Sunday, July 29, 2012

Ding-Dong this genre is dead

by: Joelle Charbonneau

Cozies are dead.
Chick-lit is dead.
Romantic suspense is dead.
Science fiction is dead.
Dystopian is dead.
Private eye novels are dead.

I just finished attending a conference this weekend.  There were workshops, pitch appointments, award ceremonies, publisher parties and lots of chat amongst friends.  There was also lots and lots of discussion about the state of publishing. 

It never fails that at every writers conference I attend, I hear that a certain genre that was once incredibly popular is now completely tanked.  Dead.  No longer will anyone buy that genre.  If you write in that genre you’d better switch genres or choose to go a non-traditional publishing route.  I watch writers’ eyes widen in fear as they realize the months or years they’ve spent working on their vampire novel or their Georgian-set Historical has all been wasted.  They shrug as if they don’t care, but I see their muscles clench and the sadness lurking behind the smile.


Perhaps I shouldn’t say this, but no genre is ever dead.  No time has ever been wasted.  Whether you are pursuing traditional or self-publishing, readers are out there waiting to discover new stories in the genre that has been declared null and void.

Industry professionals who speak confidently about a genre being dead don’t really mean that it is not a viable option any longer.  (Although that is typically what many, maybe even most authors take away from the conversation.  What they are saying is that a genre which in recent years had seen a huge upswing in demand has now contracted a bit.  It’s not that people aren’t buying books in that genre, but they bought so many books in that genre over a set number of years that the market has become oversaturated. 

Take vampires.  After Twilight, publishers were buying vampire books in droves.  They were HOT, HOT, HOT.  Publishers wanted more vampires.  Cooler vampires.  Sparkly vampires. 

And then they didn’t.

Suddenly, vampires were overdone.  Now they wanted the next cool paranormal creature.  Zombies.  Werewolves.  Dragons.  Faeries.  Angels.  Demons.  One year’s cool creature is next year’s “Don’t send it.  We’ve already got enough of it.” critter.

And yet…while vampires “died” five years ago for publishers, there are still books being published with vampire characters.  So, clearly, the reports of their demise have been greatly exaggerated.  Right?

When a genre “dies” it doesn’t mean that no one is buying that genre anymore.  It doesn’t mean that your book can’t sell or that readers don’t want to read you.  It just means that what once was an easy sell two years ago becomes a tougher sell now.  But it CAN sell. 

Take my young adult novel, THE TESTING.  Dystopian died about a year ago.  Not because readers weren’t reading it or because there weren’t books still coming out in that genre.  It was because it was the genre every publisher bought dozens and dozens of projects in a short period of time.  Both my agent and I knew the book would be harder to sell now that it would have been had I thought to write the sucker two years before.

Even knowing it would be a tough sell, I wrote the book.  I wanted to write the book.  My agent loved the book and pitched it.  Several publishers turned us down without even reading the book because the dystopian YA genre was dead.  But most editors read the book.  I’m guessing many of them did so with an eye-roll because….drum roll please….the genre was dead.  But they read it.  A lot of them really liked it.  Several loved it.  The book and the rest of the trilogy sold.

Just because a genre is dead doesn’t mean you should abandon it.  It just means it might be harder to sell to a traditional publisher or to attract notice if you self-publish the book.  But good stories are always being looked for.  And no genres ever really die.

So, if you are going to a conference and you hear your genre is dead…don’t shake your head with disappointment.  Take it as a challenge.  Make your writing and your story so strong and people have to take notice.  And remember…the genres that fade today are the ones that rise from the ashes and take the world by storm in the future.  No genre ever stays dead for long.

1 comment:

Chuck said...

See, what they mean is, "so-and-so TREND is dead," suggesting that you can't just hop on the fast-moving gravy train of, say, dystopian zombies or cozy vampires or whatever the trend is.


Great post, as always.

-- c.