Saturday, 16 April 2016

Why are dystopian books so popular?

I've just returned from grocery shopping. There were two little mishaps - I parked the car, got out, realized I'd left my cash at home. Then after I'd gone home and gotten the cash walked up to the supermarket I found there was not a single shopping trolley. Aside from these two little mishaps, the grocery shopping experience was uneventful. I found many items marked down on sale that I could freeze for another day. Stocked up on loads of goodies for the pantry. All in all, an uneventful, same old, everyday occurrence that millions of us take for granted.

I paid $150 for food that will be eaten in a week, perhaps scorned at, critiqued, not eaten, devoured hungrily, most importantly, taken for granted that all this will happen again next week. No wonder I see food shopping as pointless and boring. And if I find it boring and pointless, I'm sure there are other who do too.

We no longer have to fight or hunt for our food. All the tribal, primal, animalistic components have been cauterized, homogenized, and organized. No wonder dystopian novels are so popular. Characters have to fight for food, there's often the kill or be killed mentality, pushing others aside for the last scraps of food and water. Humanity is stripped away and we have to fight to keep it. In the modern world, there is no need to fight.


Just to treat you to the types of books I'm talking about there is a fantastic site called The Best Sci Fi Books. I recently found this post from September 2014 highlighting 96 Dystopian Science Fiction Books that are all on my must read list. I've read a few, and I must say I love dystopian worlds. And I think I know why. Our blessed lives lack the life or death challenges, they lack the hunt, the hunger, the fight for survival.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying I want world war to break out and coupons to become a way of life. I don't want to fear for my life as I make a cup of tea. Nor do I want to eat stale crackers and spoiled food.

But our love of dystopian fiction makes me wonder that perhaps we humans like the idea of chaos in our lives, to remind us that while we have evolved, we are still of flesh and blood.

Monday, 4 April 2016

Book covers and genres

I should be an analyst because I love to see changes in the market place. One change I've noticed recently is the humble book cover. I'm talking about YA book covers at the moment. They are starting to become a little more contemporary.

Three years ago all the YA covers featured girls in gowns. Seriously, ever second book had a girl in a gown. I even wrote an article about it and the article appeared in the NSW Writers Centre member magazine.



This was around the same time I was submitted Little Red Gem to agents and publishers. It's a paranormal story because it features magic, astral projection, and ghosts, but it kept getting rejected because, and I quote, "editors are suffering from paranormal fatigue". So I self published the book because I believe it is a damned good story. And readers agreed.

The point is, publishers and agents at the time wanted contemporary books. And rightly so. A market  clogged with one genre is like only having one type of food to eat. Readers need variety. But I wasn't about to go "contemporizing" all my novels. And as a side note, guess what agents are asking for now? Not just paranormal but a nice mix of both contemporary and genre fiction.

Anyway, it's a few years later and I'm trawling through online sites and I notice a new set of book covers. They look very much like contemporary books. But here's the interesting bit. A lot of these books are still paranormal because the characters are dead or they're living inside people's dreams or there are ghosts - all the elements that make it paranormal. But look at the difference in covers.

There are still books with covers that clearly define the genre, yet from a quick look a lot of these titles were dystopian or sci-fi. It seems indeed, that we are not meant to judge a book by its cover. Because it seems that the book cover is a judge of what the current marketing trend is. Interesting.

I've spent the past few months updating my book covers and it seems that if contemporary covers are the norm then I may have to update them further. What do you think? Do these covers work?



So what do you think? Should books reflect the content or the market trend? I'd love to hear your thoughts. And have you read any books that the cover was a disaster but the content was awesome?