As the second week of NaNoWriMo gets under way, authors everywhere are likely wondering whether or not their book will be one of the lucky ones. Does it have what it takes to make a publisher take notice? While there are always exceptions to the rule (and plenty of publishing trends not mentioned in this blog post), these five are among the most popular with agents and publishers this year and likely for years to come!
5. Realistic Fiction Based on Current Global Affairs
Remember when vampire romance was the biggest trend in YA? Teens couldn’t get enough of the sparkle-covered, still-hearted heart-throbs. Their popularity seemed unstoppable, melding into paranormal fiction, until suddenly, it wasn’t just vampire romances that had us all hot and bothered, but werewolves and shapeshifters as well.
Then the dystopian universe took over, with its brutal truths and harrowing acts of heroism against isolation and unknown adversaries. And just when we thought we were all alone, contemporary realistic fiction shone through, bringing with it a more hopeful light at the end of the end-of-the-world tunnel. In the span of just a few years, we went from Twilight to City of Bones to The Hunger Games to The Fault in Our Stars, and now, that landscape is shifting once more.
Given the unsteady footing of today’s political atmosphere, it’s no wonder authors are compelled to write about the events we see unfolding on the news every day. Forget the heroes of the future—nothing could be more soul-clenching than an older sibling guiding their family through the war-torn Syrian landscape. Today’s novels are taking on the refugee crisis in Africa and Europe. They’re taking on America’s black book of things we’d rather not discuss around the dinner table—topics like mass shootings, racism, and police brutality.
Looking to write a novel that takes on the topics of today? Check out these 2017 novels: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and A Land of Permanent Goodbyes by Atia Abawi.
4. Middle Grade
For years, middle grade has been the “old reliable” of the publishing industry. But over the last few years, middle grade novels have really blossomed, showing off a new degree of thoughtfulness and beauty. Authors like K. A. Applegate have taken the middle grade market by storm with best-sellers like The One and Only Ivan and Pax. Adults who haven’t cracked a middle grade novel in years are reduced to tears by these heart-felt and stunning reads.
If you’re new to the children’s book scene, it may be worth your time to check out some of these particularly notable middle grade novels. Averaging around 15,000 to 35,000 words, middle grade novels may be easier for a new author to stomach, and (hint, hint), one could easily be finished over the course of NaNoWriMo.
3. Co-authored Fiction
One of the best-known writing teams, at least in middle grade fiction, has to be Kate Cary, Cherith Baldry, Tui Sutherland, and Victoria Holmes (plus a couple others now and again) who all come together under the pseudonym Erin Hunter. All told, the team has completed over 100 books since 2003, including several series and manga titles.
Of course, while the beloved Erin Hunter may be holding the wool over the eyes of most of her kiddo fans, no one could hold a flame to James Patterson, perhaps the most successful co-author of all time! According to a February 2017 article by Thought Co., James Patterson has co-written books with nearly twenty different authors. As the article reveals, Maxine Paetro has been his most successful partner. The two have co-authored twenty-one books so far, including more than twelve best-sellers.
According to this 2016 post by Libby Fischer Hellmann, James Patterson is not alone in this practice of co-authorship, and the trend is far from over. Co-authors enjoy the perks of having a partner who drives them and helps them brainstorm tough scenes. Plus, when writers split novels, chapter for chapter, there’s the added benefit of having someone else to shoulder the work of an 80,000-word novel and preach a little motivation when the writer’s block sets in.
Of course, such a close relationship also demands a certain personality. For co-authors working with a more well-known writer, there are many opportunities for conflict; for instance, managing creative goals with the need for consistency.
Whether you’re looking to write with a well-known author or strike out with a friend or family member, co-authored fiction isn’t going anywhere.
2. Diverse Books
Similar to No. 5, diverse books often take on the marginalized citizens of the world. The main difference here is that diverse books can refer to a broader range of subjects and people, from LGBTQ romance to novels featuring a protagonist of color. Publishers looking for diverse books (which is pretty much everyone), are looking for books written by non-white or minority authors. This trend makes a lot of sense, as publishers, librarians, and booksellers have taken a long look at the books on the shelves over the last couple of years and realized that the vast majority of humans are not being represented among the pages.
Recently, the hashtag #WeNeedDiverseBooks was born, and with it, WeNeedDiverseBooks.org. The organization aims to “[Put] more books featuring diverse characters into the hands of all children,” writing that their vision is “A world in which all children can see themselves in the pages of a book.” To them, diverse books don’t just reflect skin color or sexual orientation; diverse books include “gender identities, people with disabilities, [and] … religious minorities.”
There has never been a better time to explore the world from a different perspective, and for minority authors, the stage is set for a positive response. Looking for a few truly wonderful diverse books? Check out How Many Letters Are in Goodbye by Yvonne Cassidy (featured on the 2017 Rainbow Book List for YA), The Closest I’ve Come by Fred Aceves, and The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Sáenz (read the NPR review here).
1. New Adult
If you’ve never heard of new adult fiction, you’re not alone. According to this article by Molly Wetta on EBSCOHost.com, this rising trend really got going around 2012. As Wetta writes, “Generally, New Adult fiction encompasses books that feature protagonists in the 18–25-year-old age range (sometimes this is stretched to 30), and many popular titles feature college students in contemporary settings.” Many new adult novels are crossovers, meaning that while the pace and even sometimes the plot fits that of a typical YA, the story’s main focus goes beyond that of teenage problems, into the realm of early adult.
Another potential factor that could age a YA novel up to new adult is sex. While most new adult novels don’t seem to take on the nitty gritties of a sexual encounter, neither are they completely devoid of sensual, and sometimes risqué content.
As Ava Jae writes in her much more thorough blog post on the difference between young adult and new adult fiction, “Sex is not and will never be a requirement for NA novels.” That said, “Unlike YA, characters in NA novels are very aware of how certain situations or characters make them feel physically. They know when they’re aroused, for example, and they’re not afraid to say it, but the focus isn’t 100% physical, because there are emotional aspects to consider as well.”
For authors looking to take their YA novel to a slightly more mature level, new adult fiction may be the best YA trend of 2017 and beyond. For now, be sure to do your research and check out these new adult novels that may help you get a better feel for the genre: If I Stay by Gayle Forman, The Girl With the Red Balloon by Katherine Locke, and They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera.
There are always exceptions to the rule: Vampire books went out of style long ago, but some still make it on the New York Times best-seller list today. That said, by and large, these are the trends making the biggest waves in publishing for 2017 and likely 2018 as well. Have any of these resonated with you recently? Tell us about your latest read in the comments below!