If you’re going the indie route and you want to make a reasonable income from your books, you’re going to be told to write to market.
What exactly does writing to market mean?
There’s a lot of controversy around this, a lot of vitriol and snide comments are thrown around about the idea of writing to market. People say those of us who write to market are ‘hacks’. I want to clear up some of the murkiness around the idea.
Writing to market doesn’t mean that you leap on the hottest trend of the moment and throw out a book that works on the lowest common denominator. It doesn’t mean that you write something that ticks the boxes and has no soul. It means that you understand the genre/s you’re writing in, you know what readers of those genres are looking for, and you give them that.
Yes, you could just tick those boxes and skip off into the sunset but there are a couple of problems with that. A. You’d make yourself miserable. B. Readers are people, we like things with a fresh twist, with that spark, that charm that each writer brings to the table.
The entire point of writing to market is giving your readers what they want. We write to market because we want happy readers that come back to us for more again, and again.
So how do you go about figuring out what writing to market means for your genre?
Read. And read. And while you’re at it, read some more. Grab yourself copies of the top 100 in your genre, then the top 20 overall on Amazon. Read them, analyse them, look at what works. What are common themes? Tropes? Look at the broad structure that’s there, how can you apply that to your own writing?
There’s this myth that you can either write to market or write what you love. I’m doing both, and so are many other authors out there. I love urban fantasy. Being able to give people urban fantasy recommendations to read makes me grin like the Cheshire Cat. I adore fangirling over the books, the genre, the potential, the tropes, the whole deal. I write it because it makes my little heart giddy. That being said, while I’m writing it, I keep the structure, the pacing, and the reader expectations for the genre in the back of my mind. I want to make sure that my books make readers of urban fantasy really happy. I want to drag them into my world and have them dying to come back for more. I want to produce characters that they dream about and ideally, write fanfiction around.
My writing is my art. It’s my passion, but it’s also my business. I do plan on doing this full-time, I plan on travelling the world from the money made from my books. I dream of having a little empire of fans that adore my work. I hope to touch readers and enrich their lives, even if only for a few hours at a time.
If you want to be a full-time author, if you plan on writing to market, then you need to read. You need to dive into your genre or genres, pick out those bestsellers and analyse them. You’re not being a hack by learning your craft, by understanding what it is that makes readers happy. You’re not throwing away your art by studying the story-structure and tropes that work for your genres. You are going to learn, and apply those things while you write what you’re truly passionate about. You’re going to put your own spin on those tropes, and ideas. You’re going to add your charm, and make your mark. That’s what will make you stand out, that’s what will make readers love you and come back for more.
We are here to make readers happy, to give them worlds and characters that enrich their lives and brighten their days. Ideally, we’ll touch some hearts and make a difference, even if it’s just to one person. We’re not hacks, we’re storytellers.