Trend Spotting

Call me. I want to be your psychic friend. Used with Permission.We’re days away from RWA, where authors will be pitching their manuscripts and leading or attending sessions on craft and career, editors will be taking pitches and appearing on panels talking about what they’re looking for in the future – and what’s coming out from their houses very soon.

Some folks will be trying to figure out what the Next Big Thing will be, and others will be hoping their book IS the Next Big Thing, as they try to land a spot on the 2013 or 2014 publishing schedule. There’s always talk of trends, fads, niche markets, and established sub-genres that are experiencing growth or contraction in sales. And, of course, many of us (hi!) are looking for news of upcoming awesome books to read.

In short, there’s a whole lot of people thinking and talking about the future, either a few months from now, or a few years from now.

But I’d like to ask you about the future. Whether or not you’re attending RWA, I’m curious: what do YOU think the trends are right now, or will be soon? What books do you want to read? What have you enjoyed recently that you want more of? We’ve been looking at a LOT of 2010 books the past few weeks – has that changed your opinion about what you want, or don’t want? Genres, niches, whatever – I’m curious what you think about the future of romance, in the next few months, or the next few years.

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Random Musings

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  1. 1
    Aurora85 says:

    I’m hoping that there will be more multi-racial romances :) (AM/WF in particular)

    Oh wow, I was born in ‘85, and the word was results85, maybe it might mean something hehe?

  2. 2
    mia says:

    I would like to see publishers be a little more generous w/ the page count.  I’ve read several stories that seemed to rush to the finish when 10 or 20 more pages would have made for a more satisfying end, to me anyways.  Also, I would like to read a paranormal or action/mystery that isn’t part of a series.  And it feels like there are more series in historicals these days too. :/

  3. 3
    kylie says:

    Fewer paranormal would be nice.  I like paranormal, but I find the overwhelming rush to the genre in the last decade disturbing.  One sex, romantic and guilt feeling vampire works, because it plays against the main image as evil bloodsuckers.  The flood of sexy, do gooder vamps kind of kills the fun- and extrapolate against the whole range of supernatural beings.
    Screwball romances- funny and silly and light- would be nice. there are not enough humorous and well written ones out there.

  4. 4
    R E G says:

    I realize there are tons of paranormal fans. I don’t want to rain on their parade!

    However I think it’s a cheat to introduce paranormal elements into an otherwise “normal” book. They cause dents in my wall.

    I have a dent for the hero whose gypsy grandmother gave him the second sight, but only when the heroine needed it.

    I have another dent for the valley or glen or whatever that protects it’s children from harm. And the children are surprised because it never happened before!

    Mad first wives in the attic are OK. Anyone can have one of those. A genuine witch living over yonder is much harder to believe. In any case, if you are a genuine witch why are you living in poverty? Conjure up some decent furniture. (If you are a psychic predict the lotto numbers and retire.)

    These plot devices seem beyond lazy to me and have moved several authors from auto-buy to library.

  5. 5
    Cät von J says:

    I´d love contemporaries to be a tad more realistic. Don´t get me wrong. I´m all for “no-bad-breath-in-the-morning” in Romancelandia…but.
    I want to see more interracial as well, more gay couples as main characters, more “normal” heroines (no need to have them ALL virgins or women with “tried-sex-its-not-fun” attitude in the 21st century…)
    What I totally don´t want is more realistic historicals. They can keep on being anachronistical with a heroine and her shaved legs and all of them have Hollywood smiles and the men actually like their women´s emancipated world view…

  6. 6

    In total contrast to the last commenter (sorry!):
    Real historicals. Breathtaking historical romances with some real history in them, instead of gossamer-thin confections that have no relation to anything but themselves. So flat, so cardboard, so boring.
    I love paranormals, but I’m not enamoured with the urban fantasy type. It just doesn’t do it for me, and I’m so tired of superwoman. and the kind of girl with a sarcastic attitude about everything and anything. And the market has been swamped with them.
    I’m also not keen on the YA, but I know I’m in a minority there.

  7. 7

    I hope the trend sees the end of full-fledged paranormal.  For the love of all ducks in the universe – no more vampires, werewoves or shape shifters.  Instead, I hope we see a little more “magic” in all romance, along with some “lighter” paranormal elements.  Let’s see faeries, spells, curses, fortune tellers or horoscopes.  Let’s see those things as a force in the stories.

    I hope the next big thing is contemporaries that bring the heat and the angst of historicals.  They’d take reality and turn it up a few notches. 

    .. but then again, all of that is (more than) a little warped by my own over-the-top point of view!!!

  8. 8
    Dawn Green says:

    Ditto Lynne Connolly – “Breathtaking historical romances with some real history in them.” I think that’s why I have been comsumed by the Outlander series. You have the breathtaking romance with some real history. I’d like to see more of that.

  9. 9
    Regina says:

    I’m not sure.  I love historical novels, romantic-suspense, heros with hot bodies and a touch of romanticism and less “I’m a tough guy” attitude, tho’ I like some attitude as well.  Paranormals are okay, but the field is getting saturated with them.  Just give me a hot read with a good, believable plot and likable, realistic characters.

  10. 10
    DS says:

    Add me to the list of people who want more realistic historicals.  I just finished reading a mystery set in St Paul’s cathedral during the bombing on the night of December 29, 1940. Despite the fact that I have repeatedly said I won’t read books set during WWII—too much WWII everywhere when I was growing up—I found it compelling and realistic. 

    I’d like to find a romance that would drag me in like that. 

    I am also totally thankful that zombie heroes have not taken off.  As a friend of my said when we were talking about it—what’s romantic about bits of the hero falling off?

  11. 11
    bjvl says:

    I only read certain authors, but I know finding them on the shelves can be difficult because….

    a. Historicals aren’t going away—but they’re going to shift more and more to Victorian Age, away from Regency

    b. Paranormals are flooding the market—the genre will never die out, but we’re past apogee and the sales will decline except for the most popular authors

    c. Contemporary romance is fighting a losing battle against the Pretty Clothes of the Historicals and the MagicSex of the Paranormals. Sales will decline except for the most popular authors.

    d. People are looking for something new—but not So New that it’s outside the genre. Hard balance to keep.

  12. 12
    Lynnd says:

    Add me to the list of those craving more realistic historicals and also longer page counts.  I would also like to see morre historicals set outside of England and if England is the setting, something other than the period between !800 – 1830 would be nice.

  13. 13
    Chelsea says:

    I want historical from a wider range of eras and locations. I’d like to see real historical events play a role or at least get some mention. And I want fewer dukes and duchesses and more typical people. Seamstresses, school teachers, blacksmiths, soldiers, nurses, etc.

    For contemporary I’m looking for more realistic plots with intriguing emotional dilemmas. I love a romantic comedy as much as the next person, but occasionally I want something with more substance.

    In paranormals I want to see vampires and shapeshifters take a backseat. I want fewer characters with ridiculous psychic powers and what not. I always find it more intriguing when you take characters who only possess small scale powers, if any at all, and have the plot or setting be the main source of magic. And I want more wacky steampunkish science.

    I also want good, well written science fiction romance. With space ships and aliens and stuff.

  14. 14
    Michele says:

    Historical from a wider variety of eras would be nice, and I was recently pleasantly surprised by an alternate history romance- that would be interesting to see more often. 

    Series novels back at 250 pages…. most of the lines have shrunk to 175-215, and I have seen story suffer as a result.  I now have reduced my series purchases only to a handful of authors, and rarely will I take a chance on anyone new.

    More romantic comedies, particularly contemporary.  Something that could be described as a “fun romp”.  I like my romantic suspense, but sometimes I need a break.  However, I don’t want that break filled with angst and serious issues and depressing stuff.  Closest I’ve come to finding these lately are mysteries with a romance built in.

  15. 15
    Nightwriter says:

    I would like to see this trend of everything being part of a series end. I’ve passed up many interesting looking books because they were well into a series and I hadn’t read the previous books. Having the same characters appear over and over never fails to get boring. Bring back the stand-alones.

    I would also like to see some GOOD sci-fi romance, (by good I mean, the science and gadgets don’t overwhelm the story) and less totally out there paranormal. My disbelief can only suspend so far. I hate it that the old vampire/werewolf etc. myths that terrified me as a young woman have been distorted and stretched into a realm that makes them unrecognizable.

    I want more diversity in historicals, too. The Regency is worn out. Why not explore the US during its infancy. Lots of wonderful material still unplumbed there.

  16. 16
    Alley says:

    I’d like to see some more supportive friends (or, hell, friends at all) in romances.  Not in the “here’s a large circle of friends that float in and out of scenes just so they can be brought back with their own books later!” way, but friends that actually act like it.  I know there’s a tricky balance to keeping those relationship interactions to a minimum to focus on the romance, but I’ve seen it be done, so I know it’s possible!

    I’d also love more books set in the 1920s and 1930s, but I’m not going to hold my breath on that one.

    I predict we’re going to get a flood of Victorians with either small touches of steampunk or just going whole hog with the dirigibles, goggles, and mechanics.

  17. 17
    liz talley says:

    I’m hopeful for more contemporaries similar to what Michelle suggests – something fun and delicioius over heart-wrenching. I’m not much on heart-wrenching anyway. I like to feel good when I finish a book. I do like a little mystery mixed in, cozy-style, but with the romance being the meat and potatoes of the story.

    I’d love to see the return of the American historical romance. Maybe I’m still misty-eyed over Lonesome Dove and Gone with the Wind, but our country has some richness and depth of its own. I’d love to read more set around the Civil War or late 1800’s out west. Heck, I’d even read a Revolutionary War book.

    I’d also like to see some multi- racial books.

    These aren’t predictions. Just what I want :)

  18. 18
    Hannah says:

    @Aurora85, I would go for more AM/WF romances too (as the WF half of a similar real-life pairing).
    I’d also like more American-set historicals and pre-Georgian-era set historicals. Also would go for more realistic historicals that still have a “feel-good’ HEA.
    As far as current trends, I’m seeing a lot of paranormals about dragons or Greek mythology. I don’t know what’s next. As a reader I’d rather be surprised.
    Also more single-title contemporaries!

  19. 19
    JanLo says:

    I second the desire for cross genre books. All with strong romantic elements and a HEA or HFN ending. Linnea Sinclair comes to mind, yet her newest book, to my knowledge, has not found a publisher.
    More books along the lines of JD Robb’s In Death series with a strong heroine and an ongoing strong romance. Things in life do happen to relationships after the first blush of passion. I think that’s why the In Death and Outlander series resonate so strongly with people – that promise that ongoing relationships can still have spice and romance.
    More historicals with a smattering of real history. I for one am tired of the Ton. Any of you old enough to remember the slightly over the top John Jakes books of the sixties? Yes, they were corny, but each one taught a little history.
    Overall, just more solidly written, slightly longer, well edited books to keep me curled up on the couch!

  20. 20
    AnnaM says:

    Someone needs to stick a wooden stake in the vampires and put 2 silver bullets in the werefolk.  I predict more Steampunk.  I’d love to see historicals from the first half of the 20th Century.  DS, what was the name of your mystery novel set in St Pauls?  It’s right up my alley.  I think in the realm of contemporary we will see both more humor in the genre and more suspense.  I predict the sex will push the envelope more.  And by envelope, I mean buttcrack.

    In contemporary, I’d like to see more experience in the women.

    I would like to see more fewer series or shorter series.  I don’t want to make a 6 yr commitment to find out how it all works out.  Trilogies are ok, but longer series PLS STP.

  21. 21
    Lisa says:

    I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m tired of too much sex (in my books, not real life!). If I want erotica, I’ll read erotica – and I do, now and then. It’s just that I’m tired of “regular” books where the plot and relationship development are interrupted by pages and pages of detailed descriptions of who put what where and how many times and how damp everything got. And frankly, as someone with curly/frizzy hair, humidity is my enemy and “humid” is not a word I want to associate with sex. Sometimes the sex scenes feel like a competition from author to author to get more inventive, more intense, more whatever, and it makes me weary.

    Maybe I’m just feeling old and cranky, but when I was a teen I gobbled up romantic suspense novels by Mary Stewart and Elizabeth Peters/Barbara Michaels . I remember so well the edge-of-the-seat excitement I used to feel when the hero and heroine exchanged a significant glance or maybe even kissed! The UST was unresolved for much longer.  This is partly why I enjoy reading YA romances, but I’d like the same sort of thing in books that feature grownups, too. And, no, I don’t want to read inspirational romances because I’m a cranky nonbeliever and opposed to organized religion on general principles.

  22. 22
    Courtney says:

    I would like to see:

    1) America set historicals (Revolutionary War, Civil War, WWII, Westerns, etc.)

    2) World War II.

    3) Good sci-fi romance, like Zoe Archer’s Collision Course.

  23. 23

    Please, please bring back romantic comedy! Agents & editors keep saying “no one wants it,” and that just seems wrong.  I’m not a fan of screwball comedy either necessarily, but I still miss early Jennifer Crusie stuff… would love to see more fun dialogue and such in a contemporary romance.

  24. 24
    KBR says:

    I feel Courtney Milan might be setting a trend of having novellas appear in between full-length books. Also, I am begging for historicals to expand to other locales. I remember when romance in America was hot (ages me), but I loved it. I now live in Budapest (I don’t know for how long). It has to be one of the most romantic cities in Europe. So much history, so many lovers, such a beautiful, mysterious city to serve as a backdrop. Will publishers touch this place right now? No.
    Which brings me to my final thought: I wonder if more authors will self-pub so they can write what they want: Page length, era, location. Yay!

  25. 25
    Lauren says:

    I recommend everyone to read Fake Perfection by Linda Ginac. The book was published at the beginning of this month, and it is a great and easy ready for the summer time. Fake Perfection is ultimately a story of triumph, it tells the often-shocking story of a broken girl who overcomes incredible odds to become a strong, independent wife, mother, and entrepreneur. Linda’s life wasn’t always a bed of roses, but her defiant attitude and indomitable spirit shines through even in the darkest moments, allowing her to become a trust broker to clients and friends alike. Through it all, Fake Perfection shows us how we all wear veils to some extent, but through honest self-evaluation and effort, we can all achieve true happiness, even though we’re not perfect.

    This book is relatable to everyone and is truly an entertaining and intriguing story. I recommend that everyone reads it!

  26. 26
    Karenmc says:

    I’m with the more realistic historicals crowd. The wallpaper books just don’t do it for me, but I finish them anyway because I was brought up to always clean my plate. Also, longer word count would help one or two seasoned writers who seem to be unable to create the kind of books they’ve done in the past. One author in particular has been such a disappointment, and I really think it’s because she’s not writing the longer, meaty books she’s capable of.

    One trend I appreciate is the month-to-month release of a series. Zöe Archer’s books worked for me because of this approach.

    Lastly, I could really care less about vampires (although I want to see Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows movie).

  27. 27
    Paula Graves says:

    I like hearing the comments about A) longer pagecounts in series books and B) more UST, less sex being okay with some readers, because this echoes what I want to read—and write.  I’m fortunate that I write for a series line that doesn’t have the expectation of graphic sex on the page—it’s just not my power zone as a writer, plus I’m writing suspense and there’s a lot of mystery-related plot to get into my books in a short amount of words.

    Does anyone know the thinking behind shortening the word counts so much in series?  Saving paper (which I know is expensive)?  Do they think readers’ attention spans are so much shorter these days?  It confuses me.  You’re paying as much or even more for the books but getting less content—who wants that?

  28. 28
    Maili says:

    I’m seeing the return of American historical romances, but lately in form of steampunk romance, which I didn’t expect. Heh! I still believe American historical romances will make its comeback, though. Not as big as it was before, but still.

    Sci fi romances will never have its day. It’s always the wallflower, right on the edge of the dance floor, never had a proper chance to have a dance. I think it’ll be like that for the rest of my life. That said, I’m reasonably certain that there will be a minor faux-medieval fantasy romance trend. And perhaps superhero/ine romances.

    I think there will be a trend in historical romance for non-titled heroes/heroines. It would be awesome if so. I’d LOVE to read Australia-set historical romances. (I have no shame in admitting to worshipping Australian fiction and films.)

    I’d like to see much less ‘mixed race hero/ine as a compromise’. The growing popularity of this is making me feel quite uncomfortable. I hope authors will reconsider viewing this option as a ‘compromise’.  Please don’t. We aren’t, and shouldn’t be seen, as compromises for anything. 

    I would *love* to see more standalone romance novels. Not surprising I’d say this as I’m somewhat allergic to long book series (a trilogy is my limit). I just don’t have the time and stamina to commit myself to a long series these days.

  29. 29
    Fresco says:

    I would love to see more straight contemporaries, like Judith McNaught, Elizabeth Lowell, Jessica Bird (where are you Jessica Bird!!!). No romantic comedies for me, thank you ;) I love some angst and cruel heroes and some suffering and a goood grovel at the end LOL.
    BTW, this is my first post :)

  30. 30
    DreadPirateRachel says:

    I like the steampunk trend, so I hope we get some really good contributions to that subgenre.

    In general, though, I’d like to see more contemporary romances. I guess what I want is the fantasy element of the historical (seriously, how the fuck many dukes were there in 1812? Not enough for all our heroines to marry) mixed with the relatability of the contemporary. I want to see the h/h confront modern issues but still get the awesome HEA.

    Finally, I’d like to see some historicals that deal with more ordinary people—servants marrying servants, rather than some laundry maid marrying an earl. Or middle-class merchants’ daughters marrying the second sons of a country squire. Not that I’m all “Stay in your place, bitch,” but it’s never very realistic when a lowly serving maid sweeps an aristocratic rake off his feet. It just didn’t really happen. Sorry.

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