Thursday, June 21, 2012


A couple weeks back, during our discussion of what could be learned from my sales figures, the sub-topic of genres came up. Right now M/M and multiples/ménages are hot sellers, and the numbers supported the M/M part. Somebody asked about F/F. Savanna mentioned that some publishers are currently looking for F/F stories, which implies it’s selling and therefore a growing sub-genre.

To repeat my own comment on the subject, crud.

Right now everything’s going my way. Paranormal’s big, erotic romance is big, shapeshifters are big, M/M is big. You can play mix ‘n’ match and the combinations will sell. It just happens I like these sub-genres and the ideas come easily to me. I was a bit surprised at the M/M, but as long as the bus is running, why not enjoy the ride?

Trouble is, these trends won’t last forever. Anybody remember chick lit?

Suppose F/F becomes the Next Big Thing. Or BDSM, thanks to Fifty Shades of Grey. Suppose M/M drops into the toilet. What do I do then?

I’m not facing total disaster. Traditional boy-meets-girl will always be in vogue. Same for light romantic comedy. I can do those, with and without the shapeshifters, vampires, and the guy-on-guy. Over the past couple years I’ve learned I can write mysteries. I’ll never be Agatha Christie, but I have a good time and, I hope, so do the readers. If all else fails I can fall back to science fiction and fantasy. Given the types of stuff I write, my SF and romance are pretty much interchangeable anyway. Same essential stories, just with sex scenes.

So why not just follow the trends and write F/F, BDSM or M/F/M/M/M/M+ ménages or whatever?

Would that I could. I’ve written one ménage, but that was an aberration, a continuation of another story. I could probably write another if the right plot hits, but so far the plots aren’t hitting. Same for BDSM. With all the comic books I read as a kid, you’d think I’d have no trouble writing stories where people are tied up in imaginative ways, but no. (I understand 1940s-era Wonder Woman was a textbook of fetishism. Bet that was fun for the kiddies.) As for F/F, I have no ideas in that direction at all, unlike with M/M, where ideas keep coming at me like arrows fired at a bull’s-eye. And no, you can’t just switch the two guys to two gals and expect the story to stay the same. It doesn’t work that way.

Neither does my brain. I once thought I’d enjoy Regency romances. I’m a dialogue junkie, a total sucker for biting quips and witty repartee. I tried a couple Regencies and couldn’t get beyond the first few pages. Same for caper stories. I love caper stories. Intricate plots with high stakes and split-second timing, where a red light at the wrong time can upset months of planning. Movies like The Sting and TV shows like the old Mission: Impossible number among my favorites. Remember the part in National Treasure where they steal the US Constitution? That’s what I’m talking about. I’ve proven to myself I can write mysteries. So why don’t I write caper stories? Because my mind doesn’t skew that way. I might be able to put the characters together, but my brain won’t come up with a plot.

On the other hand, I’ve written things that surprised me. M/M, for one. Who knows where that came from. Or Westerns. I never considered writing a Western until after my dad passed away and I became heir to his Louis L’Amour collection. After working my way through it, I realized I could probably write one of these if the right idea hit at the right time. It would mean a ton of research, and I’d probably have to include shapeshifters or some other paranormal elements, but I’ll bet I could do it. In fact, I had an idea for a series about a family of ranchers who double as vampire slayers. Most would be contemporary, but there’s room in there for a couple historicals. Vampires and cowboys have both been around for centuries, and I’m sure they’ve crossed paths a few times. I may get back to that at some point.

If the market swung toward F/F, could I swing with it? I should probably change my initial solid “no” to a more weaselly “maybe.” I used to love Marion Z. Bradley’s Darkover series, and some of those included F/F elements (along with M/M and at least one fourway). I loved Xena: Warrior Princess too. Maybe she and Gabrielle did have a thing going. It was there if you wanted to see it. (Quick aside: TV’s Hercules also had himself a little blond travelling companion, and nobody ever hinted those two were anything other than manly men. The double standard, gotta love it.)

On the other hand, I never wrote or felt a need to write Xena or Darkover fanfic. I did write X-Men fanfic with M/M overtones, so that’s been going on for a while. My best bet would probably be to write the stories that interest and excite me and stop worrying about the fickleness of the market. After all, there was no separate horror genre until Stephen King created it. He wrote the stories he wanted to write and look where he ended up. I wouldn’t mind having his career. The best way to do that is to write quality stories and not worry about who’s doing what to whom where, or how many there are and what gender. The characters will dictate that. Me, I’m just the typist.


Savanna Kougar said...

That intricate dance between what inspires as writers and what the hot selling trend is... there's that, and there are the mainstays like your basic romance story, mysteries, sci fi, fantasy, etc.

I have a range of romance subgenres that are natural to me, however all of them include paranormal aspects. I couldn't write a standard contemporary romance to save my soul. Simply because that's not my personal experience of reality. Plus, I have no interest in it.

Okay, I still want my out of time closet where I can complete a manuscript, step back into time and publish. There are no lack of ideas or WIPs.

Pat C. said...

I consider myself really lucky. For once in my life the things I want to write and publishing trends actually coincide. I just didn't realize I wanted to write M/M. Live and learn.

I've also realized that, should the market change, I can continue to write what I want to write just by switching genres back to SF and dropping the explicit sex scenes. Plus there's self-publishing, so I don't even have to depend on the "marketing experts" any more. If a book is good enough, it'll find its audience. In theory.

I already have sufficient time. I use it to watch TV. This is why I'm not rich yet.

Pat C. said...

On a side note: is it me, or are past and present "bestsellers" actually poorly written? I've heard those complaints levels against both 50 Shades and DaVinci Code. In my opinion, John Grisham didn't learn how to write until he'd published five books. I once read a Sidney Sheldon novel to try to figure out why he was so popular. My conclusion: he wrote about sex, power and betrayal at a fourth-grade level. For this he was rewarded with millions.

Apparently, becoming a popular (and well-paid) author has nothing to do with becoming a good author. So don't worry about having time. It doesn't have to be good, just interesting to a lot of bored people on the beach.

Savanna Kougar said...

Pat, I've read several blog/articles from bestselling authors about how the 'cream of the crop' writing IS NOT what makes it to the top, or a bestseller. Yeah, usually the opposite. That's why I gave up on most NY bestsellers a long, long time ago.

It's a complex picture, but often it's trend and marketing and/or what corp 'wants' to sell... not even what people actually want. Readers don't know what hasn't been available to them.

That's the beauty of self-pub and small pub... if we can ALL hang in there long enough to find/let the readers find us, and realize there's better books than what they've been essentially force-fed, we're off and running as authors.

Of course, big corp is fighting back in devious and nasty ways, and Amazon is in bed with them. Amazon has the power to wipe any book off Kindle after purchased. They've did that with 1984, and a slew of others when they got in dispute with the publisher.

However, Amazon isn't going to throw out Indies yet... however, that's why other vendors are so important.

Yeah, I never realized I could write menage, or had that many stories in me. ~smiles~

I'm stuck with a nature that demands I do the best I can when writing, not just turn out books. I've tried writing that way, and it just doesn't work. I fail every time.

And, I'm not saying I write top quality either. I just have to do the best I know how, and learn.

And, yes, as evidenced by what does sell, it doesn't have to be good, just what people want to read. Entertainment is entertainment.