Many writers write stories they want to tell. However, it sometimes seems that these stories are not what people want to read, or what publishers want to buy. But writers who try to write what they think will sell often write books that are not very good.
A writer should find a way to balance her own interests and passions with reader interests. Good fiction has deep themes like love, hope, or justice. It also follows patterns called story structure.
You have a vision for the story you want to write. The idea is burning in you. You’re busy writing and pouring your heart into the story.
However, it doesn’t seem like it would fit in with the lastest bestsellers. Maybe you’re beginning to wonder if this is really marketable.
Artistic Visions and Market Demands
Many writers start by thinking about the stories we want to write. We have ideas for stories that we love. Ideas that tug at our hearts and minds.
However, once you begin to think of publishing and selling your work, it’s different story. Publishers want books they think are marketable. You can self-publish anything you want to, but it won’t sell unless people who want to buy it can find it.
Should You Write to the Market?
If you want to go into business, it’s a good idea to make sure there’s a market for your product. However, many fiction writers start by writing the stories they want to write–without thinking about who the audience for the work is.
If you hang out in the writing world, you’re sure to be advised to write to market. This means looking at what’s selling well so you can write something like it. Many writers will look for the bestselling categories on Amazon. Some publishers will provide information about what’s currently selling well.
Some writers are happy to write this way. And some do make money. However, just because something is selling well now doesn’t necessarily mean it will be selling well by the time you can finish a book in that genre. It might be a fad that will be passe by the time you finish your book.
Moreover, if you write stories without putting your heart into it, your writing likely won’t be its best. You won’t be motivated to put your best efforts into writing and marketing a book that you don’t really care about.
What if Your Writing Doesn’t Fit Into the Market?
What if you have a vision for a story that you want to write? And the vision doesn’t seem to fit in any best-seller categories.
You have the following options:
- Write your story the way you want to, and figure out how to market it. It may fit into a niche genre that isn’t immediately obvious.
- Write a different story that seems more marketable
- Write your story, but figure out how your idea can be modified to fit into a genre.
Writing in Multiple Genres
Another issue some writers face in marketing is that they want to write in multiple genres. Conventional wisdom in book marketing says to become known for one type of book so you can have a strong author brand. People will know what to expect when they see your name. There are ways around this. You can write under a different pen name for each genre. Some authors have successfully marketed books in different genres under the same name.
However, artistic visions don’t always cooperate with markets. Sometimes, you may want to write something that isn’t currently selling well, or break out of the genre you’ve been writing in. It’s fine if you want to do that–if you understand that it may not be the best marketing move.
Some readers may be attracted to writers who are true to their own gifts and callings. There are always people whose taste differs from the bestsellers promoted by major publishing houses. It just might be harder to find them than to find readers for the most popular genres.
If you have a great idea for a story, don’t give up on it because it doesn’t seem to fit in with the current bestsellers. Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings because he had a great idea for a story–not because fantasy was a hot genre at the time (it wasn’t).
Is Your “Unmarketable” Idea good?
Sometimes, an idea that doesn’t seem marketable at first becomes successful. However, some ideas that aren’t marketable just aren’t good ideas, or at least aren’t ready. In some cases, it can be hard to tell whether an idea is a great new idea or a bad one.
To know whether an idea for a story is good, it helps to know the general rules of a good story. Become familiar with story structure. Get to know what readers expect in genres you are considering. Once you know these guidelines, you can tweak them. But you must be familiar with them to tweak them in good ways.
Theme and Meaning are Essential
When I first got serious about writing, I feared I would have to write fomulaic stories that lacked theme and character development to sell. Then, I took the Novel Writing Workshop course from Steve Alcorn’s Writing Academy, and learned that passion, theme, and character development are integral to a story.
I also began reading K.M. Weiland’s blog and books, and learned that character arcs and themes are essential. I began to see that there is a place for idealistic writers who want to write deep and meaningful stories.
A story that does not go beyond mere action will not resonate wtih readers. They may read it once for a diversion, but it will be forgetable.
Still, writers who want to write according to their own visions and not to market demands may often have a harder time gaining traction. It helps to have a day job or another source of income other than one’s fiction.
Finding a Balance
Each writer must find a balance between artistic vision and market demands. It’s great if your vision fits into an existing market, or if you can find a niche of readers who love your unusual work.
However, if you have a story you truly want to tell, and you honestly believe it’s a good story, you may not be happy if you let market demands hold you back from writing it. And it just may become a surprising success.