends?  What do you think?