Writers like to see their work published. A few writers exist who merely write for pleasure and do not care much about publication, at least not initially. Most writers do want to be published, however, whether they write short stories, poems, novels, or something else. Not all care about making money from their work, but the majority would like to see that happen as well. Yet others go all the way and set the goal of making a living from their writing. If making money is indeed your goal, then there are two approaches to writing. The first is to write what you want, from your heart, then seek a market for it.
The second approach looks at the markets first, perhaps at the most promising ones, then the writer attempts to write for one of those markets. A number of writers go for the romance and fantasy markets because those are currently lucrative ones. Here’s a reference on romance statistics, in case you’re interested.
While the approach of writing for a particular market may seem logical, it assumes that the writer is first capable of producing material suitable and satisfactory for that market. Unfortunately, not every good writer is capable of writing in every market. New writers, unfortunately, may dive in to writing for a particular market but ne unaware that his or her writing is not yet up to par. This failure is what results in mediocre writing that won’t sell in any market, let alone the one the writer is attempting to write for. But that’s a different problem, and not one I intend to address here. For the rest of this discussion, I’ll assume competent writing in the chosen market.
One of my blogging heroines, Kris Rusch, has some strong opinions about this topic of writing to market. Please read her two articles below to understand how this may be okay in the short term, but is not a good strategy for new writers—and is generally a bad strategy for all writers.
As Kris says, publishers publish what they believe will sell and will earn money for them, and they do little or no research to validate their views on which markets are truly viable. They often ignore new, innovative work simply because they lack vision to open new markets. All they see are the ones currently out there. As I’ve mentioned many times before, let’s not forget how close Harry Potter came to not being published.
Kris also points out that writing to the market may ignore a writer’s imagination and true strengths. Again, Harry Potter was innovative, but publishers didn’t see that. They only saw it in hindsight.
If I worked at it, I might be able to write a decent conventional romance (under a pen name because romance readers generally distrust male writers of the genre) and make some money with it. I do put romance elements in some of my writing, but romance is NOT my strength. Even if I could write one, I’m not sure I would enjoy writing a conventional romance, not even a vampire or werewolf romance, which would be closer to some of my writing interests. I’d rather write what I love to write rather than writing to a market I don’t enjoy writing in.
One other problem with writing to market, which Kris Rusch also points out, is that if the particular market shows declining sales (and they don’t care why, just that sales are declining), then you could be left with something unsaleable to a publisher until something changes (which might not happen for many years).
Further, when a new market opens up and you rush to enter it, don’t forget that you’ll be competing with others trying the same thing. If you don’t get in early or your work isn’t polished well enough, you’ll be left out—unless yu self-publish (which still scares even some seasoned writers).
Ultimately, the question becomes this: What are you going to do with your own writing? Will you try to copy success or will you reach out with something innovative and set your own trend?
We’re not saying that you should not write to market, but if you do choose to, be aware of the risks and don’t limit your options.