Welcome to the first in our brand new series: Ask the Editor! Caroline Hogg has worked in publishing for almost ten years, at Little, Brown Book Group and more recently at Avon, HarperCollins. In February she'll be joining Pan Macmillan as Senior Commissioning Editor for Commercial Women's Fiction. She knows her stuff!
Today's question comes from a Novelicious reader who asks:
Do you look for specific styles and trends in a book or does it really just come down to a great story?
Caroline says: I definitely keep my eye on the books racing up the charts, because I want to publish books that readers are going to love so an idea of what’s popular right now is always helpful. Having said that, new styles and trends sometimes come out of nowhere and you have to follow your gut when you have an inkling that something is going to take off. And your gut is not always right! But, in any case, there must be a cracking story at the heart of every book. It’s no good simply joining in by publishing into a successful genre or trend unless you have a book that can stand up on its own. I want a story that almost makes me forget I’m reading a book, because it’s so completely pulled me into its world. There should be laughs, gasps, tears or the shivers – preferably a mixture of all of those!
As I answered above, if you’re writing into a genre just because it’s currently in vogue, it’s highly unlikely that it will make for the best book you could write. Write something that you would love to read; write something that you can’t bear to stop writing.
The other thing to bear in mind about trends and styles is that by the time you write your book, find an agent, find a publisher and then wait the 12 or so months it might take for it to be published, what’s fashionable right now may well be old hat. Another good reason to stick to what appeals to you and to write the best, most gripping and original and genuine novel you can.