One of the most disheartening things writers tend to do is question themselves. Debate whether to give it up because they aren't doing well. Me included. But then, I have to ask myself, what's the standard measure I'm using for doing well? Book Sales? Notoriety? Influence? Publishing offers? What defines the success of my writing? Or anyone else's?
What I'm getting at, is today's writers are faced with a very difficult decision in how they place their books in the marketplace. And unfortunately, when it comes to books, it's all about the marketing, not the writing, not the reading, not the printing, just marketing. Targeting the audience based on what they say they want to read and what they then actually pay for. When they go online to search for a book, every online retailer tracks their search data. Then they track their purchases and downloads and online reading habits. Then publishing houses and agents buy that data and use it to determine what will sell. So does that mean we have to tailor our writing to meet their predetermined qualifications for a bestselling book?
On the one hand, no, please don't. If you write because you love it and you have a story to tell, then tell that story. Write your novel and speak your truth and readers' search parameters be damned.
On the other hand, yes, please do, if your goal is to be a bestselling author, regardless of all else, then you must write what the market and the reader demands.
Perhaps it's a bit of both, if you're lucky.
Writing for money isn't the same as writing for the sake of writing. So choose what you do based on what your goal is. Mine is to get my stories out of my head. A well known creative recently told me they wished they could do that more often. Published authors are in fact a commodity for the agents and publishers that depend on them. Their livelihood depends upon the sale of each book. It's a commercial enterprise and the bottom line is success is spelled in dollar signs. And it's certainly a trade-off many writers will accept! I think if you are young and building your career writing for the market is a must.
I am no longer young and eager to be the next Jane Austen. Instead, I'm fortunate enough to have already had a career, my kids are grown and nobody depends on me economically. So this is my new incarnation. I have no expectation of hitting the big time, so instead, I get the thrill of writing what I want. There's no real money in that. But that's my trade-off. I write for the sake of writing and it makes me happy. Personally I think it makes for a better read too.
In about an hour, my first published paperback will arrive. I will lovingly put it on my shelf, and take it down to read it probably daily for the first month. Because I've waited my whole life to see one of my novels in print. I made that happen. So for me, one mission accomplished, on to the next.
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