Somebody To LoveToday's Tune:
If you've just recently gotten into the YA publishing sphere, you may be hearing a particular phrase quite a lot. That phrase is, "The market is oversaturated right now."
What, exactly, does that mean?
To understand this a little better, it's important to understand how (traditional) publishing works. Rule Numero Uno: it's slow. This is the commonly upheld truth of the industry. Finding an agent takes time, finding a publisher takes time, revisions take A LOT of time, approval for various steps takes time. Layout formatting, typesetting, developmental editing, copyediting, illustrating, cover art, printing, distributing... all these things take time. Therefore, the books you're seeing on shelves that just came out this week were, in actuality, originally purchased by the publisher anywhere from 1-4 years ago.
Which means if you're seeing a dozen new vampire novels or dystopians coming out, then there are already more in pre-publication and the interest in them is probably already waning.
This is what agents/editors mean when they tell you the market is oversaturated with a certain type/genre of book. It means they've already bought up bunches of it and have probably seen almost every virtual incarnation already, and that yours must be extremely original in some way if you want it to catch their eye.
Publishers are smart. When they see something becoming a breakout hit, they know there's a good chance that a high demand for more is on the horizon and they buy up similar titles. When Harry Potter took off, they looked for fantasy and magical schools. When Twilight started gaining traction, they looked for similar paranormal romance. When The Hunger Games garnered interest, they snatched up dystopias. They did it early and they did it often. Unfortunately for the general public, we probably didn't realize how popular something was until well after the initial buyouts happened.
After Twilight became the powerhouse it is today, aspiring authors jumped on it and started cranking out more and more paranormal romance. Probably because they'd read some and loved it, so they wanted to write it. Unfortunately, publishers were already well ahead of the game and getting pickier by the minute.
This is why you should never, ever, EVER specifically write to a trend. First, if you're writing something that you think will make you money instead of something you truly love, it will show in your writing. Second, once you hear about a popular genre, it's already too late. Your odds are already drastically lowered.
Here's what you SHOULD do: write the story that's in your heart. Don't worry about its genre. Write what you love. Figure out where it fits later.
Get a subscription to Publisher's Marketplace ($20 a month). Monitor the deals being made in your genre. This is how you can figure out what's being sold NOW, rather than what was sold three years ago. If you watch closely enough, you'll see a pattern in buying trends. Again, DO NOT WRITE TO TRENDS. However, this will help you see if the WIP you're currently working on has a place in the current market.
Focus on your craft. The best way to sell a book in any marketplace is to write a really, really good book. Here's the thing about all the big breakouts: they were original. They were something the market hadn't seen yet -- something the market didn't even know it wanted. Write the thing that people don't even know they want to read yet.
You can't scam this system. You can increase your odds in various ways, but there's no secret to becoming the next success story. It's one part talent, one part timing, one part hard work, one part luck, and a dozen parts of something else.
So, if the story in your heart happens to be a vampire romance or a tale about a boy wizard? That's okay. If it's what you honestly want to write, do it. At worst, it will be a learning experience. At best, someone will still buy it. I'm a firm believer that passion (along with hard work, talent, and a little luck) breeds success.
Basically, I'm telling you to work hard, write well, believe in your story, and forget everything you know about what's on the shelves of bookstores right now. At least until your first draft is done. THEN YOU SHOULD RESEARCH AND STUFF.