Writers love trends. They love chasing them, they love worrying about them and they love being told that the book they've slaved over for the last two years is just a week too late to capitalise on one. Because publishers know this, they do everything they can to indulge writers by creating new trends on a monthly basis. So what can you do to get ahead of the game? Thanks to some intensive networking and several bottles of Pinot Grigio, I can exclusively reveal what publishers will be looking for next year. All I ask is that you remember me in your acknowledgements page. Oh and I'll accept a cut of the royalties too - cheques to the usual address.
Thanks to Bekki Hill for this catchy term to describe the burgeoning sub-genre of post-apocalyptic tree-shaping fiction. Often touted as Mad Max meets Edward Scissorhands, it's best exemplified by Brian McGloomy's The Hedge, the heartbreaking tale of a man scouring an irradiated Basingstoke for the last remaining piece of vegetation. When he finds it (after months of surviving on White Lightning cider and out-of-date Snickers bars) he constructs a poignant tribute to our lost civilisation - a perfect leafy effigy of Lauren Goodger from The Only Way is Essex.
It's quite true that this trend started by accident, when a shortsighted editor acquired a YA paranormal trilogy about undead cricket officials. But spend enough money on a book, and a trend will surely follow. Expect plenty of young, hunky gents in white linen suits and panama hats, lots of staring soulfully into the middle distance and books that go on for days and then end with absolutely no resolution whatsoever.
I have worryingly squid-obsessed children (this is true, by the way), which means that any cephalopod-related books are fine by me. So bring on the latest craze in picture books, combining tentacled water creatures and M.C. Escher inspired seascapes. This is both hugely exciting and in no way an excuse for another cheap pun.
By now, you've probably had it up to here with retellings of Greek, Roman and Egyptian myths. These are all very well if you went to a posh public school and studied the classics, but how about if you went to a scruffy comprehensive like what I did? Never fear, because those famous friend-of-a-friend stories that you heard in the playground are about to come back in a big way. Kicking off with the sidesplitting Dog in a Microwave next spring, you can expect a whole raft of tales exploring dead grannies strapped to roof racks and people being sucked down aircraft toilets. Forget Homer or Virgil, this season's hot new storyteller is Bloke Down T'Pub.
As the next beachhead in the celebrity takeover of children's literature, publishers are set to unleash a whole raft of TV chefs on our unsuspecting kiddies. Jamie Oliver's first foray into middle-grade non-fiction - Oi, Mate, Put Down the F**king Chips! comes out next February, closely followed by Gregg Wallace and John Torode's board book series Be a Mini MasterChef. Expect plenty of screaming babies after those two have finished giving their "constructive advice". The inimitable Nigella Lawson has, as ever, taken a more personal approach - her debut picture book Finella the Fabulously Flirtatious Fig and Fennel Flan is a rollicking tale of female empowerment. Let's hope it has a happier ending than Rick Stein's Seymour the Lonely Shrimp, which climaxed with the eponymous hero being sautéed in garlic butter.