I received a disturbing e-mail the other day. No, not from the King of Brunei compelling me to enlarge my penis, but MySpace. MySpace! That’s still going? It made me wonder how long Facebook has left, or Twitter for that matter; mostly though it reminded me of the mercurial nature of public taste. You can’t mosey far in the Kindle store without authors who are trying to ride the latest wave smacking you in the face. It’s been a couple of years since the last book in the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy, yet Kindle’s erotica category is still drowning in “Sex with a Billionaire” titles. Nothing new here, but the enduring nature of self-publishing means that these books are still going to be there five, ten, twenty years from now. With my own writing, I’ve always worried about being stuck in the middle: I’m not good enough to create something that will outlive me, but I’m also not “bad” enough to follow the money on whatever is big right now. Turns out sitting on the fence does give you splinters.
The fact is that there are so many trend chasers because nobody knows how to start one. Even publishers and agents with their authoritative ‘Not right for us at the moment’ have no real idea. The public are aboard an ever shifting ship, and you’re one of many landmarks that they might choose to navigate by. It’s not much fun being a landmark. You can’t run round enticing the ships because you haven’t got any legs (stay with me here); you just have to be present and patient. It’s entirely possible to spend your writing life that way. Bleak, perhaps, but what’s the alternative? Every trend chaser produces work of their time, something that doesn’t age like an antique but closer to a jar of mayonnaise with SEP-1985 printed on the side. Nobody is going to open that but drunks and the insane, and they never leave reviews.