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wrtaway
01-03-2010, 02:27 PM
So, as I read various industry blogs, I see occasional comments about various genres being "saturated", making new books in those categories harder to sell to publishers. I've most often seen historical romance and thriller described as saturated, and I'm sure there are others.

One thing that confuses me -- so many of the NY Times bestseller list titles seem to be thrillers, that it seems as if there must be a HUGE market for thrillers, rather than a saturated market. Is my logic flawed here?

I'm curious as to whether those of you who write in the supposedly saturated markets hear comments from agents and/or publishers confirming that books in "saturated" genres are harder to place by virtue of an over-crowded playing field?

Exir
01-03-2010, 04:59 PM
Market information like that is crap. It is way too general to be of any use to anyone.

Yes. The thriller market is saturated -- IF your writing is cliched. I bet nobody would say anything about saturation if you had a highly original premise.

Phaeal
01-03-2010, 05:43 PM
Markets get "saturated" because they are extremely popular. As Exir notes, your thriller or romance may need to stand above the crowd to get noticed.

On the other hand, there are readers who love to read the same basic story over and over again, hence the lucrative category romance sector. The same could be said for a certain class of readers in all genres. So the same old same old still sells, given just tweaks here and there.

And I take the prize for most "sames" in one paragraph! :Trophy:

ChaosTitan
01-03-2010, 07:15 PM
The market will always find room for a new, original voice and something different from what's already "saturating" it.

Libbie
01-03-2010, 09:01 PM
The market will always find room for a new, original voice and something different from what's already "saturating" it.

Precisely. "Saturated" it may be, but a well-written book will almost always sell. When it doesn't, it's not because the market is saturated.

wrtaway
01-03-2010, 09:15 PM
Yes, I know that an excellent book can sell in any market, but the grim reality is that some categories are harder to break into than others. I have written two books -- the first landed me an agent, but never sold. The second sold in a week. Two drastically different genres, two drastically different experiences -- one writer.

I'm just wondering if folks here are finding various genres to be more difficult to publish in than others.

Jamesaritchie
01-03-2010, 09:52 PM
Yes, I know that an excellent book can sell in any market, but the grim reality is that some categories are harder to break into than others. I have written two books -- the first landed me an agent, but never sold. The second sold in a week. Two drastically different genres, two drastically different experiences -- one writer.

I'm just wondering if folks here are finding various genres to be more difficult to publish in than others.

You know a market really is over-saturated when the genre crashes, as happened to horror back in the early nineties.

Try writing a tradition western right now, and good is not good enough because the market share is far too weak.

But if the market share is still there, you can't blame over-saturation for a book not selling.

Generally speaking, tough to sell is a good thing. It means mediocre books do not get published, and it's too many medicore books taken on when a genre is hot that usually cause the genre to crash.

There is never a time when selling a novel is easy in any genre. But there is never a time when a good book will not sell.

If you sold one book out of two written, you have no reason to complain. Many writers, even in the hottest genres, have to write four or five or ten novels before writing one that sells.

No genre is ever bigger or hotter than category romance, and Nora Roberts did manage to sell her first romance novel. . .and then had to write eight more before managing to sell a second.

Exir
01-04-2010, 05:36 AM
I'm just wondering if folks here are finding various genres to be more difficult to publish in than others.

Yes, some genres ARE harder than others. But still, that's a big generalization -- everything depends on the manuscript in question.

wrtaway
01-04-2010, 09:35 AM
Ok, one last try here. I understand that the quality of the manuscript dictates its fate in the publishing world -- I really do. Lousy books = no chance, great books = great chance, and all that. Assuming that we're talking about excellent manuscripts, I'm just wondering where the market is most difficult.

This isn't an exercise in opportunism -- just me wondering about the state of the publishing market in various genres and sub-categories. Other industries know what sectors are weaker than others -- shouldn't writers, too?

For example, it is well-discussed here that vampire books are a very hard sell right now, due to over-saturation. Anything else? If there's no info, there's no info... I'm just wonderin'.

Jamesaritchie
01-04-2010, 07:47 PM
Ok, one last try here. I understand that the quality of the manuscript dictates its fate in the publishing world -- I really do. Lousy books = no chance, great books = great chance, and all that. Assuming that we're talking about excellent manuscripts, I'm just wondering where the market is most difficult.

This isn't an exercise in opportunism -- just me wondering about the state of the publishing market in various genres and sub-categories. Other industries know what sectors are weaker than others -- shouldn't writers, too?

For example, it is well-discussed here that vampire books are a very hard sell right now, due to over-saturation. Anything else? If there's no info, there's no info... I'm just wonderin'.

If you try to write to the market, you'll probably fail, whether it's saturated or not.

wrtaway
01-04-2010, 07:49 PM
Oh good lord. I'm not trying to write to a market. I'm just trying to understand the market. Never mind -- I'll ask my agent. I truly don't understand why some posters here seem to think that understanding the business side of the publishing world is somehow to the detriment of one's writing.

Cathy C
01-04-2010, 08:16 PM
The vampire market was ALREADY over-saturated before Twilight hit the scene. It only takes one unique take on a genre to start the ball rolling again. So it's not fair or accurate to say that any sort of saturation has any bearing on the potential success of any given book. I've seen entire imprints begun by major publishers when a book was amazing but didn't "fit" the market or the editor didn't feel the current imprints could do the book justice on the shelf.

The old adage is still true today, regardless of any sort of over-saturation: It's all about the book. :)

ChaosTitan
01-05-2010, 01:18 AM
Ok, one last try here. I understand that the quality of the manuscript dictates its fate in the publishing world -- I really do. Lousy books = no chance, great books = great chance, and all that. Assuming that we're talking about excellent manuscripts, I'm just wondering where the market is most difficult.

This isn't an exercise in opportunism -- just me wondering about the state of the publishing market in various genres and sub-categories. Other industries know what sectors are weaker than others -- shouldn't writers, too?

The thing is, though, you can't really compare the publishing industry and their "weak sectors" to other industries. You really can't.

Yes, it's important to have some idea of what's still selling, what's slowed down, and what seems to be on the rise. Finding this out is really as simple as a subscription to Publisher's Marketplace and watching the New Deals listing. Or asking your agent. Or reading agent/editor blogs, or following their feeds on Twitter. The information is out there.

But the information isn't all that useful, in the end. Why? Because at the end of the day, it's all about the manuscript. If myself and three other authors all submitted vampire books today, and all four of them were well-written, engaging and something our agents believed in, well, we still wouldn't be on equal footing. It's all about those manuscript pages and what's on them, and it's about who ends up reading those pages. Even if vampires is considered "saturated" and a hard sell, one, two or all four of us could sell our manuscripts, if the right editor reads it, loves it, and can get the acquisitions board to let her buy it.

It never hurts to know the market, but a good book in the hands of the right editor will get purchased/published, no matter the current saturation. :)

Toothpaste
01-05-2010, 01:36 AM
I'm with Chaos.

(hmm . . . thinking about that phrase, that's true on so many levels . . . :))

I mean, I'm sure when Twilight was being shopped around many thought the Vampire thing was over - at least for the moment. In fact people keep saying the vampire thing's over, and then a new one comes out. . .

I'm wondering if you are writing something in particular and are worried about the market for that book. If you are, and want to share with us what that specific fear is, we can give our opinions (which in the end will only be that). But quite frankly, it's really tricky to just answer your question.

IceCreamEmpress
01-05-2010, 02:01 AM
But there is never a time when a good book will not sell.

This isn't true. A Confederacy of Dunces is perhaps the most famous example of a successful and widely beloved book that the author was never able to sell in his lifetime.

Barbara Pym, a writer who has a tremendously loyal following even decades after her death, was unable to sell anything between 1963 and 1977. Fortunately, she survived breast cancer long enough to see a renaissance of her career.

Sometimes even a great book doesn't sell. But that shouldn't discourage anyone from making their book as great as it can be.

Jamesaritchie
01-05-2010, 03:41 AM
This isn't true. A Confederacy of Dunces is perhaps the most famous example of a successful and widely beloved book that the author was never able to sell in his lifetime.

Barbara Pym, a writer who has a tremendously loyal following even decades after her death, was unable to sell anything between 1963 and 1977. Fortunately, she survived breast cancer long enough to see a renaissance of her career.

Sometimes even a great book doesn't sell. But that shouldn't discourage anyone from making their book as great as it can be.

No, because he only submitted it to nine publishers, half of which were wildly inappropriate for the book. Then the idiot killed himself.

Not being able to sell someting means you aren't writing anything a publisher wants.

I'd love to believe some great books do not sell, but I've yet to see one, unless the writer did something really stupid to directly cause it's failure to sell.

Jamesaritchie
01-05-2010, 03:48 AM
Oh good lord. I'm not trying to write to a market. I'm just trying to understand the market. Never mind -- I'll ask my agent. I truly don't understand why some posters here seem to think that understanding the business side of the publishing world is somehow to the detriment of one's writing.

I am an absolute firm believer in understanding the business side of publishing. I believe a writer should know as much about the business as any agent or any editor.

I do follow market trends, I usually know what market percentage any type of book has on a yearly basis, and I know something else. It's pretty much meaningless. No one, not your agent, not your editor, no one, has a clue which markets will be strong or weak or over-saturated by the time you actually get a book written and get it published.

Understanding the market means understanding that no matter what it's like today, one book can, and probably will, change it completely tomorrow, let alone in the eighteen months to two years it will take to have your book published after you write it.

IceCreamEmpress
01-05-2010, 04:50 AM
I'd love to believe some great books do not sell, but I've yet to see one, unless the writer did something really stupid to directly cause it's failure to sell.

From Toole's perspective, A Confederacy of Dunces never sold. Could he have submitted more wisely? Absolutely.

But you didn't say "every good book that is submitted efficiently sells eventually"--you said, "there is never a time when a good book will not sell." Which is a tautological argument in any case, because you will point at any good book that did not sell as not having been submitted efficiently enough, unless the writer submitted to every imaginable publishing house.

And the story of Barbara Pym's 14-year publishing dry spell has been told quite widely. She was a multi-published author who submitted her work--several different novels, on different topics--to every publisher in England, and was rejected by all of them. She edited in response to feedback, submitted under a pseudonym, tried everything, and no dice. It's pretty painful to read.

The only thing that jump-started her career again was her having been chosen for a national newspaper article by two far more famous writers (Lord David Cecil and Philip Larkin) as their favorite underrated writer. Then the very same novels that had been so widely rejected were published to acclaim and awards.

That was an extraordinary stroke of good fortune, but people can't rely on that happening. Sometimes you work as hard as you can and write a really, really strong book and you still lose the publishing lottery.

wrtaway
01-05-2010, 09:30 AM
Sigh. I don't write about vampires. In fact, I may be one of the few people in the world who has neither read Twilight nor seen the movie. Nor am I trying to write to any particular market -- I'm well into a project that both my agent and I love. I threw my question out there because I just find the subtleties of the publishing industry interesting. I guess that the MBA in me won't go away, just because I left the corporate world.

But, since it sounds as if most of the other posters find the data "meaningless", or would rather throw out platitudes about improving my writing (??) instead of discussing the data, I won't post my question here again.

My question had nothing to do with me as a writer, my WIP, nor my skills. Just one writer trying to chat with others about our industry.

Exir
01-05-2010, 09:42 AM
But the data truly is vague, in practical terms. How do you quantify saturation? You can't... beyond the intuition of "insiders" who may or may not be correct.

LuckyH
01-05-2010, 10:37 AM
Sigh. I don't write about vampires. In fact, I may be one of the few people in the world who has neither read Twilight nor seen the movie. Nor am I trying to write to any particular market -- I'm well into a project that both my agent and I love. I threw my question out there because I just find the subtleties of the publishing industry interesting. I guess that the MBA in me won't go away, just because I left the corporate world.

But, since it sounds as if most of the other posters find the data "meaningless", or would rather throw out platitudes about improving my writing (??) instead of discussing the data, I won't post my question here again.

My question had nothing to do with me as a writer, my WIP, nor my skills. Just one writer trying to chat with others about our industry.

Writers are often unaware of the necessary commercialism within the publishing industry, they are too concentrated on their own, romantic concept of it all. Thatís what makes your question a difficult one.

Perhaps I could try and simplify it this way, for myself as well: if you are able to produce a publishable manuscript in more than one genre, then it makes sense to concentrate on one that appears more marketable than the other, and there are some guidelines.

Wars and vampires appear to be on the wane, crime and romance are perennials, and I would maintain that a detective story would be easier to sell in 2010, than yet another weary tale of futile war.

Jamesaritchie
01-05-2010, 07:35 PM
Sigh. I don't write about vampires. In fact, I may be one of the few people in the world who has neither read Twilight nor seen the movie. Nor am I trying to write to any particular market -- I'm well into a project that both my agent and I love. I threw my question out there because I just find the subtleties of the publishing industry interesting. I guess that the MBA in me won't go away, just because I left the corporate world.

But, since it sounds as if most of the other posters find the data "meaningless", or would rather throw out platitudes about improving my writing (??) instead of discussing the data, I won't post my question here again.

My question had nothing to do with me as a writer, my WIP, nor my skills. Just one writer trying to chat with others about our industry.

Read Publishers Weekly and other trade magazines and websites.

I guess I just don't know what it is you're after? Is the market over-saturated with vampire novels? Maybe yes, if you mean clones of Twilight. No, if you mean an original, well-told tale.

But what does it matter? You have to write the book you most want to write. I suspect most writers would be better off if they had no clue about saturation.

But if you want to know as much as possible, you need to read the trade publications.

Cathy C
01-05-2010, 08:24 PM
Sigh. I don't write about vampires. In fact, I may be one of the few people in the world who has neither read Twilight nor seen the movie. Nor am I trying to write to any particular market -- I'm well into a project that both my agent and I love. I threw my question out there because I just find the subtleties of the publishing industry interesting. I guess that the MBA in me won't go away, just because I left the corporate world.

But, since it sounds as if most of the other posters find the data "meaningless", or would rather throw out platitudes about improving my writing (??) instead of discussing the data, I won't post my question here again.

My question had nothing to do with me as a writer, my WIP, nor my skills. Just one writer trying to chat with others about our industry.

wrtaway, I wasn't talking about vampire novels, nor saying you had to write one. I was just using an example of a current smash hit series to explain the truth about the industry:

Nobody knows.

Editors don't know what will interest the buying public. Neither do agents. You buy a manuscript and a year or more later, it makes a debut. It either hits, flops or remains steady--selling through well enough to buy another.

I doubt there are few people MORE interested than me about the state of the industry. I haven't been writing all that long, so I'm fascinated about the history of the business, and statistics and such. One author I know who just recently hit the NYT was dropped by multiple houses in the past . . . for writing the very same thing as what made her a NYT bestseller today. She claims it's nearly time for another "purge," where publishers drop non-sellers and those very same authors will move to other houses, pick up a new pen name and try again. She claims it happens every seven to nine years.

It seems like she's right, too, as other author friends are scrambling to "re-invent" themselves following abrupt changes in imprint direction and editor shuffling. So far, I'm one of the lucky ones and hope to continue to be. But I'm always on the lookout for new markets opening and new directions to take. That doesn't mean I won't continue to write the very same thing I'm writing now. But it might get shelved for a bit while I pay the bills with other things. :)

wrtaway
01-05-2010, 09:09 PM
I guess that what I'm wondering is what is NOT hot these days. So many writers (myself included on occasion) spend time trying to figure out what the next trend is going to be. Instead of trying to predict what will be a hot trend in the near future, though, I'm just wondering what is decidedly not-hot, now.

For example, one of the posters here mentioned that Westerns are a hard sell these days. I find that interesting, even though I don't think I've ever even browsed the Western aisle of a bookstore in my life. Off the top of my head, I can also recall several "not-hot" genres and sub-categories that I've read about on various industry blogs: historical romance, thrillers, male angst self-help, misery memoirs, etc. These were written about by various agents or publishers as books that the writer did NOT want to see any more of.

I know that a great MS can transcend all of this, and furthermore, that many agents and publishers reject various genres just based on personal preference. Hell, I'm just arrogant enough to believe that MY semi-autobiographical-historical-Western-zombie-vampire novel would change anyone's mind. (That's a joke, folks.) On a macro-level, though, there ARE various genres that are un-hot (that may not be a word, but I think that it should be). I'm just wondering what they are.

CaroGirl
01-05-2010, 09:22 PM
For the sake of argument, let's take a quick look at chick lit. There was a time in the not-so-distant past when chick lit was declared dead (probably due to over-saturation, but I'm not certain) and the most brilliant chick lit novel would not have sold to anyone, anywhere.

I don't think you can predict the vagaries of the book market, even if you're as well educated as you can be, any more than you can predict vacillations in the stock market. Everything's an educated guess at best. The smart thing to do is write the best <insert genre here> novel you can and hope there's an agent who'll represent it, a publisher who'll publish it and public who'll buy it.

Jamesaritchie
01-06-2010, 01:41 AM
I guess that what I'm wondering is what is NOT hot these days. So many writers (myself included on occasion) spend time trying to figure out what the next trend is going to be. Instead of trying to predict what will be a hot trend in the near future, though, I'm just wondering what is decidedly not-hot, now.

For example, one of the posters here mentioned that Westerns are a hard sell these days. I find that interesting, even though I don't think I've ever even browsed the Western aisle of a bookstore in my life. Off the top of my head, I can also recall several "not-hot" genres and sub-categories that I've read about on various industry blogs: historical romance, thrillers, male angst self-help, misery memoirs, etc. These were written about by various agents or publishers as books that the writer did NOT want to see any more of.

I know that a great MS can transcend all of this, and furthermore, that many agents and publishers reject various genres just based on personal preference. Hell, I'm just arrogant enough to believe that MY semi-autobiographical-historical-Western-zombie-vampire novel would change anyone's mind. (That's a joke, folks.) On a macro-level, though, there ARE various genres that are un-hot (that may not be a word, but I think that it should be). I'm just wondering what they are.

The traditional western is just about the coldest genre out there. But it was even colder when Larry McMurty wrote Lonesome Dove, won the Pulitzer, and created a whole new type of western novel.

I don'tthink writers shuold spend any time worrying about future trends, or about what is and isn't hot right now. Here's the deal. If a genre, or more likely, a sub-genre, is smoking hot, it is a bit easier to have a novel published in the sub-genre. But it's also more likely that one of your mediocre first attempts will get pubished.

Too many mediocre novels being published is what causes a sub-genre to crash, and when the crash happens, those writers who managed to publish mediocre novels fall the farthest and land the hardest. It can be a career killer.

Genres do not die. Ever. A crash is usually a weeding out process, and the best writers survive. The poor ones get cut. When teh horror genre crashed in the nineties, and it was a major crash, writers such as King and Straub, etc., not only didn't crash with the genre, they benefitted from the crash.

And as sub-zero cold as the traditional western is right now, two or three western writers are doing just fine because they're the ones able to give readers novels they want.

I wouldn;t begin to say that a writer should intentionally write in a cold genre just because it's cold, but I also would never say that a writer should write in a genre because it's hot.

No matter what the future trend might be, no matter what's hot or cold or lukewarm right now, a writer's best chance of success is writing a novel he really wants to write because that's what he really loves to read.

LuckyH
01-06-2010, 01:01 PM
I know a fellow writer who has a prolific output, and can write on just about any subject. His spy novels have sold best of all, but he got fed up with them and wrote a couple of Westerns.

Heís about as unqualified as you could be for the genre, heís never been to the US and was working as an editor at the time, as well as producing several magazine titles aimed at women.

A reasonably respected publishing house published his Westerns; they were really novellas about wagon trains and marauding Indians. He even got a small advance and they did sell in small numbers.

We both had a good laugh about that, and he confessed that his research consisted of reading a few Westerns published in the fifties, by one author.

I read a few pages of one of his Westerns. Apart from making me laugh me laugh, it was appalling.

I suppose the point Iím trying to make is that a true professional can write in any genre, but itís shallow writing that will never sell in any numbers.


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