Should You Write For Yourself or the Market?
As a writer, do you write for enjoyment or to sell your book? I’m sure most writers do it for both reasons. But if you want to sell your book to as many as you can and become the next bestselling author, do you have to write for the market?
I’m going to tell you a harsh truth: yes, you do. If there’s no demand for your style of story, then you’ll struggle to find a buyer. Of course, it’s possible you might create a new niche that takes the world by storm, but be realistic. Giving people what they want is important, but it doesn’t mean you have to completely sell out and write something you don’t enjoy. If you don’t enjoy what you’re writing, then it’ll show through to your readers. If the idea doesn’t excite you, then you’ll have no motivation to complete the marathon work of hitting that final word count.
Do Your Research
What should you do, then? You’re a horror writer and the market doesn’t want horror. I found that out the hard way. When people asked with enthusiasm what my books are andI told them horror, their face would go blank and they uttered the words, ‘Oh, I don’t like horror’. It’s infuriating to hear, because they’ve just dismissed an entire genre. But it got me thinking about how I’m potentially marketing my books. What if the majority of people were put off by a genre they wouldn’t normally read? What do people like to read?
That’s when I started to do my market research. The first thing I did was to walk around various bookshops and browse the charts, looking at what’s in the popular sections. Most shops had a very small horror section which was dominated by Stephen King books. Tough market. The popular section seemed to be made up of thrillers and a fair number of them had ‘Girl’ in the title. What this suggested to me was a market where people wanted page turning novels and strong female characters in the central role. It’s a trend that’s been around for a while. Disagree with me? Top selling book a few years ago was Girl on a Train. Go check it out, it’s actually a really good read.
Read, Read, Read
I read a large number of thrillers by various authors and really enjoyed them. There were elements of horror within them, yet it didn’t put the readers off. When I read CJ Tudor, I realised I was onto something. Her books were full of horror, yet I could see how it had been pushed more as a thriller. Reading is important, but if you're serious about selling, then look how they're marketing them. Have a look at the big posters on the train stations; I normally see them at Victoria station.
Rewriting Can Help
The novel I was working on at the time featured a male character working out if his dead girlfriend come back to life is really her. It involved aliens and time travel and a lot of mistrust as he wondered what had entered his life. That was going to be a hard sell. Instead of giving up, I rewrote from the top, but focussed on the thriller elements of the story. I made the main character the dead woman and had her tell her story of trying to figure out who killed her and why. I instantly had a thriller but with a paranormal twist. It was a whodunnit mystery with the victim working out who her killer was. I scrapped the time travel twist, and focused on the emotional pull of the story, the elements of mystery that would keep the reader turning the pages.
Watch the market, see what’s popular and try to predict trends. Read a lot of books and identify the elements you enjoy about them.
If you’ve a novel and you’re struggling to gain interest, consider marketing it in a different way. If it’s a paranormal story with a romance, play on the romance elements. If it’s a story about the dead returning, think of a new marketing strategy in the way I did. If you have to rewrite the entire novel, so bit it. I’m giving thought to rewriting my first novel, which is a dark story about evil demons feeding on pain. If I rewrite it, I’ll put a focus more on the mystery of why a girl killed herself and what’s compelling others to do the same. By the time the reader realises they’re reading horror, I’ll hopefully have them.