Hello my lovely reading raccoons! Today we’re gonna do a little backtracking to a topic which I wrote down on a sticky note a few months ago, but never got to writing about until now. This isn’t some super important discussion, but just a little thought experiment that popped in my head a little while ago. So, “what is this fun thought experiment?” you ask, well it’s all based around the idea of authors taking risks, and how some more popular authors get away with things in novels they would’ve never gotten away with in their debut novel. This of course leads to the trend of debut novels often being safer and less original than an author’s third, fourth, or fifth novels.
Now that we have the intro out of the way, let’s get into things 😊
First things first, let’s breakdown why I believe newer authors are less likely to take risks. For me, this all comes down to the need to sell your novel to a publisher, and publishers are only going to pick up what they think will sell well. I’m sure you’ve noticed how popular YA tends to go through phases and trends of what’s popular (think paranormal romance when Twilight was popular, or dystopian novels after The Hunger Games, and even fairy tale retelling with The Lunar Chronicles) this is all because publishing along with the trends pretty much guarantees readership. It gives publishers the opportunity to sell the books as _____ meets _____, which hooks at least some of the fans of the two books mentioned. This causes less original books that go along with the current trend to be seemingly the easiest to sell, which is why you see many prominent authors having rather safe debut novels, before moving on to things that are much unique and finding their own voices.
But of course, there is the pesky little fact that books take time, and if you write to fit the current trend, by the time you go to sell your novel, you’ll actually be behind the trend. This does poke a hole in the idea of debut authors trying to write to the trend so that they can get their book published easier, and I will say that is probably not usually the case. I’m sure there are some cases of authors cranking out books as quickly as possible just to pander to whatever is popular, but that’s not exactly what we’re talking about here. I’m much more interested in talking about how some authors might tone down certain elements in their stories or push off when certain elements are introduced in the name creating an easier to sell and wider appealing novel.
A seemingly big example of this, that I can’t conform 100% if this is why she did it, but it seems like, is with Sarah J Maas. (Side note how do all of my discussion posts end back up at SJM… honestly, how?!) If you look at the early Throne of Glass novels (particularly book one) it holds a lot of resemblance to things such as The Hunger Games and it just contains tons of YA tropes such as love triangles. It’s not until the later books that Sarah J Maas actually finds her voice as an author and makes the world of Throne of Glass into a more unique one. It’s not til book three when Celaena finally gets some character (fight me but I hate Celaena in every book except for Heir of Fire). Even more interesting is how SJM doesn’t include any graphic sex scenes (something she’s kinda known for now) in her novels until Empire of Storms, and this isn’t even touching on A Court of Thorns and Roses! So, how does all of this fit into my little thought experiment? Well obviously, because she started off with a safer story that could be sold as just any other YA fantasy, then branched out into creating a story more personalized to her own writing and taking risks. From reading her stuff now, I do really believe that she probably always intended to include smut as well as more complex storylines in her novels, but just had to wait until she had a loyal readership to take a risk like that in YA, thus why she started with a much simpler and more common plot.
Well! Thank you to everyone who read through this and put up with all my ramblings throughout this entire post. I’m not actually someone who works in publishing (…yet😉) so this is all speculating about how things work based on trends I’ve noticed over my years as a part of online book communities. Also sorry that this post just turned into be overanalyzing Sarah J Maas once again 😂 I just have a lot of thoughts on her novels.