Thursday, August 9th, 2018
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: trends in fiction are fickle things and predicting them can be hard. But watching (and reading) what is currently selling is vital if you are to pitch your own novel successfully to an agent or publisher. Being able to see where your book fits in the market will give your pitch that vital boost allowing you to secure the all-important deal.
As crime figures rise, so too the sales figures for crime fiction. 22 out of the top 50 fiction paperbacks hail from the crime genre. And yet there is that subtle shift. No longer are readers looking to psychological thrillers and Scandi-drama for their fix. Instead police procedurals are back in fashion with new releases from old hands such as Val McDermid, Mark Bilingham, Ann Cleeves, and Peter May on their way. Cara Hunter’s DI Fawley also returns this summer in the novel, In the Dark and Helen Field’s fourth DI Callanach novel Perfect Silence will also publish.
With nerve agent attacks on former Russian spies and anti Kremlin reporters rising from the dead, it’s unsurprising that spy titles have seen a resurgence. Data from Bookscan puts Rob Sinclair’s Sleeper 13 and Luke Jenning’s Code Name Villanelle in the top 50 best selling paperbacks this month.
As we all sigh with relief at our emptier inboxes post GDPR, it seems people want to know more about the dangers of big data, in particular algorithm-led decision-making and social media. Books such as The Road to Unfreedom by Timothy Snyder, Madaleine Albright’s Fascism, and The Death of Democracy by Benjamin Carter are all performing well so far this summer.
But while many of us want to revel in crime, even true crime, others want to put reality to one side, yearning feel-good fiction, books that will bring joy into their lives, even if only for a few moments at a time. This new genre. dubbed uplit by industry insiders, began last year with the publication of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, a book which continues to sell well. That success has spilt over, however, into interest in other books with that same warmth. Data from Bookscan puts Libby Page’s The Lido and Dear Mrs Bird by AJ Pearce in the top 10 this month.
With every political change, whether it be a swing from left to right or the other way, dystopian literature always sees a spike in sales. But following what has been a crazy few years, with shocks in almost every democratic country around the world, dystopian literature has seen more of a boost than at any other time in my career. The book I am eagerly awaiting is Vox by Christina Dalcher, which publishes in August. The novel is set in a world where women are only allowed to speak 100 words a day and Dalcher cites Margaret Atwood’s classic The Handmaid’s Tale as her inspiration.
The reason for increased popularity in this genre is obvious. Anxiety is on the rise throughout the world and people need help understanding and then improving their mental wellbeing. Books on the subject, particularly self-help books, can make all the difference. Matt Haig’s forthcoming book Notes on a Nervous Planet will be hugely successful I’m sure, as will Russell Brand’s Addiction.
What all these genres and trend shifts tell us is that successful literature reflects real life. Whether it be true crime, commentary in the form of fantasy, escapist writing, or self-help, readers use literature to learn, to think, and to flee reality. So bear that in mind as you write. Consider how readers will benefit from the publication of your current WIP.
* All data in this article is taken from Nielsen BookScan Total Consumer Market, representing print book sales through around 6,500 retailers in the UK.