Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The [Your Name Here]'s Daughter, Revisited

I've covered the topic of The [Your Name Here]'s Daughter (a.k.a. The [Adjective] Wife) before, but as the trend (to my continual consternation) continues, I figure it bears revisiting.

Publishing is fraught with trends. This is for two reasons: one, would-be authors (who are also readers) see successful books and want to write similar books in the hope that they will also be successful, and publishers (who always want The Next Big Thing™) see successful books (either theirs or their competitors') and want to publish similar books in the hope that they will also be successful. (It's a vicious cycle.) Unfortunately, only a small percentage of these books catch on and become bestsellers, the rest fail to earn out their advances, authors and publishers everywhere are confused, and the process begins again when a new trend starts to catch on.

I generally advise you, gentle readers, not to play the trend game because 1.) the trend will likely be exhausted by the time your book comes out, and 2.) even if it isn't, there's no guarantee your book will be one of The Chosen Ones that readers everywhere simply MUST HAVE. Which trends in particular do I think are nearing their ends? Well, I'm glad you asked.

· The [Your Name Here]'s Daughter/The [Adjective] Wife. Archetype: Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife. I recently mentioned my personal grievances with this trend to a colleague, who simply responded, "Yeah, but The [Your Name Here]'s Wife sells!" (The trend, not any title in particular.) Which is true! At least, it's true for now. As the market becomes saturated with this particular variety of women's fiction, however, I think more and more consumers will turn elsewhere for new reads.

· Vampires/Werewolves. Archetype: Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series. No, really. Authors who have already established themselves as brands with this subject, like Meyer or Charlaine Harris, can pretty much continue to write vampire novels until the turn of the century. You, who are just starting out, do not have this luxury. Vampires and werewolves will always be cool, but they won't be as cool as they are now for a long time. Putting werewolves in space or making vampires fallen angels will not increase their coolness. Trust me.

· Mash-ups. Archetype: Seth Grahame-Smith's Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. More or less the exclusive province of Quirk Books, this relatively short-lived trend probably won't survive long after the publisher's release of Android Karenina later this month.

· Anything based around the world ending in 2012. Archetype: Too many to count. As you might expect, this trend will cease to be cool on or around January 1st, 2013.

While I don't want to tell you what to write, you might notice that the women's fiction and YA crowds are well-represented here. This means (as usual) two things: first, they're bigger markets, so you're more likely to sell a greater number of copies if your book succeeds, and second, they're bigger markets, so there's a lot more competition. O, the cruel double-edged sword of publishing!

Incidentally, it also might mean we need a few more non-YA bro-oriented books out there. Just saying.


  1. Damn! I just started on my new WIP titled THE CLOCKMAKER'S DAUGHTER'S WIFE. I was sure it would be a best seller.

  2. HA! This is a great article and I think it's correct...maybe we'll switch over to something titled "The Vampire's Fallen Son" never know!

  3. It might, steampunk is still selling rather well right now...

  4. I went through a phase of reading "The [blank] Wife" books, unconsciously... until they started to suck.

  5. Who knew such a blog as yours existed? I'm not sure if the knowledge you share will be an inspiration or the equivalent of shutting a finger in the car door. In either case, thank you for being so generous with your information

  6. How about The Girl With (fill it in) or The Girl Who (fill it in).

  7. " also might mean we need a few more non-YA bro-oriented books out there. Just saying."

    I'm working on it!

    (But oh, the lure of money that girl-oriented YA could bring in...)

  8. Oh, I had so hoped you were kidding about Android Karenina.

    I rarely enjoy 'the latest thing' it seems I may be out of my era.

    I thank you for the info on women's fiction(hope my tweet went through last night I'm a new tweetist. er, twit. Yeah.

    A follow up question please, kind sir? What if you really believe your book could get shelf space at Walmart (well if you removed an expletive or two) because it's a literary Twinkie and people really seem to like Twinkies. Sky high concept.

    What I'm trying to ask is, is there a market at all anymore for old-fashioned romance in women's fiction? More Tracy/Hepburn than Sex in the City? I fear I may just be too far out of my time...any thoughts for us on that?

    Thanks so much for this blog and your Tweets are brilliant.

  9. Seconding the comment about the "The Girl With/Who" books. Seriously.

    Also trying to keep myself away from the vampire WIP I keep going back to. They're not typical vampires and there really isn't any focus on bloodsucking or angsty romance, but still...vampires. Why on Earth can't I get away from this thing?!

  10. That's me breathing a sigh of relief. I've been over most of these for a while.

    I'm with you 100%, February G. If the elegant, witty romance a la Tracy/Hepburn, Gable/Lombard came back in a 21st century form, I'd give up my Netflix and read a book every night. PLEEEAAASE, publishing gods? Clever, fun books for smart, grown-up ladies? Something besides buckets of gore, preposterous fantasies, and Oprah-weepers?

    What about it Mr. P.M.N--any predictions of future trends?

  11. I hope the mash-up trend doesn't run out of juice before I complete my masterpiece, "A Tale of Two Cities Destroyed By Godzilla."

  12. Thanks for the Jason Pintor link. Loved his "pitching iPads to the Amish" quote.

    I'm writing a grown-up bro-oriented story and I've been quite worried about it for the same reasons Pintor mentions. It's a mysterey but it's written in noir style, though lighter. But noir is generally considered a male genre.

    Thanks for the great post. There may be hope yet for bro readers and writers.

  13. I am SO with you on some of these -- never ever write to a trend, and many a mashup never should have been mashed -- but I have to disagree a little on the daughter/wife title thing. Now, granted, I am insanely biased, given that I have a book coming out with "daughter" in the title. So: bias up the wazoo. (Itself a title of potential awesomeness.)

    But I think daughter/wife will always be a presence in women's fiction titles, just because the books are generally about women, who are wives/mothers/daughters just as men are husbands/fathers/sons, and titles often describe one or more characters either by name or role (everything from Olive Kitteridge to The Little Giant of Aberdeen County).

    In any case, it's not something aspiring writers should lose a lot of sleep over -- titles are easy to change. The book is the book. Write a good one, and learn like mad from places like this. That's the only sure path forward.

  14. Whoa! Android Karenina. I'm totally buying that. :)

  15. good post! very informative, thanks!

  16. I'm honestly quite sick of reading about all the awesome YA books coming out! Yea! I can read about teens! (which is kinda ironic since I do reviews for a YA publisher). Bring on some mature stuff please, no vampires/werewolves/other freaky creatures. Just good ole adult drama.

  17. Sometimes I get so sick of the way women present themselves online, and flatter their way into relationships with perfect strangers on social media in order to increase their own popularity, that I want to puke. I envision writing a whole post on the subject someday, but since that’s probably not gonna happen cause I’m
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