Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Genre Sales 2: Mash-Up (Part 1 of 8)

Your votes are in, mes auteurs, and after taking careful tally I've decided to cover the following genres over the next eight days:

Tuesday, November 30th: Mash-Up
Wednesday, December 1st: Children's/YA
Thursday, December 2nd: Fantasy
Friday, December 3rd: Mystery/Thriller

Monday, December 6th: Literary Fiction
Tuesday, December 7th: Science Fiction
Wednesday, December 8th: Chick Lit/Women's Fiction
Thursday, December 9th: Romance

And we'll have the usual round-up from Laura on Friday, December 10th.

The usual disclaimer: this is all my opinion, I'm not responsible for any lost time or money you might suffer due to taking my opinion as cold hard fact, this post is not for ophthalmic use, &c &c.

Without further ado—mash-ups!

For those not familiar, the mash-up (in this sense) is a novel that combines a pre-existing text with new material; while the concept isn't new, the literary mash-up of today was more or less created a couple of years ago by Seth Grahame-Smith in his Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. After the enormous success of the book, a number of "resurrected" classics (e.g. Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, Little Women and Werewolves) arose, creating a sort of independent genre at the intersection of literary classics and humor.

Funny? You bet. The first time, anyway.

If any of you are currently writing mash-ups, my advice is: cut it out. My sense of the market (based on experience in-house, sales numbers through services like BookScan, and anecdote) is that it's Pride and Prejudice and Zombies in the lead with a number of imitations (many of which are pretty middling) tied for a very, very distant second. My opinion (opinion! not fact) is that this trend has pretty much run its course, and if you're jumping on the bandwagon now (in the hopes of publishing in 2011, 2012, or later), you're probably too late, regardless of how sweet your title/concept was.

This, by the way, goes for 99% of the trends you're seeing in publishing these days: whether it's vampires, zombies, Vikings, or mash-ups, the flavor of the day is exactly that: temporary. Just like in the stock market, if enough people are doing something for you to notice a trend, it's probably too late for you to capitalize on it. That ship has sailed; keep on doing what you do and don't worry about what everyone else is doing.

Unless, of course, your book is coming out at a time when your genre or topic is a hot commodity, in which case: go even more nuts promoting yourself and separating yourself from the pack than you otherwise would. But this isn't something you can predict or have any control over.

So, my advice for writing mash-ups is:

1. Don't.
2. If you're dead-set on it, at least pick an interesting classic that hasn't been done yet.
3. Make sure the text you're working with is in the public domain. If it isn't, you're going to have to get permission from the author/his or her estate/his or her publisher, and you're going to have to split any profits you derive.
4. You probably won't see (m)any profits.

Tomorrow, dear readers: children's/young adult literature!


  1. Your comments are line up very closely to the opinions held by panelists on this subject at the World Fantasy Convention. Several editors and authors comprised the panel. They weren't sure if the genre had burned itself out, but they did say that it was extremely difficult to write a good mash-up and sell it.

  2. Good advice. Trends come and go. You have to write what calls to you.

    I look forward to the mystery post:)

  3. I agree with your comments 99.9%. The "vampires are the fad of the day, don't chase it" has been repeated for years now and they're still cranking them out. Perhaps that trend is sustaining itself on the blood of its readers.

    (And really, I wish someone would stake it. I'm totally vampired out.)

  4. Excellent. The trouble with writing for trends is that by the time your manuscript is polished, shopped, and published, the trend could be played.

    Looking forward to the chick lit/women's fiction post.

  5. I'm so glad you addressed this. I have never understood why further mashups are being pushed out, because the novelty has well worn off for me (disclaimer: I say that without having read any of the above mentioned mashups! So I could be hideously wrong and they are in fact wonderful.).

    That said, for those writers who love writing on trend, how on earth do you know what to write when?

  6. I'm reading a mashup called, "Queen Victoria, Demon Slayer," (maybe Demon Killer, I can't remember.) They are entertaining, but there has to be some substance to mashups, or the novelty dies pretty quickly. I enjoyed the Jane Austen mashups. "Queen Victoria," is ok, but not as good.

  7. Thanks so much for tackling this one!

    The thing about mash-ups is that the punch line's right there in the title -- and like jokes, each time it's told it gets a little less funny.

    I wonder if you have any insights into the markets for these books. I'm sure they cater to a significantly different market than the originals they derive from, but how so? Differing age groups, differing genders, or what?

  8. Right on target, as usual. Thank you for this easy retweet. :-)

  9. Funny the first time is so true. I'm relieved to see this fad on the way out.

  10. Damn! I suppose I better go scrap my MS for A TALE OF TWO CITIES BOTH CALLED BIKINI BOTTOM.

    Thanks a lot Eric.

  11. Looking forward to reading more. idnlive Great blog post.Thanks Again.