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How to start the next trend

Does anyone really know when it’s time for vampires, wizards, fairies, angels or sci-fi? People talk about zeitgeist, intuition and talent spotting. And maybe some editors really are clever about such things. But the fact is that the publishing world is incredibly slow to produce books, and there’s no point in noticing the trend and trying to jump on board – you’ll be too late. Much better to start the trend.

But how to do that?

There are only so many ideas in the world, and it’s usually the variations on these which touch a nerve with each new generation: fantasy, sci-fi, ponies, monsters, vampires, angels, wizards, fairies, animals. It’s the way you present the stories that matters. People will often say: “Gosh, that idea is so easy: why didn’t I think of that?” and there is one key: SIMPLICITY.

Children love to bond with lovable characters, and enjoy a new world – perhaps somewhere they’d love to inhabit. They also love PERIL, ADVENTURE, FRIENDSHIP, PARANORMAL, THE TRIUMPHING OF GOOD, COMEUPPANCE OF BULLIES, and HUMOUR. Another key to success is the blend of genres. I don’t think children’s books need to be as genre specific as adult books. The blend of romance and paranormal is incredibly popular with girls: TWILIGHT. Spy adventures and school life go hand in hand in the Young Bond books. A couple of strands combined often helps to increase your chances of success as an author.

It’s probably wise to look at patterns and think: Oh, it’s a while since a new boys’ superhero broke through…or a friendly witch. Nobody could have foreseen the success of the Dangerous Book for Boys when it came along. Yes, we can say with hindsight, that the PC and health and safety brigade were spoiling childhood, and that the time was ripe for a bit of old-fashioned fun. But it takes confidence and vision to be the first to air these new books.

I’ve often heard it said that you should write a book for one person you know. But I’ve also heard it said that the opinions of people who love you are irrelevant. I guess it’s probably best to write about things which excite you, and the passion will pass on to the reader. Once in a while, a writer will touch a whole generation. And we can call it talent, or genius. And maybe they are talented geniuses. But they were also very lucky.

Janey Louise Jones' Princess Poppy books are published by Random House. Her latest book Cloudberry Castle was published in September (Floris).

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