These days, writers face a choice. Do we write for ourselves or for the market? Only you can answer that. And a factor in making that decision is your goal for your writing. Are you hoping to make a lot of money? Then you have to hope that what you write for yourself appeals also to that market or you have to write something for that market. Both can be rather tricky, and one can be fulfilling while the other can be frustrating.
Writing for Yourself
Not a good route if your purpose in writing is to make a living from it.
Even if you have a story idea that you love and is burning inside you and you are sure that it is absolutely, positively going to appeal to a large number of people, your book might not even get published (Harry Potter got turned down right and left).
Don’t let this stop you. Type it up. You’ll feel great relief, as I do, for having the story down on your computer, mobile device, or even scribbled on paper. As for others seeing it, be ready for a real uphill battle and little or no payback. You’ll be badgered into hiring an editor (see Types of Editing for Your Work of Fiction) before you can present it to one of the literary world gatekeepers (literary agents and traditional publishers) who, if they like it, will then badger you to make more changes until you won’t recognize what you wrote. And if you decide to go the self-publishing route, you will need to pay not just for editing, but a copyright, an ISBN, and a cover design. You will recoup these costs in about fifty years, if lucky, at least from what I have seen authors posting (one said his royalties for 2022 so far were $2.56).
Writing for the Market
This is going to take a lot of homework on your part. But it may pay off in the end.
Go to the library and ask the clerks there which books are checked out the most and what feedback if any they get from readers (at our local library a lot of newer books get returned with comments like “total garbage,” “unreadable,” “disgusting and filthy – every other word was an obscenity”). Check out sites that show what books are selling, go to the authors’ websites, and see if they have excerpts posted or go back to your local library to find those books. Bestsellers will usually be on their shelves. Check out literary agents and publisher sites to see the kind of things they are seeking (they usually just say the genre – so it’s better to actually read books that are being published and that are selling – see Publisher & Agent Fiction Genres Defined). Once you’ve done all that, come up with a smashingly good idea that is entirely your own, not a copy of anything you’ve read. Of course, there’s still no guarantee that your book will sell – or even be published.
What It Means to You
No matter which of the above you choose, if you’re a new writer, getting published and then selling is going to be tough. I say that not to be discouraging, but to give you a realistic idea of what you’re facing. Be ready. The fun part will be the writing. The rest will be sloggingly hard, dogged work.
For one thing, Amazon is the elephant in the room when it comes to selling books, and they have some cards stacked against newbie writers.
One writer said that Amazon promotes only things that are selling and has lots of positive reviews, which is totally backwards from what was done when I worked in marketing for a large retail company. The slow movers got the heaviest promotion (the fast movers practically sold themselves, so no need to make the effort). Amazon instead practically guarantees that new stuff is buried by requiring lots of positive reviews to get promoted. Be ready to spend lots of time trying to garner enough reviews to meet this criteria (and losing friends and alienating family in the process). You have two methods, as far as I can tell:
- practically begging people who have read your book to post a review
- giving away enough free copies to fill a library shelf in the hope that enough readers will post a review
Hopefully, in either case the review will be a positive one.
A writer said that when he offers free copies of his books, people download them and post nasty reviews that show they didn’t even read the book (possibly competing writers trying to sink his book). Adding insult to injury, many e-books are returned for a refund after being read.
Also be ready for libraries to reject your book (some will, others will accept it, but be persistent).
Don’t let all this get you down. Just approach writing as a personal experience. Write for yourself. You’ll feel more satisfied and enjoy the process more. And frankly, if you get the book published, avoid the pressure being applied these days to give out free copies or severely limit the number of free copies to five or ten. We have to face it, the system has been set up for people to abuse, and they do.
Of course, the choice is all yours.
Hope you found this helpful and have been inspired to start and/or continue writing!
Please check out my works in progress (WIPs). And thanks for reading.