Throughout my career I’ve seen various responses to the advice that declares “Write to market!” In other words “write what sells” because that is what is most important for a writer. Is this good advice or bad advice?
It is both.
Here is when it’s bad advice: When you’re made to feel you have to write a certain type of book just to break into the market, any market.
If you think, for instance, that any lame brain can write a romance novel, but hey, romance authors are millionaires, then the romance novel market is not where you need to be. You won’t respect your readers or give them your best.
So if writing to market means you’re slogging away writing a book you loathe in hopes of entertaining riches, then you’ve taken bad advice.
Then when is writing to market a good idea? It’s a good — even great — idea when you are:
- writing your best work, giving your readers your all.
- creating a timeless story.
- staying within your targeted publisher’s word count, as shown in the publisher’s guidelines or advised by your agent.
- choosing a setting to which your intended audience can relate.
- selecting a time period you are passionate about and can make come alive for your readers.
I won’t say that any and all fabulous books written by passionate authors will be published to greatness. Whether we like it or not, a wonderful 300,000-word book set in Antarctica in the year 789 is likely to find the market inhospitable. (That statement guarantees someone will sell a book fitting this description tomorrow!) The general rule is that most successful writers study current market parameters and write books that make sense for the market. Editors will often say to me, “I see something there,” when they spot writers they want to work with, even if the project itself isn’t quite right. Those authors should try again. And again, if necessary.
In my view, it’s best to write a story that excites you. Show us the result. Then let’s see what happens.
How do you write to market?
What publisher are you targeting? What is your biggest challenge in writing for them?