I write the stories that come to me, the ones that grab me and won’t let go. I don’t do market research to determine what twist the plot should take or whether the family in my story should be more diverse or whether the next story will sell more copies if it is set in Venice vs. Venezuela. But there are times when, as authors, we need to look to the future and consider where our resources are best invested.
According to Jennifer Austin, https://jenniferaustinauthor.wordpress.com/2014/06/23/what-do-ya-readers-want/, based on a limited poll, YA readers are looking for less romance, especially love triangles, more sci fi, more diversity, and more fantasy but not sugar-coated fairytale fantasy. They want stories that reveal the darkness in the world, that aren’t afraid to confront evil or even allow evil to appear to triumph, but in the end they still want the “happily ever after.”
BookBrats also published a broader survey of what YA readers want a few years ago (http://www.bookbrats.com/ya-readership-survey-results/#.VlpUrd-rSu4). The most important criterion according to those surveyed? Good writing. Well-developed characters. Rich, well-constructed plots. Realistic dialogue. In short, the most important ingredient for a successful novel was simply the quality of the writing.
The next critical foundation is originality. Once a story has taken the market by storm (think Twilight, The Hunger Games, Divergent), trying to emulate their proven success by copying the formula will fail miserably. Knock-offs will be compared relentlessly to the original, and seldom will they be found to exceed the one which set the standard. Readers have experienced that; now they want something new and different.
Be original. Be excellent. Write something wonderful.