12 May

Writing To Market, Writing What You Want...


If you've ever crawled out from under your writing rock, inside your writing cave, you've read articles endlessly debating this issue - writing a book that will commercially sell vs. writing what you want.
I'm here to tell you BOTH options super suck.
Yes, you read me right. Super Sucky Rotten Eggys.
Writing to Market - that book will have no heart. At best, if you're a skilled writer, it will come out as distanced. Well written but with no passion, highly forgettable, gaining no long-term readership.
Writing What You Want - your book idea could be a) so overdone as to be cliché, so nobody would want to read it, or b) so out of the norm, its life message, if there ever was one, is lost in the miasma of your LSD-infused words. If said book is just for you and your cohorts who get you, cool. If it's for the world, not so much.
To become a beloved author with a wide readership, it demands playing the game of treading that fine line between both ends of the literary spectrum, and when you're new to book writing, chances are you don't even realize there is a line, much less know how to walk it.
Two Cases in Point:
The first case involves myself. I write literary novels, 20th century historically based, on the theme of the process of death. Mm...sounds tasty, you say... NOT. If you're part of the reading public who get bored with literary fiction and run to genre, you'll be right, for it's damn difficult for the online world to buy literary books. Online readers are 80% genre readers - pulp fiction thriller, mystery, romance - in and out and over and donesco, and onto the next pocket book paperback they go! Books of easy read, pure escape, characters and plots forgotten the moment they read the last page.
I didn't choose to be a literary writer, god no. It's just how I see the world, and therefore it's how I write about it. And the fact that I attended my first North Irish wake at age three, and having family around me die off like mosquitoes around a bug zapper explains the death theme. As for the 20th century slant, that century encased my formative years, so I just deliver a more believable human experience in that era.
I knew, going in as a literary writer, I was behind the 8-ball, so to speak. I had to sit down and truly decide how I could marry the two goals - selling books and writing high-brow. Again, treading that fine line, weaving suspense, upping tension and inserting relationship drama into my tales of mainline historical events/icons, and improving my skill in writing back cover blurbs, as well as hiring professionals to do eye-catching book covers was a start. I had to convince readers my books were worth reading.
This line I walk is never-ending, and I continue to hone my craft to better serve both goals - to grow my readership and grow myself. 
In the second case, I know of a guy who has been shopping around a novel that took him AGES to complete, written on a very weird subject - a mesh of literary and genre, covering circus magic realism. He can't sell it anywhere. He forgot to walk the line of mass readership attraction vs. his own weird interest. I've not read it myself, but even if every sentence is Hemingway quality, this ball won't bounce. He's basically spent untold years working on a piece of art nobody will appreciate but himself.
In whatever genre you write, you need to find that sweet spot. To cultivate a unique author voice with innovative plots that will still attract mass market readers who love what you create and will come back for more.
That Fine Line: Giving vs. Receiving, Greed vs. Charity, Your Want over Their Need
Hint A: if you're doing it right, after each scene in your book, you should be FEELING the emotion it evokes. If you as the author do not laugh or cry or sigh or be aroused after your own words, you are most likely writing to market. You may grab initial sales from unknowing readers, but your chance of lifelong fans is negligible to none, and you may even tarnish your reputation, becoming known as a low-brow hack who's just looking for a quick buck.
Hint B: if you're loving every word to death, but your beta readers have this vacuous look on their faces every time they read a chapter, you're writing what you want and not giving two hoots about your reader.
Remember: a book is NOT a gift for you. It's a gift for your readers. 
You need to have them experience a world that will make them FEEL something related to their own lives. 
You have to write tales that will make them come back for more of the same quality human experience.
You need to offer a valuable story message that will help your readers better navigate their own lives. 
And you can't do any of the above if all you want to do is a) make sales or b) write super weirdly.
Once you're a renowned author, you can write weirdly all you want, for fans of a writer will usually read whatever those celebs eventually push out. It's not a great ambition, but that's a fact.
For now, you're a brand-new book author. You need to gain your readership, so tread that fine line, walk the walk that gets people interested in your books and gives them a gift they've been seeking.
To do anything less is wasting your time and theirs.

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