Blogger: Wendy Lawton
As Lauraine Snelling and I traveled last month, visiting bookstores all across the Midwest, trend spotting was unavoidable. In fact we were gobsmacked by one particular trend in the Books A Million store in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. I’d like to use this bit of trend spotting to talk about book trends and what we can learn from them.
As we walked into the store, the first thing we saw was a huge gondola of adult coloring books. What fun! Then we began to look around the store. Right in that front area there were seven large displays of adult coloring books– every subject, every area of interest, every level of artistic talent. I began taking pictures of each display to share with you. Yes, these photos were taken from one store only.
Why did I do that? Because this is a great springboard to talk about what you can learn about trends. Let’s talk:
If I want to jump on a trend, when is the time to do it? The best place to be in the arc of a trend is the trend setter. The trend setter “owns” the trend and every other book is compared to that trend setter. In the case of adult coloring books I believe it was the Enchanted Garden.
How does one become a trend setter? Here’s the rub: You can’t make it happen. You can only create cutting edge “product” and wait to see if it catches. Acceptance and enthusiasm of the masses is what makes a trend.
So what about jumping on a trend? The best time to jump on a trend is when it is emerging. But it takes real market savvy to spot a trend in its infancy. In adult coloring books, those who published in the first couple years saw gargantuan sales. We kept hearing, “Who would have guessed?”
When do you not want to jump on a trend? When that particular trend is mature. For instance, if you decided to create an adult coloring book now, do those photos give you a taste for how difficult it would be to stand out in the market? Remember Chick Lit of about ten years ago? As soon as the first few authors were successful with it, a significant number of novelists tried to jump on board. That trend, however, had very limited appeal and disappeared quickly. Quirky is fun for a change but a solid diet of it is like overdosing on candy.
So how does someone take advantage of a somewhat mature trend? You figure out how to morph the trend into something new–like Books & Such client Lisa Bogart did with her devotional that had design to color and text (each devotion has a coloring page to go with it). She married two strong concepts–coloring and devotionals–successfully. (I know. I know. Not many Books & Such clients dye their hair to match their book.) Or you might want to find the one variation of the trend that is missing or underrepresented. For instance, in every store we visited, Lauraine looked for an adult coloring book featuring horses and never found one. Is there room for a coloring book for those who love horses?
Should I try to be taking advantage of a trend? Only if that trend is exactly who you are and what you would like to write anyway. Trends can change in the blink of an eye. If you are avidly trend spotting and even if you believe you are catching an emerging trend, a good book likely cannot be created fast enough to take advantage of that trend. And even if you got it written while the trend was still strong, it takes about a year for a book to be published once it’s been acquired. It’s a big risk to chase trends.
So why do we engage in trend spotting? Because we learn about the reading (or coloring) public by seeing what they love. Our job is to figure out what is at the heart of a trend and find ways we can satisfy that need with our work.
So now I hand it over to you to finish this blog. Here’s the question I need you to answer:
Knowing that people fell in love with the idea of adult coloring books, what does that tell you about those potential readers and how can you satisfy that need in your work?