Sunday, August 9, 2009

Meeting Authors and Trends

In Alex's last post she mentioned things that she wants to get out of reading blogs on writing. Hearing about conferences, and specifically hearing about trends was one of the things that she mentioned. I will mention a bit about what I learned about trends at the PNWA conference, but I'm also going to focus on how meeting authors can be cool.

So, first trends. What I heard about trends is simply not to focus on them because they come and go too quickly. Well, that's all good and cool, but what I have seen by going to the PNWA conference for three years in a row is that new writers from the Pacific Northwest who have been published in urban fantasy are doing well. Doing well can be defined as they are getting more book deals. I stopped by a bookstore in Bellingham before the conference and there was actually a sign with an arrow that said something to the effect of, "If you like Twilight and vampire romance check out Mead's stories." It was that direct. Yeah, that's a trend.

I can remember my first PNWA conference. Mead's books were first coming out. She was brand new and I attended an urban fantasy session with her and Caitlin Kittredge. They were really putting on a show in their goth outfits, and people were eating it up. It was fun to see Mead in the bookstore, where most authors look out from their tables nervously, hoping people will buy their books. By the end, Mead pumped her fist in victory, as she sold her whole stack of books. Now if you go to the bookstore you will see many, many of her books.

Do trends matter? Maybe they do? Maybe they don't? I don't really know that I would know how to ride the wave, but I've seen Mead ride the wave and it's been interesting.

Here's another observation on trends. During the agent forum, one agent said that dragons are hot in YA fantasy fiction. Cool, I thought, because that's what I've got, and I even had an appointment with her. (You could argue about whether my story is YA or not, but that's another topic) She requested some sample pages, which I had expected, but what I did not expect happened during a meeting with a different agent, which I scored by hanging out and waiting for agent cancellations. She had clearly stated in the program that she was not taking epic fantasy. Bummer, but I thought I would pitch my nonfiction running book idea. Well, she was interested in at least hearing about the fantasy book idea, and even though that was not my plan, we wound up talking about it for a few minutes. Turns out that the bottom line is that her boss has too many epic fantasy stories.

So, I'm not sure how you ride the wave. One agent says that fantasy stories with dragons are hot and another says that there are too many of them in the house. If anybody knows how to ride the wave of trends go ahead and let me know, because I just write what I write, which oddly enough is the advice that agents and editors most commonly give at conferences.

By the way, the agent who had too many fantasy stories in her agency was interested in my nonfiction project and asked me to send it when I was finished. That's very motivational!

I think that next week I will do a detailed post on the authors that I met and their books. Here's one thing though, that I want to say before signing off. Hearing authors talk about their books was really, really cool. If you go to a conference be sure to take the time to talk with authors one on one and go to sessions where they will talk about their books. I'm not talking about sales pitches or adds disguised as sessions. I'm talking about authors discussing what they did to create the fantasy world in their book, and I'm talking about seeing authors a few years in a row and seeing how they are getting more book deals. I went to a fun forum with urban fantasy authors that took a list of moderated questions on world building. That was cool.

Also, I talked with a thriller writer that I met three years ago before he had a book deal or an agent. His name is Boyd Morrison and he is going to have his first book released in about fourteen different countries. There's a good story there, but I'm going to wait until next week to tell it.

So, what are your thoughts and experiences on meeting authors and trends?


  1. Congratulations on the invite to send your nonfiction piece! That's awesome. :)

    Riding the wave? I'd have no idea how to do that. I think going to conferences would be very helpful, but I'm not in a time of life right now that I can go to many, or even one. So thank you for sharing this information!

    I can't wait to hear about the thriller writer.

  2. Congratulations on being asked for your non-fiction project! That alone makes the conference worth it. As for dragons, I've got 'em, too, and have worried if they'll be welcome. Sometimes it seems the trends change before you get a project done so maybe you just have to write what you love and hope the enthusiasm will get you in the door.

  3. Thanks, Dave. Sounded like a blast. Too bad the price tag was too steep for me to go.

    As they might say, most trends are started in places where there wasn't one in the beginning. Or something like that.

    Good post!

  4. I had a great time at Thrillerfest talking with all the different authors. I was talking to James Rollins at one point and I asked him if he ever worried about his parents reading what he had written. I was shocked when he said that he actually had to call his mother and tell not to read a particular book.

    There were some great sessions, for instance I really liked one on how to make bad guys really bad.

    But I heard the same thing from all the agents there as well. Don't chase trends. Write what you like to write. If you try to write something that you are either not good at, or don't care about. You're going to end up with a mediocre book.

  5. I'm not sure if I would like to ride the trend wave or not. Hell, I don't even like being confined to one genre. Right now I'm actually working on revising a YA fantasy dragon piece, adding material to a Paranormal Romance novel, and working on the first draft of a horror novel. No trend writing here (well the paranormal romance is a vampire novel so I guess you could say that's part of the Twilight trend).

    BTW: Congratulations on the Nonfiction request.

  6. i think well-written work will trump any trend. thus, even if everyone is dragoned-out, the compelling novel will win the day.

    the trick, then, is to write the kick-butt novel.

    even trickier is writing the kick-butt query letter that convinces an agent to give your dragon book a chance :)

  7. Everybody: Thanks for the comments!

    Trends are tricky. At least I have an awareness that I am in the midst of some kind of dragon trend. It might be fun to research it. When did it start? How long has it gone on? Has it had ups and downs? Does it play out the same way in adult fantasy as it does in YA fantasy?

    If you know, or can guess, feel free to post a comment. Likewise, if you know someone that might now feel free to forwad this post and the questions about dragon trends.

    I might post on this sometime in the future.


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