We've seen all these phenomenal books take off to best seller status – The Da Vinci Code, These Lovely Bones, Harry Potter – and now there's mutterings within the writing community about what the next "big thing" will be.
We know it's not wise to clone what's already selling big at the moment as we're told time and time again by editors and agents that the manuscripts bought today won't be on the shelves for another couple of years. We shouldn't follow trends because they're fickle. Most of us write according to our passion anyway, trends be damned. But still, it's fun to speculate what the next big thing might be, what genre, what new idea will spark the reading consumer into buying more books?
Ideas come from everywhere. The next best seller is probably sitting on someone's hard drive somewhere, the queries being rejected left and right, partials getting turned down as often as bed sheets in a brothel, but it's out there, waiting for its time. Could it be yours? Hmm…
It's fun to speculate what people will be reading in terms of fiction. Non-fiction is a totally different subject, but fiction is less tangible and more speculative. What appeals to the American reader? We could look to television for our ideas. Not the shows so much as the themes. Like what's up with these game shows? Maybe a novel will come out about a game show. Pretty lame. Or how about all the reality shows that are taking over primetime? Many authors have taken advantage of this craze by using it in their plots. It was popular for a while, got people's attention, but never really broke out into anything newsworthy.
So if themes aren't where the next big thing will spring from, how about genre? Genre mixing has become THE topic of discussion at many writers' conferences lately. Of course, that was anticipated a dozen years ago when authors began mixing their romance and suspense and mystery and horror together, only to find agents pooh-poohing their great American tomes because they weren't marketable. Now the industry pros are screaming for these books. What's up with that? Well, what's up is that authors tend to have a sixth sense about these things. Too bad publishers aren't as tuned in. They just take a while to catch up.
So if you were to take out your crystal ball and shine it up, what would it reveal to you about the next big thing? Could it be a style of writing, like what happened with the chicklit explosion when Bridget Jones' Diary came out? Or an Internet chat/email format, like what we've been seeing in some recent YA fiction? Or how about those graphic novels, huh? I'd never in a million years have imagined comic books coming into fashion this way. Kind of reminds me of Fahrenheit 451 and how the only books allowed were those with pictures and no words. Are we headed in that same direction? Will people only read something if there are pictures to go with it, or even better, moving pictures?
We can't predict for sure, but it's a lot of fun to think about. High concept literary fiction is a big deal right now, but it always has been. Same with up-market women's fiction (i.e. book club books). Both have a wide audience, which is why it has such great appeal. Haven't read either in a while because I'm so focused on my own genre fave that it's all I read these days. Most likely the next big thing will be far a field from anything I'd ever write. Social trends have been leaning in a retro direction so I'll guess retro historical fiction, like high concept stories set in more recent decades, like the sixties. Sex, drugs and rock and roll, baby. Bwahahahaha! How about you? Care to take a stab at what you think the next big thing will be?