“You should stick with what you enjoy, what you find funny — that’s the humor that will be the strongest, and that will transmit itself. Rather then trying to find out what the latest trend is, you should draw what is personally interesting.”
Like anything else, trends are something to keep in mind when writing. You’ll often hear others tell you not to follow trends—like the brilliant Bill Watterson, quoted above—which is sometimes true in publishing, but not always.
You probably all remember a few years back when vampires were all the rage in the young adult section. All of a sudden it seemed there were more vampire series than readers. Writers who had penned similar titles before the trend took off were suddenly in the spotlight, and those who’d been writing their own paranormal romances around the same time were catapulted to instant fame upon publication.
Now, you probably also remember how this trend overstayed its welcome. When it took off, every publisher who had a catalog that could accommodate its own vampire series was gunning to get one out there. The vampire craze extended into werewolves and zombies, with demons, angels, and faeries not far behind. Publishing houses kept putting out books they thought could compete.
Having so many trendy books actually deterred a lot of readers! A lot of titles were put out quickly to benefit from the trend, and so they suffered in quality. Other series that were actually good went ignored because they blended in with the hundred-and-one other comparable titles. Readers were bombarded with paranormal romance novels, and many people lumped all genre series into the same category regardless of the stories they held.
This is looking only at the beginning and end of that trend, of course. Somewhere in the middle, it was good. Genre writers were finally getting widespread positive attention, readers had a whole new library of books to read, and a lot of first-time authors were able to find publication because their manuscript came in at the right time.
One of the toughest elements in publishing is coming up with something that’s fresh. Following a trend and writing a book based on something currently popular works occasionally, but isn’t usually the best way to go about getting attention. Unless you’re a super famous author, which most writers aren’t, it takes at least a year for a book to go from manuscript to published form, and most take longer than that. If you’re at the tail end of a fad, your book will miss it by the time it’s published.
Write what you want to write when you want to write it, but when you go to publish, pay attention to what’s in vogue at bookstores. If you notice a lack of books that compare to yours, go for it, and if you’re starting to see a few comparable titles, go for it before it’s too late. If you want to write a vampire book, though, give it a few years before the trend is officially down the drain so that readers will judge your book by its merit and not the merit of other titles.