Trendspotting: How Can You Tell When to STOP Buying Something?

During any given month, I could spend my entire paperback budget on on subcategory like paranormal romance, or urban fiction, or even my beloved science fiction and fantasy. I could definitely spend it all on series romance without having to spend more than five minutes a month building my cart. But part of my job as a selector is to consider my patrons, my existing collection, and the publishing trends for books that people are going to want to read in the near future. There's nothing I dislike more than spending some of the library's money on a book that nobody checks out, so this crystal ball element can be very nerve-wracking.

Let's take the example of paranormal romance. We see articles all the time about the incredible popularity (especially in this economic climate) of romance novels, especially in e-book format. As far as I know, paranormal romance is still going strong, but for how long? For the past few years, if I had purchased everything that claimed it was "the first installment of an exciting new paranormal series," or "a groundbreaking paranormal romance series from a talented new voice" (both quotes from Ingram's Advance), I wouldn't have had budget or shelf space for much else. Presumably, the trend will progress to the point where paranormal romances occupy a reasonable subset of romances as a whole, but don't occupy all of the top spots in terms of circulation.

Which brings us to my issue. Is it my imagination, or has the trend been slowing down recently? Vampires were in, then werewolves, then all sorts of strange were-combinations . . . The eHow article on "How to Decide What Paranormal Romance to Write" asserts that "right now Demons are big," but this is the same article that says you shouldn't "skimp on the research"? How am I going to know when I can slow down on buying paranormal romances and start buying more Amish steampunk? Yes, there are circulation statistics to look at, and the rate at which certain books are stolen from the shelves, and so forth, but somehow the knowledge of when to stop buying seems more intangible than the concept of when to start. If I have a ton of review sources and patron requests and librarians on Twitter telling me that Amish steampunk is in, then I'm going to start buying it. Right after I write the first novel in that genre . . .

What do YOU think, dear readers?


robin said…
You know, it really is part research, part intuition, and part luck! Everyone thought zombies were going to be the next big thing, but really only a few people have been able to make it work, and none really in a romance way. Angels were gonna be huge too, but, again, not big enough to overtake vamps, werewolves or even demons. Historicals were declining, everyone said so, but I certainly can't see it. Still as popular as ever here. So part of it is seeing what everyone is talking about out in the world, and also what is going on in your area. That's what works for me.
Helgagrace said…
Ugh, romantic zombies are definitely a no-go.

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