Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Trend Prophets

As a freelance book doctor, or manuscript critic, I’m often in the position to help fashion a manuscript into something that will catch the eye of an editor, and hopefully the imaginations of readers. Pretty good trick, if you can do it. I haven’t had the nerve yet to look at my percentages in doing this, but I did have an “Eureka!” moment in the last couple days. It has taken me 25 years to figure this one out.

This summer, I have been married to this hunk for 25 years. I’ve known him for 35 years. He is one of those kind of guys, who if he decides to do something, he figures it out, takes lessons, or reads a book on it, and then does it. His interests are varied—and he always takes me along for the ride to do this same thing. He also has this keen judgment and makes decisions quickly. I should’ve figured this out a long time ago, but it takes me awhile to process stuff sometimes.

When The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles first hit the screen, my husband was watching it. I can remember him saying when I asked him what he was watching, “Some new kids’ cartoon. This stuff is classic. Mark my words, this is going to be a hit—I mean, c’mon! Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? Toooo funny.” And lo, and behold, it was a mega hit sometime after this prophecy. That’s not the first, or last time, either. If I thought about it long enough, or kept track of this sort of thing, I’d find that he has quite the prophetic tendencies when it comes to public interest and trends—especially for boys and men.

So, I got to thinking about my dear one’s TV-watching habits this week. He rarely watches the mainstream network shows—he watches stuff really off-beat, before it has caught on elsewhere. When I’ve listened to other men around the country, I realize that he has his finger on the pulse of what captivates the attention of men or boys. When I start to notice that the others are interested in the same thing, my guy has probably already moved on to something else with only passing interest in the now, hyped-up trend.

So, I don’t know if this is worth anything, but right now he flips between two shows that interest him--some horse behavior guy (working with horses and their behavior) on some remote rural network (we have satellite, of course,) and knife shows from the Smoky Mountains. Now, if I were wise, I’d tap into this knowledge, observe him and somehow, work this into manuscripts of my own. Maybe take notes on his comments. I’ve noticed, too, that a lot of our peers (age bracket) are buying horse farms. Not your amazingly wealthy people, either, but just every day, regular people. It’s one thing to capture a wealthy man’s eye—but when paycheck-to-paycheck people are going into debt to buy this thing, then you know this is serious stuff.

A few years ago, I read this book called, The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell (Back Bay Books/Little, Brown and Company.) When my son entered college last year, his entire freshman class had to read this book, and then, discuss it in their small groups, so I was already familiar with the book. It talks about this “magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.” If you have not read this, then I suggest you get it pronto if you are interested in marketing in any way. (Also, pick up his book, Blink.)

This is definitely something that interests editors, literary agents and writers (and thus, me.) The trick is to take your passions and use this knowledge of “tipping points” to set your timing to take it to market. I think, as with my husband, if you are not passionate about the thing, then following a trend is just that—following a trend.

Pursue your interests, and look for the tipping points. Sometimes that is just a "gut" feeling, but observe what people talk about—“Did you see that…? Did you hear about…?What did you say you were watching?” Notice this stuff before it has hit the mainstream media. If it has already hit there, then you've missed your window.

Sometimes that trend prophet is sitting right next to you, someone you know quite well. Observe him intently. (Try not to let him know you're watching him. He might take you in for evaluation.)


Terry Whalin said...

Interesting post, Crystal. The key to me seems to be active listening--and processing the information that you take in from these potential "trend prophets" then responding to what makes sense to you.

Thought-provoking and appreciated,

The Writing Life

Crystal Laine said...

Such wise words, Terry. I am listening as fast as I can. (And I certainly keep my eye on what you are saying on your blog.) Thank you so much!