Have you heard? Historical romance is dead. Agents and editors agree it is a hard sell and therefore it must be dead. No one wants to read about dukes, rakes, debutantes, carriages and all that stuff. The language is too hard. The rules are too stupid. Readers aren't interested in the boring historical research and the stories all sound the same these days. Yep! Dead as a guy wearing a red shirt in the first fifteen minutes of a Star Trek episode.
The small town romance is king now. Or wait! No! It's the contemporary western romance. Forget that! Angel and demon heroes in urban fantasy romance are the next big thing. Hell! With an eight figure deal in the offing, erotic romance with some BSDM thrown in there THAT'S what's hot! Or maybe Amish virgin heroes are your ticket to the big time.
Are you confused yet? Good! I'd hate to be sitting in the cheap seats on the Titanic all by myself.
The trouble with having all day access to the information superhighway is you run the risk of being intellectual roadkill. There are so many articles, surveys and reports on the state of the publishing industry and what the next big sub-genre in romance is going to be I feel like a three-legged possum during five o'clock rush hour on the Friday before Labor Day.
What is the truth? If you believe much of the professional hype out there all you have to do is write an urban fantasy set in a small western town with an Amish virgin cowboy hero who is actually a fallen angel in disguise and have him seduced by a billionaire business woman who turns him into her BSDM sex slave. Write it and the agents, editors and readers will be beating down your door asking for more. And if you self-publish it you will rake in 70% of a bazillion dollars. Universal Pictures will buy your book for another bazillion dollars and make it into a film starring Chris Pine and Anne Hathaway. They'll film it at Highclere Castle to cash in on the Downton Abbey fans.
Of course if you go the self-publishing route you will have to write at least three books and preferably six and release them all a few weeks apart. You'll have to hire a really great cover artist too. Or not. Because even in e-books great covers sell. Or not. You need to use a top-notch editor. Or you can just edit it yourself, people don't care about great editing so long as the story is good.
Still confused? I don't know about you, but I'm getting ready to climb into that boat with Billy Zane and leave Leo DiCaprio to fend for himself at this point. Sheesh!
Everyone talks about what's dead and what's hot and what you should be writing if you want to sell and succeed. There are all sorts of reports on the Evil Empire of Traditional Publishers, the rights of writers, and how fast the publishing world is changing. Advice abounds on what kind of writer each of us should be - hybrid, traditional, strictly self-published, indie, small press, e-pubbed. And most important, you've got to get it all done NOW! And get it out there FAST !!
Really? Well, listen up, writers. Auntie Louisa is about to scurry her naked-tailed butt to the other side of the road and let you in on some simple truths. We possums have been around for at least 70 million years. We know a little bit about what it takes to survive.
First of all, every genre and sub-genre I have mentioned in this post has been "dead" at one point or another in the long history of fiction. Frankly, hot genres are like buses and men - there will be another one along in a few minutes. Be patient. The one you want will swing back by and grab you.
Second, no matter how talented, skilled and educated a writer you become over the years writing in a genre that doesn't speak to you simply because it is the next big thing is like faking an orgasm. It might get you by for a while, but eventually your partner (the reader) is going to figure it out. They'll feel cheated and they'll be right. And frankly that is too damned much work for me.
Third, don't let anyone tell you what the best way to publish your work is. It's your work. You decide. And you base that decision on what works for you. Decide what sort of writer you want to be, you can be, without tying yourself into knots and become that writer. Don't let anyone tell you you're doing it wrong or you'll never succeed unless you do it this way or that way. Yes, this business is changing, but the fundamental thing - writing a great story that leaves a lasting impression on a reader and makes them hungry for more of YOUR work - HAS. NOT. CHANGED. Remember that.
Fourth, there comes a time when you have to take complete and utter control of your writing destiny. You have to go 300 on it - "This is where we fight. This is where they die."
What does that mean? Take all of those surveys, reports and comments about what sells and file them in the circular file. Then sit down and write the book you WANT to write. Yes, that one. The one with the impossible premise, strange characters and unbelievable romance. Write the stories you want to tell. Write the stories that won't leave you alone. And when someone reads it and says "This can't possibly sell." keep writing. Pour it all out there on the page. Don't hold anything back. And when you finish, do it again. And again. And again. Write as if your life depends on you getting YOUR stories out on the page. Because it does.
If you spend all of your time trying to figure out what the next hot thing will be, if you spend all of your writing efforts chasing trends in genre and methods of publication you're like the end dog on the sled dog team - you're running last and the view will never change.
Besides, that book you write that everyone told you would never sell? It might just be the next Fifty Shades or Crossfire or Black Dagger Brotherhood.
Historical romance is dead? Don't you believe it. It's got more lives than Stefano di Mera, baby. (You youngsters will have to look that one up.) Just wait and see. And who knows, you or I may be the ones to bring it back to life. I'm damned sure going to try. How many writers do you know who have written a Regency hero getting knocked flat by the heroine's seventeen foot pet python and gotten away with it?
What do you think about all of the surveys, reports and prophecies out there? How do you deal with all of the information about the future of publishing that comes your way? What would you tell someone who is confused, or worried or depressed about the current state of the business?