Tuesday 5 October 2010

Is this the twilight of the supernatural romance?

Is the end in sight for teen supernatural romance? Are we really all vampired and ghosted and demoned out? I will freely confess it’s a genre that I love – I’m a sucker (sorry) for books like Beautiful Creatures, Glass Houses, Shiver, Need and so on. Yes, I liked Twilight – I’ll freely admit it.

I love the genre because it encapsulates perfectly the teen experience – that heady mix of intense yearning for love coupled with the almost inevitable existential angst. Who am I? Who is the mysterious other? What is the meaning of my life? It’s a time of poetry and passion – head, heart, body and soul. How can a human boy ever be enough for the passionate heart of a young girl?

The otherworldly demon lover however is much, much more than the perfect bad boy. He is as much an exploration of a young girl’s counter-sexual self, the animus, as he is a real (or idealised) being. He is her creative soul.

As many of you know, I have written my own dark romance novel – Samael – which is now doing the rounds of publishers. Today I received an email from a major New York publishing house. It said:

“It’s a cracking good read, full of dark secrets and thrilling twists. Alexander writes clearly and eloquently with an authentic teen voice. Genevieve is a compelling and sympathetic character; her anguish, and her skepticism, are convincing. Her cynical references to popular culture are witty and grounding. The supporting cast of characters are similarly well-crafted and multi-faceted. We thought Gen’s relationship with her aging-rock star father was actually quite interesting, too, with Gen feeling like she had to act as his parent, sometimes, instead of the other way around. We also appreciated the real-world themes of intolerance and depravity. Alexander reveals that supernatural beings are not the only ones with immoral tendencies: the malicious racism that affect Zeke and his mother and the licentious cruelty that leads to Star’s rape are poignant and pressing issues.”

Have to confess I had a broad smile on my face at that point. But then it went on to say this:

“Unfortunately books that play to the same audience as the TWILIGHT SAGA have been furiously published with more in the works all over town, and by the time we’d be able to release a book like this (in 2012) we have serious concerns about the genre being past its prime.”

So that’s it? Supernatural romance has a sell-by date? I can see that nobody wants an oversaturated marketplace but is the desire for the market really waning? When I look on teen reading websites or the teen author site, inkpop, there seems to be a pretty solid hunger (will stop now, I promise) for this kind of tale.

It’s not sour grapes, I promise. It’s just genuine puzzlement. Is that really it?

It's also left me wondering about publishing.  Today I read in The Times more about the rise of the e-book and the confusion of traditional publishers.  Is print publishing - with its two-year lead times - just too lumbering a beast for today's tastes and market?  Teens certainly want to read more supernatural romance right now.  Whether they will in two years' time is another question entirely. I hope so, but who knows?  Maybe I should put out Samael as an e-book, before it's 'past its prime'.

What do you think? Are we going to see the return of gritty realism to teen fiction? Or something new entirely? If you have teenage daughters how would they feel about the death of the vampire, the demon, the fallen angel? Relieved or sad? How would you feel? It’s okay, you can be honest :-)
And what do you think about how books are published?  Are your teens reading on Kindle, iPad, Sony e-reader? 

PS – on a lighter note, I’m talking about How to Bag a Man over on The Lady blog.


Shalini Boland said...

I adore the genre and know others who 'can't get enough'. Keep the faith - Samael deserves its place on the bookshelves and I'm quite bemused why it isn't there yet.

Alison Cross said...

Do hope the genre is not over. After all Georgette Heyer and Catherine Cookson seemed to find an endless market for their genre.

I agree that the publishing business all might be too lumbering and laborious - but have never managed to get anything FINISHED, never mind published lol!

Am off to see how to bag myself a man as the one I've got is completely rubbish and I need something more compatible for AW10 ;-)

Ali x

ArtSparker said...

The communication you quote is so interesting- someone who second-guesses himself immediately. The future is uncertain - why not go with a very well-written book?

Shayne Parkinson said...

Oh, from the heights to the depths! That's a fabulous response to "Samael", but immediately followed by the dreaded "unfortunately".

Predicting trends is famously difficult, but so much money is involved in traditional publishing, and such long lead times are involved, that of course a publisher has to do his or her best to do such predicting. My utterly uninformed guess is that teen supernatural romance, especially of such quality as yours, will be around for longer yet.

But my only slightly less uninformed opinion is that your books could do very well as e-books. My own are in a more narrowly-popular genre, they're not yet on Amazon, and I'm looking at annual sales in the thousands. You, my dear, could potentially be looking at rather wilder success.

Anonymous said...

I have no idea about the genre. But I did read the first few chapters of your book and thought they were fabulous. No matter what - that is a pretty decent write up from a publisher!!

Frances said...

I just don't know, Jane. All the current marketing strategic thinking is being done by folks in publishing houses who desperately hope to hold on to their own jobs. They might be trying to find the favor of their superiors, and to mimic what those superiors might have signaled to them. Again, I just don't know.

I do know that you are a grand writer and definitely know how to tell a tale!

Let me confess that when I was a teenage, I did not read anything remotely like today's teen fiction genre. I was working my way through classics of British fiction and throwing in a current American author now and then, too.

Don't know whether to say wait for the next wave, or just contact some other publishers (or have your agent do so) quickly, or ... well, maybe find some teenagers and have them read Samel, see it they get a buzz going that you can build on.

Another idea. Is there a venue in which you could let Samael out chapter by chapter, serialize it?

Jane, it's late here, and I have to be up by 5 tomorrow to get to work. Hoping that some of what I've just typed will be helpful, encouraging or even lucid.


Wally B said...

Considering all the teen age girls flooding in to Forks, a sleepy little logging town not far from us, I would happily predict that this is not over yet, nor will it be in two years. I bet they said something similar to JK Rowling. Do it yourself. E books are really taking off in the States.

Rob-bear said...

Sigh! Yet another good story not making into print.

I don't know much about the genre, except that J.K. Rowling said this week that she may write yet another book. Will she have trouble getting it published? I doubt.

Still, the e-book trade is taking a bite. Interesting times for book publishers.

fairyhedgehog said...

How awful to have your hopes raised and dashed like that. I hope you find a publisher more willing to take a risk on the market for the sake of a good book.

Tattieweasle said...

Crikey I wonder what they would say to Mary Shelly these days...I hate it when they narrowly define a book. I think teh film Buffy the Vampire Slayer came out in 1992, we're still in love with the genre 18 years on, I have a feeling it is here to stay!
Keep going your book is great...

Exmoorjane said...

Shalini: I love it too and certainly the teens I know lap it up. Thank you SO much for kind words on my dear Sam!

Ali: *snort* - love the idea of changing one's man according to the season! Would LOVE to read a book by you...you have tons of inspiration....get onto it!

Art: Ah, that would be interesting, wouldn't it? A daring proposition indeed! :)

Exmoorjane said...

Shayne: Yup, it's the dreaded 'unfortunately'.... Love that you're having that success with epub - does give food for thought.

Mud: aw, thank you! :)

Frances: ah, bless you. I put Samael up on inkpop, a site for teen writers and readers and the response was fantastic. Interestingly though, teens aren't the best at social networking! They just kept asking when they could buy the book!

Exmoorjane said...

Legend: It may well come to that - and maybe I just need to get out of my blinkered mindset.. :)

Bear: thank you dear heart. Yes, interesting (challenging, scary as hell) times indeed. :)

Fairy: writers have to get used to it, to develop a thick skin - I'm learning! I'm encouraged that they liked so much about it - though worried about the genre issue. Also, I was very lucky to get detailed feedback - so many publishers just say 'sorry, not for us'.

Tattie: yeah, I agree. I remember reading the Anne Rice books years ago and thinking, 'right, that's vampires well and truly done with' - and then along came Buffy and Twilight and so on. I guess the only good thing about mine is that there aren't any vampires (truly WOULD be the kiss of death)...oops, sorry, yet another ghastly pun.

Posie said...

Jane my teenage daughter devoured the Twilight books. I took her and a friend to see the recent movie and had to laugh at a cinema full of girls where the film played to their teenage fantasies. Two male leaders completely captivated by a young girl, willing to fight over her, share her, lots of kissing later, and then insisting that they don't rush things in the bedroom department...if only!! They loved it. I cannot get over the publishers response here, it is not like you are copying someone else's ideas, surely to limit work by purely going with what genre could be popular is very short sighted. There are many different genre, but I have never really been aware of a popular genre completely replacing another genre.Keep in there and keep trying, cannot get over their narrow minded marketing strategies,my youngest daughter is 10 and adores fantasy and imaginative books so I think she will love this genre in a few years. Good luck with it all...their loss, but don't give up.

Westerwitch/Headmistress said...

Er this genre played out . . . have they looked at how long vampire stories have been around and in 2012 there will be another generation of teenagers sighing over the romance . . how short sighted can you be.

Jane what about self publishing with someone like Author House - don't you dare give up you're way too good for that.

K. A. Jordan said...

I think you've made a good point about the long lead times for print publishing.

What I'm reading on the web indicates that publishing is treating books like produce. Two years going in and only a few weeks on the shelves.

Publishing an e-book to someplace like Smashwords will give you access to all the largest e-book markets.

Also, adult women have jumped into reading YA. Some say it is because YA is better written.

It appears that you may have the right book completed at the right time - just not for the 'short term' market. E-books don't go out of print, after all.

Anonymous said...

[Note: My mother reads your blog--she's a lurker--and mentioned this blog post of yours to me. Seeing as I love writing and reading, she told me I should come here and leave a comment.]

As a 16 year old who's loved paranormal movies, books and tv shows since she was 10 years old (more or less), I can guarantee I am nowhere near bored of paranormal novels. I prefer vampires, not Twilight but rather Vampire Academy (by Richelle Mead), and I LOVE Rachel Vincent's Shifters series about werecats. (It's not actually YA, but is fine for mature teens.)

I find it ridiculous that the publishing house who sent you that e-mail thinks paranormal fiction is dying out. It's been around for a LONG time and will always BE around, in my opinion.

Books aren't like clothes--they don't fall out of fashion. We read one series about vampires and we want MORE. And lately angels are becoming popular, but there are still plenty of vampire novels. And writers aren't moving from vampires to realistic or contemporary fiction, they're moving onto new paranormal creatures, such as banshees (Rachel Vincent) or, like I said, angels.

The real concern isn't whether or not paranormal novels will still be "in" in a couple years time, but rather will e-books take over real books. Personally, I prefer real books, but I understand that e-books are more practical (lighter) and cheaper.


Northern Snippet said...

I don't see how they can predict the genre will be waning in two years.My lot still watch back episodes of Buffy and that started and finished yonks ago.I know its not the same thing but.. they all had to read Dracula for GCSE course and loved it wanted to read more.It hasn't outgrown it appeal has it?
All the young girls who work for us love reading this type of book..

Elizabeth Musgrave said...

I totally agree that you should publish it yourself. I realise I have no idea at all of the scale of the endeavour! But go on Jane, its fab (although I still secretly love Walker).

Fennie said...

Could you self publish through Completely novel who would appear to do both paper and print and get you on to Amazon and into Waterstones. But still there's the selling to do. You probably know much more about this than I do, but it strikes me that the day Romance (of any sort) is dead is the day when we all should pop our clogs and go to meet our Makers. What is the point of life if not romance of one sort or another. I suppose you couldn't get a magazine to publish it as a serial?

Cait O'Connor said...

As a librarian I think these vampire fads will pass but your book should be published, I can't understand why it has not been,

CAMILLA said...

Hi Jane,

Thank you kindly for your lovely message to my post, love your SP photo to your previous post Jane, soo adorable.!

Have always loved books, but when I was a teenager mainly read on themes of the classics at the time. You are an amazing gifted writer Jane, can't understand why your book Sameal has not been published, this book would fly off the shelves. I would love to buy it for my granddaughter too who is a teenager, she would enjoy it I know.

Don't give up Jane, keep at it, have you thought perhaps of self publishing?

Wonderful haunting celtic music of the link you posted Jane. I emailed Chris Nicolaides the composer to the music of Seven Ages of Britain earlier on in the year. He is keeping in touch with me to let me know when the music of the series can be available. This also is such hauntingly beautiful music.

Best of luck with the book Jane.


Annette Piper said...

I'm still enjoying this genre. Not tired of it yet (although there are some pretty average stories out there that for some reason were allowed to be printed... bizarre that they won't print a GOOD book!)

Melpomene Selemidis said...

Oh no! I hope it hasn't had its day. I don't think so. I'd better finish my selkie/siren novel quicksmart then or do I just not bother?
I say write what you want to write not what publishers perceive the trend will be in 2 years.
All my stories are based on fairytales, fables & myths which all stories are based on so what's left to write?
Paranormal romance is the stuff of myths, the connection with a higher being, the other as a way of understanding & connecting to our humanity and divine self so don't give up on your book. Self publish! Go for it. It sounds wonderful!