Write What Will Sell
I know, I know…
Everyone who writes for a living should know this, but it seems everyday there are examples proving that’s not the case.
At this point, we do need to draw a distinction between the types of writers as the industry sees things. Generally speaking, there are two kinds:
(1) First we have the professionals. These are people who are trying to make a living writing, though they may not be able to quit that day job yet. They are published by a real publisher—usually more than one—and they work at the craft to get better and widen their markets. Some are also self-published. In the industry, we call these people “Authors”.
(2) Second are the people who play with writing. The vast majority are not published, though many will self-publish through one outlet or another. They have a “real job” and do not count on their works for income. Most of these people don’t worry too much about the market or improving their skills or their works. In the industry, these are “Writers”.
Personally, I never cared a lot for the industry’s separation of Authors and Writers. But it doesn’t matter what I like. That’s the way it is.
Also, if you actually do write for the fun of it, then none of this applies to you. But don’t try to distract the people who want to write for a living with comments about how everyone should be like you. In other words, not everyone is able or happy making four or five figures a year and having a few hundred fans.
To be blunt, the Writers can stop reading now. The rest of this doesn’t matter to you.
You Authors, keep reading…we’re gonna make some money today.
I can assure you there is at least one person reading this who has no idea why it is important to write what will sell. For the rest of you, skip the next paragraph…
You can write the best book on the planet, but if no one buys it, you’re going broke. Everyone points at the success of JK Rowling, but imagine for a moment that no one wanted to hear about a bunch of wizard-trainees…Jo would still be broke.
OK, everyone back with me?
Watch the market…what books are selling? What genres are hot? What are other authors writing? What are the publishers buying? What are the bookstores pushing?
These are the areas where you need to work, too. Ride the wave, so to speak, and reap the rewards.
If you were like the Writers, you could say, “I write what I want to write, and the readers can go to hell if they don’t like it.” Just don’t quit that day job, because you’ll starve to death.
But you are an Author, not a Writer. The difference is having a four or five digit income instead of a seven or eight figure income.
And don’t think for a moment that you—or anyone else—has any clue how much other authors make. Authors are privately held corporations and do not report incomes to anyone. A few will give out vague—often fictitious—numbers when asked. The bottom line is that how much I make is none of your damn business.
Anyway, you look at what is selling and put your own unique twist to the story, your voice comes through, and your books will stand out.
In other words, you do not have to write stories that are far outside of the current hot spots in order to get noticed. You just have to make the hot spot fit your way of doing things.
Readers fall into a few very well defined groups…
(1) You have readers who like you and your stories and will buy a dog turd if it has your name on the front and picture on the back. Maybe 0.0001% of all readers are here.
(2) You have readers who hate you and wouldn’t buy your books if God ordered them to. Again, this group might be 0.0001% of all readers.
(3) But most readers have never heard of you or your books. This group is—for most authors—better than 99.9998% of all readers.
Just to make it clear, 99.9998% or more of the readers have no clue who you are and they buy books based on what is hot in the market right now.
So, you write a new book, and it’s something that isn’t on the hot sheet now. The readers in group 1 above will buy it, but that’s about it.
Now, you write a book that is something that is hot at the moment. The group 1 readers will still buy it, but so will at least a few people in group 3.
No, the readers in group 2 will never buy your books. Fuck ’em.
But with the hot topic book, you pick up some sales. Also, some people from group 3 will fall in love with you and move over to group 1.
This is a win-win scenario.
Figuring out the market can be a lot of work, and it always takes a lot of time. This is where having a good partner can be invaluable.
An agent might—maybe—provide you some feedback and advice. Most won’t.
A representative will always tell you what’s happening in the market. As soon as you turn in a manuscript, they will let you know what’s cooking right now and for the next few months so you can adjust your next book accordingly.
Just a note here…a REALLY good personal assistant will be able to do a lot of this, too. But the good ones don’t come cheap. You’re looking at probably $100,000 a year if not more.
The agent will leave you to fend for yourself, but the representative will help you so you can do what you do best…