Keeping abreast of publishing trends is a great idea for writers, whether they dream of becoming self published authors or are more interested in having their story turned into print books via traditional publishing. While you can’t, of course, plan your story around the whims of the publishing world, understanding publishing industry trends and recent book marketing can help you pitch your book to publishing companies in the most appealing way possible.
And who better to shed light on the publishing trends of 2022 than Madeleine Milburn? She is the literary agent responsible for discovering some of the highest-selling and award-winning contemporary authors who consistently hit the bestseller lists in the New York Times, The Sunday Times and The Globe and Mail.
These authors include the No.1 New York Times bestselling author Nita Prose (The Maid), Costa Book Award winner and multi-million copy bestseller Gail Honeyman (Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine), Ashley Audrain (The Push), Elizabeth Macneal (The Doll Factory) and Fiona Barton (The Widow).
The Novelry is proud to be recommended by the Madeleine Milburn Literary Agency, and work in close association giving our writers a clear route from self publishing books and on towards traditional publishers – if that’s what their ambitions are!
And if you’re keen to learn more about the publishing process and how publishing companies work, we have plenty of other insightful blog posts! Take a look at some of the other great articles literary agents have contributed to The Novelry, or read about what an editor really does.
Publishing trends amongst traditional publishers
The past few years have had an undeniable impact on the publishing industry. Global turbulence in so many areas of our lives has influenced publishing trends on all sides of the industry, from agencies, to publishers, to bookshops.
The future feels more uncertain than ever, and we are all looking for ways to overcome – or at least handle – that uncertainty.
A fiction book has long been a source of comfort and even escape and adventure (particularly children’s books!), but the impact of the past couple of years has been felt in interesting ways.
Thrillers feel like a great space within which to explore our deepest fears and our resilience. Inclusion and mental wellbeing are also two topics that have been on everyone’s minds.
The cosy crime genre has seen a marked increase in popularity over the past few years – indeed, over the past decade! This shows no signs of slowing, as is apparent from all kinds of figures including industry news, book sales, ebook sales and even the audiobook market.
Cosy crime novels, which take place in familiar yet intriguing settings, have charmed readers with their quirky, loveable characters and engaging writing style. I think people particularly appreciate the satisfying endings, which offer an alternative to the feelings of uncertainty that have characterised recent times.
Cosy crime novels, which take place in familiar yet intriguing settings, have charmed readers with their quirky, loveable characters and engaging writing style.
The whirlwind successes of our very own Nita Prose’s The Maid and many other comparable titles are testament to this popularity. These books have consistently featured on international bestseller lists since their publication, and The Maid is set to be adapted into a film by Universal Studios, starring Florence Pugh.
On the other end of the crime spectrum, however, I am seeing a real demand for heart-racing, high-octane thrillers that are impossible to put down and keep you up at night.
New and upcoming thrillers from our agency’s brand name authors such as C.L. Taylor (The Guilty Couple), Mark Edwards (No Place to Run), C.J. Tudor (The Drift), Caroline Mitchell (The Village) and Fiona Barton (Local Gone Missing), were snapped up by publishers and producers alike.
I am seeing a real demand for heart-racing, high-octane thrillers that are impossible to put down and keep you up at night.
We have also had an exciting influx of newer voices in the thriller and suspense genre. Books published recently from such voices include Stephanie Wrobel’s This Might Hurt, Robin Morgan-Bentley’s The Guest House and Jack Jordan’s Do No Harm (publishing this year to rave reviews).
There is no denying that the term ‘escapism’ has been used liberally in the two years since the pandemic started, however I believe this is justified. During times of crisis, uplifting stories with thought-provoking themes truly hold the power to transform minds. Printed books might seem like simple physical objects, but they’re also portals to other worlds (and, of course, online reading apps can transport us too!).
With the overwhelming success of shows like Bridgerton, the Regency era has been a particularly fruitful focal point, whisking readers away to a more whimsical time and place. Sophie Irwin’s debut A Lady’s Guide to Fortune-Hunting, which publishes this May, is a perfect example of this thirst for thrilling romance set against the highly visual backdrop of the 19th century.
During times of crisis, uplifting stories with thought-provoking themes truly hold the power to transform minds.
Contemporary escapist fiction about the power of relationships and community is also high up on the wish lists of publishers and agents, from independent publishers to the biggest publishing company.
We are lucky enough to represent several such authors, including Beth Morrey (Em and Me), Radhika Sanghani (30 Things I Love About Myself), Clare Pooley (Iona Iverson’s Rules for Commuting – publishing as The People on Platform 5 in the UK) and Freya Sampson (The Girl on the 88 Bus), whose feel-good yet emotive prose has been resonating with both readers and publishers this year.
Contemporary escapist fiction about the power of relationships and community is also high up on the wish lists of publishers and agents.
Recent years have also prompted a reckoning in how publishing approaches diversity. Rather than empty, tokenistic gestures, companies are committing to the long-overdue need to diversify the industry, both in terms of staff intake and literary output. This is driven not just by the companies themselves, but of course by demand; many readers are eager for more diverse stories and voices.
There has been a huge appetite for books that span cultures, tales from the diaspora, and underrepresented voices – both from readers who belong to minority communities, as well as those with a desire to educate themselves.
Fiction (including our recent releases Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson and Wahala by Nikki May) has offered readers the chance to explore unique stories from the perspectives of characters in the diaspora, and how their cultures clash and harmonise with those in the US and UK.
However, nonfiction is also seeing a lot of traction. Katherine May’s beautiful and deeply personal memoirs The Electricity of Every Living Thing and Wintering, which touch on her experience of being diagnosed with autism as an adult, is a nonfiction book that shows the increased awareness and representation of neurodiversity in literature.
While diversity should never be considered a mere trend, it is wonderful to see the publishing industry finally begin to give talented underrepresented voices the attention they deserve.
What’s harder to sell
I am sensing less demand for the overly distressing. After two years of tragic loss, readers have turned to their bookshelves to escape the hardships of pandemic life.
For this reason, manuscripts with gratuitous death or hopelessness are unlikely to receive much commercial attention, from traditional publishing or from most smaller publishers. Anything dark ought to be buoyed up through humour, shocking twists, or a pertinent psychological insight into our own experiences.
If you’re interested in a particular agent or publisher, remember you can always look on their own website to see if there are particular manuscripts they’re especially keen to see.
With our thanks to Madeleine. The Madeline Milburn Literary Agency is one of our literary agency partners to whom we are delighted to submit the work of our wonderful creative writing course graduates.
Members of The Novelry can enjoy a recorded session with advice from Madeleine in our Catch Up TV Area.
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