Writing to Market: Selling Out or a Smart Business Move?
I had never really heard of writing to market until an author friend suggested the topic for a blog post a while ago. And even after she talked about it, I didn’t truly understand what it was until I began researching it.
The first thing I found out? Apparently writing to market is controversial. And at times, very controversial. To understand why though, let’s talk about what writing to market is.
What Is Writing to Market?
In many (if not most) cases, authors have an idea for a story, they write and publish it, then they market their book. This would be writing then marketing.
Writing to market instead involves the author finding a hungry subgenre, researching the tropes of that subgenre, and then writing a book that fits within that subgenre, so a hungry audience is already ready and waiting for that book. Because the market is so ready for this new book, the book will be very successful because it was written specifically for that market.
What’s the Big Deal?
The controversy comes in because some people look at writing to market as selling out, that it’s an insult to the craft. They see it as instead of telling a story that has come to an author naturally, the author is copying another popular book and writing the book with the intention of only making money.
Here’s the thing though: I strongly disagree. Many authors want to make money from their writing, and most would love to be able to write full time. So if you can write a story that you know readers will love before you even start writing, then why not?
Chris Fox’s Book Write to Market: Deliver a Book That Sells
I want to stop here to talk about Chris Fox’s Write to Market: Deliver a Book That Sells. I read several articles on writing to market as well as Chris Fox’s book twice. Chris’s book is definitely the authority on the topic, so I’m going to focus on his book. It’s a really short, concise book with clear and easy directions to help you learn to write to market. There are even exercises to get you started.
There are a few things that I disagree with in Chris’s book, but it is great information that would honestly encourage you to start writing to market right away. The Kindle version of his book is $2.99, and the paperback is $8.99, so I truly think it’s worth buying. You can check it out here (not a sponsored link).
Another reason I want to talk about his book here is because this blog post isn’t a step by step guide on how to write to market. I don’t feel like I can do that without plagiarizing Chris, as he explains things so well and so concisely. The main content of the book is only about 90 pages, and I read the whole thing in a few hours (while annotating and being slightly distracted). My intention with this blog is to discuss what writing to market is and how it might help you. If you want to know how to do it, I think Chris is the best person to teach you that.
What Writing to Market Is Not
So I gave you a basic summary of what writing to market is previously. Now I want to quickly go over what it isn’t.
Writing to market isn’t:
Bad writing practice
Writing something you hate just to make money
Writing just to make money
Copying popular books
That’s really what you need to know. These are all the things writing to market isn’t.
The Basics of Writing to Market
The market you choose to write in is the intersection of what you love to write and what readers want to read.
For example, I enjoy (pretty exclusively) reading and writing romance novels. The only other genres I read are non-fiction books about writing and business or self-help and self-improvement books. So, if I were to start writing to market, I wouldn’t choose to write in the horror genre--no matter how much opportunity I saw there. Instead, I would do my research in the romance genre to find a hot subgenre that I am also interested in, and write a book for those readers.
Writing to market involves a lot of research into what is working in the subgenre. (The good news is you can do a ton of this research on Amazon.) You have to research the right kind of popular books; read those books that match the criteria you’re looking for; study the reviews and reviewers; and study the titles, covers, blurbs, and interiors. You have to study all of this to learn what is common and expected in the subgenre and what readers don’t want to see.
Basically, you want to study these other books so your novel uses familiar tropes of your subgenre correctly but in a new and interesting way. If you copy a popular book’s plot completely, readers won’t be happy; but if your book hits familiar tropes successfully and is unique, readers will love it and eat it up.
Write to Market explains step by step across a few chapters how to do all this research and what you should be looking for. It also explains what you don’t want to look for. There are exercises at the end of each chapter to help you through all the steps of finding your subgenre and conducting this research. All together the information seems so helpful.
Speed Is the Name of the Game
Self-published authors can write to market because they can get books out quickly. As soon as you can write and produce a great book, you can publish your book.
Hot markets can change quickly as what is popular can wane as rapidly as it surges. So you want to research and write your books quickly, and you want to be able to produce more than one book a year as well. But… you don’t want to do these things at the expense of your books’ quality.
Even if you do everything right while writing to market, your book will fail if the story is bad. You still need a great, well-edited story with an amazing cover and intriguing blurb. What changes by writing to market is that you have an eager audience waiting for your book in this subgenre.
To help speed up the process, you can always reach out to the other people you work with, such as your editor and cover designer, to make sure they are able and prepared to help you keep up with your publication schedule.
In his book, Chris discusses setting realistic goals and timelines for the books you put out, so you don’t have to compromise on the quality of your work. He explains that if you can get a little faster each time you publish, you’ll move toward being able to produce multiple books a year to market.
After learning about writing to market and reading Chris Fox’s Write to Market, I was really intrigued. I think that it offers an interesting opportunity to grow your income as an author. I definitely don’t think any author who writes to market is a sellout. If you’re writing something you love and that readers love, why shouldn’t you make a great income on it?
So if you have been thinking about writing to market or now want to try writing to market, get Chris’s book here (again, this isn’t sponsored; I just think his book is an amazing resource), and get writing! I’d love to hear all about how it works for you!