The following post was inspired by this post on Kirsten Lamb’s blog: https://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/2016/08/29/want-to-sell-more-books-give-consumers-what-they-want
Kirsten’s post was basically saying that if we want a book to sell we need to write what readers want to read, not what we think they should read. Her post was essentially a reminder about why we don’t ignore the techiques/ guidelines/rules for writing fiction that will give the reader what they want, which is a great story. She was talking about not endulging in info dumps, overwriting and unecessary words, and neglecting solid world, character and plot building and so on – all issues I deal with in my book The Elements of Active prose: Writing Tips to Make Your Book Shine – but I’m going to look at the broader picture of genre in saleability.
Something the mainstream publishers know a lot about is what sells, and books are easier to sell if they fit into one genre.
The first series I wrote – YA fantasy – had all the elements such a series needed to be a commerical success, but it still didn’t do as well as it could. I had one of the big Aussie publishers want to publish it until their marketting department said. ‘No. It would be too hard to sell.’ They knew something I didn’t. As well as all the required elements, it also had a strong metaphysical element, and not every one wants something ‘spiritual’ even though I thought the world would be a better place if teens were reading fantasy with a bit of deeper’meaning behind it.
I finshed the series anyway and a small US publisher picked it up. It’s still selling, but limping along, and I planned never to write another book. Then I found myself writing again and have put out two books that I knew would never sell. Literary, fantasy, magical realism, transrealism, thriller, womens fiction, romance, metaphysical; my Prunella Smith books are all that. Great books, but really hard to sell because they’re not and never will be mainstream. That’s okay, because I never thought they would be. I published them myself – for me and the few who rave about them.
Again I figured that would be the end of it, but now I’m writing steampunk – just one genre. It should be a lot easier to sell simply because of that. Those who love my ‘deeper’ stuff may be disappointed, but I’ll have a bigger potential market. It may still not sell well, despite a rip roaring story and my best marketing efforts – who can say? – but after having written 9 books, I’m now know that I can write something that people will want to read and my own special angle on things will come through without any intention on my part. The books I wrote for me, found me my voice, now I trust that no matter what I write, that voice will be there in a much more subtle way than it was for my first series, and I think that will make my writing appealling to a wider audience.
The point of this long comment is that I totally agree with the advice to keep writing, and I’d add don’t think you need to publish everything you write. Sometimes it’s better to slip something into your archive folder, knowing that the effort you’d have to put into marketing it probably won’t pay off, and you might be better off putting your efforts into a new, and hopefully better, book.
Creativity doesn’t always come in neat packages to suit reader’s taste, but if you keep writing perhaps one day you will write something that fits more easily into the ‘what readers want to read’ category rather than the ‘what you want to write’ category. I’m not writing ‘The Rise of the Aether Mages’ because I want to write something that is easier to sell, I’m writing it because it was the natural next step in my creative process – I make steampunk masks, hats and accessories. So you don’t have to choose between what you want to write and what they want to read; the two can come together and perhaps it’s the mark of a seasoned writer when they do.
Want to know what my best selling book is? The one readers AND authors want to read, of course. The Elements of Active prose: Writing Tips to Make Your Book Shine.
Oh, and the steampunk book – more about that soon! Follow me on social media – see buttons at the top of the website – to follow along as I write it.
Don’t forget to share this post if you liked it, and make my day by leaving a comment. Is there any difference between what you want to write and what readers want to read? If so, how do you bridge that gap.