How far are you with your novel? Going well, great. Congratulations. So what’s it about? Zombies! Cool, I love zombies. Sparkly vamps are so yesterday. (don’t get me started). Have you seen the trailer for World War Z? Damn, you really need to check it out. I love the new fast zombies… no more wandering around with a baseball bat hitting home runs, those f*****s (still deciding on the asterisks) will have your arse! What? Your zombies are the old slow type? Shit, I so sorry man. Really I am.
So. How do you decide if the theme of your book is going to be commercial or don’t you care? If you finish it in a years time, will you be able to ride the latest trend or will you just sink? Will you shelve that horror masterpiece until zombies are in fashion again and then realise your old school psychos are like Popeye without his can of spinach? Do you peer into the crystal ball and try to write something topical or do you even give a damn?
Been thinking about this issue for a while now. In a way it has similarities with the issue of commercialisation of what you are writing vs writing for yourself. Sure I want to make some money writing but I am a realist (prefer to be pleasantly surprised than horribly disappointed) so I’m not betting my daughters piggy bank on it right now. I just hope that I can write something that people will enjoy reading and the problem with that is that peoples tastes can change dramatically over the time it takes to write a decent length novel. (well, I suppose people will always like sex so I could always pull the shades and try my hand at some housewife fantasy).
Perhaps that’s what makes publishers lives so difficult. They must choose something that will sell – its like the movies. There always seem to be knock-offs or similar themed productions that launch within a few months of each other – the one is the high budget studio release and the other is a similar themed piece of straight-to-video drivel (usually) riding on the massive marketing machine that came before. Can’t be bothered to spend an hour Googling it, but I am willing to bet that it’s happening with books. Right or wrong, t seems pretty logical to me. Why go the other way when you can jump on the gravy train and enjoy a little second hand smoking without buying the studio executive a cigar. I’d do the same if my livelihood depended on commercial success. (hmm, maybe it does?)
Another thought I had is do trends in books run in a cycle? Do universal themes cycle like fashion outfits? (please god, let the 80’s pass us by, I don’t think I can do rolled up t-shirt sleeves and girls with big hair and neon!) Does this mean that Lord of the Rings is enjoying a resurgence based on a predictable theme cycle or did a big studio just decide it was time to resurrect fantasy again? If yes, based on what? Ok, all you masters thesis dudes, have fun and don’t credit me with the research idea. And another thing… How long do these trends last? Lord of the Rings lasted 3 years (with another hiccup of 2 about to start this Dec)… Sparkly vampires has lasted a little longer, old Voldemort ditto and Katniss is just starting her run for the conch shell (couldn’t be bothered to go check what its called again). So for those of us who write in the fantastical world of make believe, do we stand a chance of writing a book and having it published while the world still cares?
So do you care? Should you? Tough one. I do, but I have no idea what the hell I can do about it so I’m pretty philosophical. Just write, they will come… bah!