I've been talking to a number of other authors about the biz as it stands today. Sales are way down, across the board, and those markets that seemed to be hot two years ago--specifically paranormal and Young Adult--have now seemed to have worn out their welcome. What is selling? Um, nothing seems to be selling from what I can gather. As I am currently writing a paranormal YA novel, I'm a little depressed by this news.
Where does that leave you? In some ways this is very liberating because, hell, take chances, get messy (Ms. Frizzle, I do love you so much). You really do not have much to lose by letting those creative critters that are currently doing the rumba in your brain let them loose and snake around some wild ideas that might actually work. I've always found that writing to market is dangerous, which is why I am going to write this book because it's yelling at me to write it.
The reality is that as soon as one book grabs the market that does not mean that a hundred books on wizards will sell, yours being one of them. Generally speaking, it takes two years to get a book to market. Two years. Chew on that. I will say that only series that I thought took the wizarding concept and gave as good a ride as Harry Potter was Grossman's The Magicians series; as a rival to the Harry Potter series, the Magician's was a contender. Grossman's books had a completely different and much smaller audience so perhaps it wasn't as much of a financial success for him, but the writing was a zillion times more sophisticated, as were the themes, and he certainly gave Rowling's world building skills a run for their money. He also didn't have to deal with the issue of writing a children's book with adult themes (or an adult book that was also catering to children, JKR's perpetual dilemma). He wrote for adults and it freed him in many ways to write a dark and gritty tale that was mature (he avoided the sight gags that JKR loves so much) and, for lack of a better word, urban. I have issues with books two and three of that series (I have book reviews on my website so check out why those books didn't quite work for me). I had issues with Rowling's last book for the same reason. Both authors let the world-building triumph over plot and character arcs, but that's a separate issue entirely. As usual, I'm digressing.
Anyway, so nothing is selling and you have this great idea but the only books that you see for sale feature wealthy young adults with a romance shoved in there for good measure. Yes, Crazy Rich Asians, I'm looking at you (and a host of other books featuring wealthy protagonists). You have a gritty, dark tale of wizards who are in college and they have sex and they drink and take drugs and they are mean to each other and betray each other and... Okay, that book has been written (see Grossman's The Magicians series). BUT, write your idea like you want to write it. Don't discount passion. It matters. I am sure that a zillion people told Lev Grossman, do not write about wizards. Are you crazy? That market is so ten years ago. And now he has a television series based on his novels. He didn't listen to those naysayers and neither should you. Even though I have critical issues with his books (book 2 is very weak), I cannot deny that he really cares about these characters. He identifies with Quentin and loves Alice. I hope that Lev Grossman has an Alice in his life and that it's not a fantasy of the woman he wishes he has. And that love for someone special or even hope for someone special comes through in neon letters. So write about what you care about. I was disappointed in book two, but that hasn't stop me from having all three books in a prominent place on my bookshelf in HARDCOVER.
I have read books that if I pulled them apart they would actually hit my "fail" buzzer, but the passion of the author for their story pulls me along, and while my finger might be poised about the "fail" button, it never quite pushes it, because you, author, you trickster, you, bamboozled me with your words.
Bamboozle, people. Write what you love because the market is moving so quickly, what you think will be selling will not be selling in a week.
I keep postponing this, but next week we talk about the authorly-type endeavors worth investing $$$ in.