You know the ones I mean. Beauty doesn’t matter, it fades, that’s a good one. Ask any sixty year old if being ugly has paid off yet.. though they might not appreciate it, so wait til they’re drunk and wear glasses to deflect the spit.
Cream always rises to the top. Next time someone says this to you, here is your reply, repeat until they retreat shamefaced: George W. Bush was president of the most powerful nation on earth.
The publishing industry has a few. People keep repeating them so they can only endure, well past their due date.
One of my favourites – don’t jump on the bandwagon. They then speak pithily of the law of diminishing returns.
There is a reason why a well-known actor is paid so highly, more than his talent actually merits, more than the less well known but more effective second string. Familiarity doesn’t breed contempt, it brings comfort. People like what they know they like. The new involves taking a risk and risks, as the name suggests, are risky. So if it looks like what they know they like, they’ll give it a go. If it looks different, they’ll regard it warily until someone tells them they like it.
Publishers are no different, and given they are banking on you to make their rent, this makes the risk of the new even greater. There is a reason there are trends. Trends do not die, as so many will claim, they become genres. And when you neatly fit into a genre, then you are golden. Publishers have been told they like you, they have read you before and they liked you then. You don’t have to be special, you fit.
Paranormal romance. Its mills and boons with those alpha beasts writ real not metaphorical. You are no longer merely the only one for him, you’re the only one for the world. Narcissism masquerading as nobility.
Dystopia was a rather odd subset of Arnie Schwarnegger cheese and Orwellian brilliance. Now its all the rage, and so simple too. Just take one rather unpleasant aspect of our world and make it the only aspect of your world, no need for realism, nuance or logic. Doesn’t matter how insignificantly irritating it is – pretty people have it better, the rich are above the law, too much bloody rain? Well Noah’s Ark is begging to be rewritten.. you can have it with my blessings, but remember that’s Mary with an M in the credits..
But the first were ground breaking, you’ll be told often. Twilight paved the way, would there be My Mortal Instruments without it? Would Wool be picking up a Ridley if not for Hunger Games? Granted the first is usually the biggest seller, but being first does not necessarily make you a groundbreaker, just a familiar tale with good timing. Vampires, those mythical beasts of beguiling beauty and mesmerising menace, have been chipping at the fringes of our consciousness for a long, long time, as has their charisma. Even Dracula was meant to be seductive.. (its in there honest.. almost certain it is if I could just stay awake long enough to confirm it.…) From monster to tragic outcast to sexy beast is a journey with many steps, peopled by familiar sexy faces, Louis, Angel, Bill, Damon.. The rest I guarantee you, you have read before. Love triangles, forbidden desire…
The key is always to be recognisable, to wear your stripes on your prose. The breathless, silken locks of the romance, the eye rolling sass of the urban fantasy, the endearing clumsiness of the chick lit. Even literary fiction, that antithesis-of-genre genre has a recognisable voice. A lilt of gentle melancholy or a certain snide smoothness. Voice that vestigial of personality might just be the most generic thing of all.
And if you actually are breaking ground? Prepare to languish in the shadows, or hire the Godzilla of publicists.. and no I don’t have his number, I like the shadows as long as I can scrape enough pennies to pay the bills..