Industry predicts 2014's publishing trends

Industry predicts 2014's publishing trends

Emotional women's fiction, yet more psychological crime, talking-point business books and a resurgence of the essay are among the trends that UK publishers are predicting for 2014.

Meanwhile the new Folio Prize and the expansion of the Man Booker to all English-language writers could also affect the landscape by widening the field for literary novels, editors said.

Speaking to The Bookseller, industry insiders had mixed views on whether the domestic psychological suspense genre would continue strong, following Gillian Flynn's all-conquering Gone Girl (W&N).

Kate Elton, publisher at HarperFiction, said: “I think in terms of what we are seeing upon submission is that psychological crime thriller is as big as ever….It seems as if the pitch for the new S J Watson has been replaced by the pitch for the new Gone Girl." She added: "What I didn't see last year but what I would love to see is a big thriller. I don't know if that's because people are trying to write the next Gone Girl and are marketing in a different way.”

Meanwhile agent Oli Munson also predicted more novels featuring “psychological suspense and women in jeopardy”. But Curtis Brown m.d. Jonny Geller said he thought there would be a "pull away" from the genre. "There will be a lot published…but only a few can rise to the top," he said. Geller said the agency was seeing "a lot of dystopia novels", with a focus on "big epics, including sci-fi", and also predicted "a very strong year for thrillers" as well as a "lots more books that are emotional".

Mari Evans, publishing director at Headline, also saw a trend for books that provoke “genuine heartfelt emotions”. She said: “I was really pleased to see women’s fiction staging a comeback last year because 2012 was so devastating in the face of Fifty Shades of Grey. The massive migration to e-books for women’s fiction is heartening.

“For 2014 I think there’ll be a continuation of love of traditional values, for people like Patricia Scanlon and Deborah Moggach, something non-threatening and reassuring. I also think authors who can provoke genuine heartfelt emotions, people who can make you cry like Jojo Moyes, or laugh and cry like David Nicholls, I think that’s gold dust. I am always on the lookout for them.”

Little, Brown publisher David Shelley took issue with the whole idea of a publishing trend: "On the fiction side, rather than chasing trends we are after strong, distinctive stories that maybe break the mould a little bit… After a few years of definite trends there is a hunger for books that are different," he said. But he added that the publisher was “always on the lookout for warm and emotional women’s fiction” with “a strong sense of character and real warmth and humanity”, as well as for crime books that do something different with the genre.

Elton predicted that genre fiction would continue to migrate into the mainstream, with fantasy continuing to break out, following the George R R Martin phenomenon. "There's a huge market for what was thought of as niche a few years ago," she said. Elton added that readers would continue to enjoy series fiction, employing “a box set mentality” because they want to “invest time and emotion in something big”.

Max Porter, senior editor at Granta, also said he thought there would be “a lot of cross-over stuff - the pleasures and tactics of genre fiction appearing in literary novels”. Porter also predicted “a bumper year for incredible novels in translation”, and said: “I am hoping to find really remarkable non-fiction and I think that the essay is going to have a renaissance year. There’s a lot of sharp, incisive and provocative literary essays around.

“I’m unlikely to go searching for any 800-page novels with complex structural devices, but if it’s good enough, I’m game.”

Jason Arthur, publisher at William Heinemann, Hutchinson and Windmill, said prizes like the Folio and the Man Booker would mean “more literary novels will have the chance to get big”. The inclusion of all novels published in English for both prizes would also have publishers “looking further afield for those break out books, not just in the UK”.

He said: “In terms of trends I don’t think there has been an abundance of anything in particular but as in the last few years people are looking to find those original debut voices that have the potential to break out. On the fiction side those stunning original voices are what I have always had and always will be looking out for.”

Bill Scott-Kerr, publisher at Transworld, said good books would shine whatever the trend. He said: “I believe this is a qualitative market and if you put something into the market, in whatever genre, with the right push behind it, it stands a chance of making an impact. It is about great storytelling and voices and characters, and books that you as a reader can immerse yourself in.”

In fiction and non-fiction, "smart ideas books” were cited as a focus by both Shelley and Elton. Shelley said: “We are always on the lookout for 'smart ideas' books, provocative books. Also in non-fiction we are looking for good business books, particularly in the international market.” Shelley also said that after the success of Gwyneth Paltrow’s It’s All Good (Sphere), Little, Brown would also be looking to acquire more cookery books.

Elton said: “I think that the big idea, talking point book is hugely important as the world gets ever more digital and our conversations become ever more global and detailed. Those talking point books have something that set them aside.”

US editors have told the Andrew Lownie Literary Agency what they are on the lookout for in 2014 here.