We get quite a few proposals in our inbox each week and are always excited to dig through our latest round of submissions. However, throughout the past year, we’ve noticed the trend of similar plotlines from different authors. These familiar stories aren’t bad, they’re just . . . familiar. If you want to catch our attention with something we haven’t seen before, consider steering clear of these storylines:
- Young country teenagers find love over the course of a season
- Teenager surviving alone in the wilderness
- Scrappy memoir about coming of age under less than ideal circumstances
- A vaguely fictional account of a secluded European group of people in PNW history
- Historical fiction about going West
- Books about water
This is not to discredit or disparage the manuscripts we have received—we are publishing three books about water as we speak. But there are some things to consider if you are hoping to get your manuscript published. There is a phenomenon that occurs within the publishing industry where themes and plotlines of different stories mirror each other and are often published around the same time. Considering how to market these books is tricky. If a book has a unique storyline, the author and the publisher have to be able to market it so that it doesn’t get lost in the plethora of books being published and yet still evokes its uniqueness. On the other side, if a manuscript ends up being similar to the current trend, marketing is necessary in order for it to stand out to readers. As acquisitions editors, we have to be able to predict the future in terms of trends, which is no easy task.
Trends tend to happen because of the decade we are living in, as well as where we are geographically located. For example, the reason we might see a trend with books about water is because of the current focus surrounding the environment and living habits in relation to our geographical location. Writers will often see a trend they like and try to emulate it, sure that if they capitalize on something that is currently popular or has been recently well-received, a publisher is sure to pick it up. This isn’t always the case. In fact, by the time that a writer identifies a trend, spends a year or more writing a story aligned with that trend, and waits another two or so years to see it finally published, chances are that trend will have already become old hat and been replaced by something new.
This means that, even if it’s contrary to their instinctive business sense, writers shouldn’t be trying to jump onto a trend’s coattails. Instead, they should write what they love, what they are passionate about, and do their best to come up with something unique. Leave it to the publisher to find a trend or market in which to place your book, and just write. Who knows, maybe your book will even jump-start the next big trend.