This is such a loaded question for many authors. Some believe in doing serious research into a niche genre to find out what’s selling and what’s not before they ever sit down to write. Others write stories that tickle their fancy, hoping someone else will like it, too.
Which one is right? Both. Let us explain.
Why You Should Write to Market
Publishing is a business. To do well, one must consider what readers will buy. Regardless if you self-publish or go the traditional route, someone needs to buy your book, right?
If you’ve developed your author platform, you already know your market. And you write for them. You’ve found your niche and you understand how to reach them best. Maybe you even did research on Amazon to see what’s selling best in your niche.
Does this make you a sellout? No, because you’re approaching it as a business proposition. And businesses are about making money.
Why You Shouldn’t Write to Market
Writing to market can suck the joy out of the writing process itself. If you’re constantly worried about whether the market will accept your manuscript, your words will probably fall flat.
Some experts tell you to write the book you’d like to read. There is truth in that thought because when you’re passionate about your idea, your writing is compelling and engaging. When you force yourself to write to market, your work won’t be filled with fire and intensity.
So which is it: write to market or not?
Write to the Intersection
The intersection of what, you ask? Think about it like this.
First, you must be excited and motivated to write a full manuscript. You need an emotional connection to your story and characters to write with passion.
But you also need a reader to like what you’re writing. So envision the perfect reader. What is she like? What does she do for a living? What makes her laugh? Go deep into her psyche until you can see her clearly.
Finally, you need a market because finding the right market is like finding a great home for your book. A home is comfortable, enjoyable, and relaxing. So if your book’s home is dark, gothic, and grim, find that market.
Thus, write to where your passion intersects with both what your perfect reader likes and what’s working in the market.
How Do You Write to the Intersection?
Do research. If you’re like most writers, you’ll love hanging out in Barnes & Noble or your local bookshop to see what people are buying. Sign up for Publisher’s Weekly and see what’s coming out next. Pay attention to what’s trending on Amazon.
Next, what do you love to read for pleasure? These are the stories you’ll be most passionate about. So if you love reading horror, you’ll have a blast crafting stories that make readers keep the closet light on at night.
Finally, more research will help you create a visual of your perfect reader. Go to Goodreads, Amazon, etc., to read what people are saying about books in your genre/market. Try to understand what they like, what they don’t, and what they expect.
Exceptions to the Rule
Consider how some authors like Jodi Picoult created their own sweet spot. While it’s do-able, it’s also really hard. That’s why you don’t see more authors breaking out.
That doesn’t mean you should give up if you have a great idea you’re passionate about but doesn’t fit one of your circles. Maybe you’ve found a breakout novel that will change the world. Where would we be without breakout novels from J. K. Rowling and others who doggedly pursued their passion?
Any writing you do won’t go to waste because it’s all experience. So write your passion and shop it around. Beta readers and editors can help you figure out if your idea is worth chasing.
There really is no right answer. What works for you won’t work for another author. James Patterson has a wonderful business model, wouldn’t you say? But it wouldn’t work for someone who follows their inspiration instead of the sale.
So, maybe some writers write to the market because that’s what they do best, while others pour their hearts out and worry about the market later. And maybe some want to find a balance between the two.
What kind of writer are you?