Writing what will sell vs. what you enjoy?

lynnmosher

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Feb 21, 2007
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On Derek Doepker's site, he has a free guide on Content That Sells. He also has another free ebook on Why Authors Fail.

This is today's email on Writing what will sell vs. what you enjoy...

Here's how many struggling authors operate...

They'll write books they feel inspired to write. Then only after their books are complete they'll consider how to sell them.

Whereas the most successful authors often consider, before they start writing, how they'll sell their books.

In some cases, they may even abandon book ideas if they see there's little sales potential.

Now, some may think I'm suggesting to only "write to market." Meaning you only write a book that's in a popular genre.

This is of course a viable strategy.

However, I'm also a believer in you defining what success means to you.

If you don't care about whether or not a book will sell, then write whatever you feel like.

After all, there are plenty of books written out of passion without an obvious market that become big hits.

Just don't be surprised if a book on "how to build your own ant farm" doesn't become a runaway bestseller. If there's little to no market for a book, it's gonna be like pulling teeth to get it to sell.

Ultimately though, I believe there's a synergy between "write what you love" and "write what will sell."

Because if you love what you write, there's a better chance others will love it too.

On the other hand...

If you force yourself to write something just because it's popular, yet you don't know or care about the genre or topic...

There's a good chance it will come across as contrived. You could lose readers who *feel* there's no passion behind the writing.

Granted, there are times when you need to practice self-discipline and just write even when you don't feel like it.

However, as one of my mentors Ian Stanley often talks about...

The more fun you have when writing, often the more fun it will be for your audience to read.
 
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Accord64

Write well, edit often.
Oct 8, 2012
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In a lot of cases (at least for fiction), I think it's very difficult to write to what sells when most "experts" can't correctly predict what will sell. These experts might want something to sell, and will push for it to sell, but the market (reader) will ultimately decide what sells.

That said, I think a writer's passion for what they write is important, and will show in their writing. But I also think it must be balanced with reader expectations in that particular genre. Oh, and it also helps to have a well recognized name - like John Grisham. 😉

For non-fiction, I think both name recognition and credentials are key. I know I'll get a lot of flak for saying this, but if someone like Chuck Swindoll feels inspired to write a Bible study guide on the book of Romans, then this will likely draw attention from Christian readers. However, if John Doe, who didn't spend a day in seminary wakes up one day and feels "led" to pen a study-guide on Romans, with a self-proclaimed new insight on that book (and also dosen't bother to have his manuscript properly edited), there should be no surprise that his study guide will die in the proverbial cradle. And if you ever get the opportunity to dissuade Mr. Doe from writing his new study guide masterpiece, he'll bristle at you claiming that the Holy Sprit is leading him. I've seen this scenario played out too many times.
 

Johne

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Sep 27, 2005
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If you're going to make money, the safe bet is to write to market and do what's working.

WIth that said, I think you have to bet on yourself. I can imagine JRRT looking at the market and thinking "I'll never be able to write what's selling," never knowing that his work would change Fantasy and serve as the template for all Fantasy for decades to come. I write what interests and amuses me, and if there's a glut of golem detective novels in five years, we'll know that readers agree with me. You never know if you're going to write the next Lord of the Rings, the next Carrie, the next Harry Potter. For my part, I'm betting on myself.
 

FeatherPen

Active member
May 8, 2022
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To me it is all kind of nonsense but only because I believe:

Man plans his steps, but God in charge of all

Only if a Christian writer does as they are led will God honor that. Too many Christian writers ( myself included at times) does what they want to appease the market than what God wants them to write. Why would God bless disobedience?

I believe there are industry standards for a reason, and it’s good to follow them early in a writing career, but far to many Christian Writers never pray: “How can I use my writing talent for you Lord?” They are far to worried about what people (market) wants them to write
 

Emily Waldorf

Well-known member
Mar 23, 2021
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Of course, you could go my way and not try to sell it. Then you can write what you enjoy without the worry. :) But of course, most writers are looking to publish.
 

paulchernoch

Senior Member
May 19, 2005
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My first impulse is not to write or sell, but to learn. Writing a book is an expensive, time consuming way to force myself to read, digest, think, synthesize and hopefully find clarity about something that interests me. Always it interests me because it touches on a deficiency in my wisdom concerning vital truths of the faith. I hope to grow as a person through the effort. My three forays into nonfiction are about:
  • identifying spiritual treasures and offering true worship
  • becoming resilient in the face of trials
  • reaping a spiritual harvest, attaining full maturity in the faith and thereby finding a path to peace
Only after I believe I have enlarged my own understanding do I attempt to structure my findings in a way that might meet the needs of others.
 

Jeff Potts

Well-known member
Apr 5, 2019
1,578
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The more fun you have when writing, often the more fun it will be for your audience to read.

I agree with that sentiment 100%.

I mean, if you want to make quick money, you can always write mermaid romance novels. In the end, your enthusiasm for the subject you're writing about will bleed through into the work. If you're pounding out something that you don't care about, the readers will pick up on that.
 

FeatherPen

Active member
May 8, 2022
197
183
My first impulse is not to write or sell, but to learn. Writing a book is an expensive, time consuming way to force myself to read, digest, think, synthesize and hopefully find clarity about something that interests me. Always it interests me because it touches on a deficiency in my wisdom concerning vital truths of the faith. I hope to grow as a person through the effort. My three forays into nonfiction are about:
  • identifying spiritual treasures and offering true worship
  • becoming resilient in the face of trials
  • reaping a spiritual harvest, attaining full maturity in the faith and thereby finding a path to peace
Only after I believe I have enlarged my own understanding do I attempt to structure my findings in a way that might meet the needs of others.
Mmmmm, not sure if I agree with this.

To me writing is a learning experience. I once wrote a novel on tower climbing and yet the highest I have ever climbed is our smoke stack at 300ish feet. That is a far cry from 2063 ft in the air, yet I watched videos, read and even printed off books on towers. I know towers and yet have never climbed any tall ones.

I look At writing books like having kids. If you wait until you can afford them, you would never have any. It is the same with books, if you wait until your super knowledgeable on a topic, you may never start a book.

The more a persons knows about something… anything… the more they realize they have so much more to learn. A silly person is one who thinks they know everything about a topic.

My work is full of the latter people
 

The Lamp Keeper

New member
Jun 17, 2022
17
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The more fun you have when writing, often the more fun it will be for your audience to read.

I agree with that sentiment 100%.

I mean, if you want to make quick money, you can always write mermaid romance novels. In the end, your enthusiasm for the subject you're writing about will bleed through into the work. If you're pounding out something that you don't care about, the readers will pick up on that.
Mermaids aside, do I detect an undertone of derision for romance novels?
 

paulchernoch

Senior Member
May 19, 2005
917
229
if you wait until your super knowledgeable on a topic, you may never start a book.
I began my book on spiritual treasures after pondering the topic for a decade and exploring it through writing three fantasy novels. My books on Job and Ecclesiastes, however, I wrote as I was learning the material. I did not wait until I was an expert to start writing. I used the process of writing to become - if not an expert - much more knowledgeable than when I began. I used the disciplines of writing for accountability. The idea is that if I am going to publish a book on a subject, I don't want to look like a fool. This forces me to work extra hard at research. It keeps me from getting lazy. Then the effort of taking ideas and structuring and presenting them in a way that others will understand and enjoy forces clarity. Only when I can express the ideas succinctly do I know that I really understand them.
 

FeatherPen

Active member
May 8, 2022
197
183
I am not convinced I write romance novels, but I think a bit of romance in a fiction novel adds a lot of elements that would just not be there without it.

What u it s wrong with love in a novel anyway?

God says in the Bible that he is love, writing about all the twists and turns at trying to get it right adds emotion to a story and why people often say, “the movie was good, but the book was much better ”. What they mean is, they enjoyed the way the book could convey more emotion.

If a writer wants a page-turner; write about emotions like love and devotion, getting it wrong, but also getting it right. It’s what makes a book a book and not a movie
 

Johne

Senior Member
Staff member
Sep 27, 2005
3,283
1,096
I am not convinced I write romance novels, but I think a bit of romance in a fiction novel adds a lot of elements that would just not be there without it.
There are entire genres devoted to this, ala Planetary Romance (such as the John Carter of Mars series with the romance between John Carter and princess Dejah Thoris going all the way back to 1912).
 

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