Writer’s Journal: Writing to Market

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You may be aware that I, along with my two best writer friends, have begun doing Facebook Live broadcasts on Saturdays in a group we have, called Longbourn Literary Society. One of the topics we canvassed this past Saturday was writing to market. In case you didn’t see our video (it’s posted on YouTube here), I thought I’d explore it on my blog, as well.

The term “writing to market” leaves a bad taste in many people’s mouths. I don’t know all of their reasons, but the one I have heard most often is that you’re mercenary and only “in it for the money” if you’re writing to market. In the JAFF community, I’ve heard it put that writing to market is making JAFF a “cash cow.” To which, I always reply, “Moo.” But I digress.

Another argument that is sometimes made is that you should write what you love, even if it doesn’t sell. Maybe that’s part of where the mercenary thing comes from. There’s this idea that you should only write for the artistic/creative value and selling your “art” is crass. Wouldn’t be the first time I was accused of that; I doubt it’s the last.

I also suspect assumptions are being made about the quality of a book that’s written to market. I’m sure the “don’t write to market” folks have other reasons, some noble and some not so much, but I don’t have enough facts about it to speculate, so I won’t.

You might wonder, “Are you mercenary? Why else would you do this? Don’t you love your genre?” I do love my genre, very much so. Though I have begun thinking about also writing non-JAFF, I can’t imagine giving it up entirely. I love Darcy and Elizabeth, and I adore putting them in new situations and seeing how they handle them. I also like the challenge of keeping them in character, in these new situations, though admittedly, they often go their own way. Maybe they no longer enjoy being full of pride and prejudice? 😉 (See what I did there? *giggle*)

Here’s a view on writing to market that we discussed in our broadcast, that was pretty new to me, but makes total sense: by writing to market, I’m giving readers what they want. Whoa. Stop the presses! Did you say, “Giving readers what they want?” Why, yes. Yes, I did. If I want people to read my books, I have to write books they want to read. Here’s an example:

I do not enjoy “mashups.” If I wanted to read about the characters from Mansfield Park, I’d look for books that contain those characters. Keep Fanny, Edmund, et al. out of my Pride & Prejudice variation, please. As a reader, I want to read only Darcy and Elizabeth. A writer who chooses to please me (write to my market, so to speak) will write books whose main characters are Darcy and Elizabeth, with secondary characters that are from Pride & Prejudice or are original characters.

I’ve said before that the large majority of JAFF readers want Regency settings and only Regency settings. No Old West, and for heaven’s sake, NO MODERNS. So, though I love my Pride & Prejudice & Racecars series, and adored Darcy’s Bodie Mine, I will stick to Regencies for a while. It’s no great hardship; I love Darcy and Lizzy and telling their stories. I’m writing to market, and when I, as an authorpreneur, have enough savings built up in the bank, I’ll write the next Racecars book.

Oh, now we come back to Money. I can’t forget the quality thing, but Money demands his say now, and since I’m a bit like Mr. Bennet, I’ll let him have his way.

I am an “authorpreneur.” I am an author but also a businesswoman. An entrepreneur. I write, and I run a business. They go hand in hand. Even if I had not gone full-time, I’d still be running a business. Writing has not been a hobby for me since I added a cover to I Promise To … and uploaded it to Amazon, in 2014. As a businesswoman, and a full-time writer, I have bills to pay. I need groceries, the truck needs brakes, and the dogs need kept in treats, the spoiled things. So, as I wrote about in a post last year, choices must be made. I can still write my racing books and Westerns, but they must be paced out, because I know few readers will buy them. No writing expert has ever told anyone to write in a genre they hate, just to make money. Why would I have left a job that made me miserable to do a different job that made me miserable? That makes no sense.

Well, now that Money has been sated, I’ll address the last issue, and that is quality. Yes, you can write to market, and write quickly, and write a good-quality book. I don’t know how much more plainly to say it. Even if the first draft is junk, there are these people called beta readers and editors, and both of them exist to help you make your book the best it can be. Especially in the JAFF market today, with its innumerable choices, books with poor or no editing and/or proofreading are not going to rise to the top unless the storyline is brilliant. Granted, there are JAFF readers who are voracious and willing to forgive any and all mistakes, but there are plenty of readers who prefer well-edited books.

So, if you are a writer and weren’t sure what to think about writing to market, remember that you are helping your readers by doing it. Keep up the good work! 🙂

Come back next Wednesday for another peek into my journal! <3

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