Wednesday, September 26, 2007

It isn't just publishing

A lot of readers complain about the way authors and publishers jump on the latest bandwagon. Suddenly there's a ton of Regency-set historicals, or paranormals.

But it isn't just publishing that does this. I was really struck by the similarities bewtween two new shows that started this week, Chuck and Reaper. Both feature guys who work in (thinly disguised) large chain stores, who are basically slackers (dead end job, little or no post-secondary education), apparently lacking ambition, suffering from martinet bosses, with amusing yet even more slacker-y sidekicks, and seemingly unable to function around a pretty woman.

These are the offspring of successful films like Knocked Up.

As with any trend, the first example does well because it's new and fresh and different. By the time you've seen/read ten or twelve? They'd better be pretty good, because it no longer seems fresh and different.

So why do publishers and other companies follow a trend until it gets tired and worn out?

It's about trying to reduce risk. Publishers and companies can't foretell the future, or really know when one trend is going to take off, so they go by what's sold well previously.

Authors, like most self-employed people, live with a lot of risk. Will our work sell? Will our editors like what we've done, or will we have to do a lot of revision? Will the book sell well? Will we get another contract?

A publisher can hope to make up losses if something new doesn't catch on by having the "tried and true" in their lists, as well. But for the author to try something really new and different means risking income, and losing readers perhaps forever. That's why some will try something new (often under a different name) while keeping one foot where they've published before.

That's also why some will gravitate toward the trends -- to try to reduce risk, the same way the networks have jumped on the nerds/slackers-are-hot bandwagon.

Readers have cause to complain about a trend when it seems to be overwhelming everything else, but the author who gets on that bandwagon may just be trying to make their career a little less of a gamble.


Christine d'Abo said...

It's very frustrating when you have a book that is a little different from the current trend too. I have one that I just love and I can't seem to find a home for it. I'm at the point where I think I'm going to sit on it and wait until the trend switches again. Because it will.

Margaret Moore said...

Yes, I remember a time when you couldn't sell a vampire hero for love nor money, despite the success of Anne Rice's books.