In other words: Writing to Market. I guess this is a hot-button topic. It does and doesn’t surprise me that people take sides in everything, even if sometimes there doesn’t seem to be a reason to do so.
Crap, I’m digressing. Let’s start at the beginning. This would be my tech writer persona coming out—ya gotta start with step 1 before you tell them step 2 and before that, what are the prerequisites? (If you want to read my digression, scroll to the bottom.)
As in, what I did to get where I am.
- Wrote for 26 years and got no where because I had no idea in which direction to go. Seriously. No freaking idea. Just wandered around aimlessly writing this and that. No strategy because I didn’t know what a successful strategy was.
- Talked to a buddy of mine (Gary Jonas, writer of the Jonathan Shade series of urban fantasies (link to his Amazon page)) at MileHiCon some four or five years ago and realized his strategy (go indie with a series) might work. At least it’s a path forward.
- Got my feet wet by writing a novella (Night of the Monster, which is Book 5 in Gary Jonas’s Night Marshal series) and published it on Amazon. Used this as a learning experience to figure out how to write longer form (after writing nothing but short stories for a really long time), how to get a cover together, use an editor, and so on and so forth.
- Wrote and published the first book in my own series: Nedge Neustar and the Outlaws from Mars.
- Realized writing a series for 10 – 13 year olds might not have been the best move as far as garnering a fan base out of the gate.
- Looked around for more guidance and stumbled upon Chris Fox (link to his website).
- Watched a bunch of Chris Fox’s videos (link to his YouTube channel) and bought and read a bunch of Chris Fox’s how-to books (link to his Amazon page).
- Decided that Chris Fox’s strategy was worth pursuing.
Okay, now to the steps I’m following right now.
- Read: Write to Market: Deliver a Book that Sells by Chris Fox. I’ve read a bunch of Chris’s how-to books. I like them a lot because they get to the freakin’ point. I’ve read many how-to books and so many are padded to the point of obfuscation. My guess is that some are written this way due to writer ego and others because the writer doesn’t think someone’s going to buy a book that can be read an in hour. Guess what, that’s exactly the kind of book I want. Just tell me the good bits. And that’s what Chris does.
- Based on Chris’s market book I went in search of a hungry genre/category. According to Chris: “What you need is a hungry genre that isn’t yet saturated. That’s a genre [with readers who love] to read, but isn’t being supplied with enough books.”
- Using Amazon (as Chris suggests because they’ve already done the hard work of data mining), I looked through genres in which I would enjoy writing. So that’d be Science Fiction, Fantasy, Thriller, and Mystery.
- I poked around those genres until I found categories that seemed to fit the bill (you’ll have to read Chris’s book because I’m not going to rip him off for the sake of my blog, but he goes into detail about how to find a hungry category).
How did I decide on which categories to look at? I thought about what categories I’d enjoy writing. What ideas did I already have that fit a category? What do I really really want to write (i.e., if my 10-year-old self or my teenaged self got to pick, what would they pick—I did this because I tend to overthink and I wanted what I wrote to be something fun to write)?
- I picked urban fantasy (hot market). But it’s very crowded in there. It’s a risk. And as Chris points out in his Risk Versus Reward video (free to watch, all of them are), it’s all risk; there is no magical (no pun intended) category that will ensure big sales. But at least I’m in a category that I know sells and if I write a unique enough book and market it properly, I have a chance. I’ll go into details in later posts about what will make my urban fantasy unique.
Choosing sides—do we gotta?
There are definitely sides in the “write to market” discussion.
- There are those who think, for one thing, it’s impossible to write to market because the market changes too rapidly (though I would posit that in this new world of pulp fiction, that’s no longer true if you’re writing and publishing your books within months instead of years).
- There are the “it’s a cop out” fans. You have to be true to yourself. I just read Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s blog post The Hybrid Learning Curve (not her first post to talk about writing to market, if memory serves), which if I’m inferring correctly, bashes writing to market. HOWEVER, based upon the example she gave, I’m not sure we’re talking about the same thing. Chris (not to be confused with Kris) advocates finding a hungry genre THAT YOU ENJOY WRITING. Which is what I’m doing. Kris’s example was about writing a Star Wars tie-in. To me, that’s not the same thing and writing media tie-ins (such as the Star Trek story Frank and I sold to Pocket Books) is its own category: Media tie-in, write-to-market, just write what you want baby! And I’m doing both writing to market and writing what I want to write.
Not-so-random Aside. I’m sure there are writers out there who treat it purely as a business and are writing-to-market to make money and couldn’t care less about feeding their muse. They found out they were good writers and so found a genre that was hot and wrote to it. I got no problem with that. If you have to work (and most of us do), then why is writing-as-purely-business any worse than working for a software company or working at McDonald’s? Kris suggests if you do this you’ll get burned out; of course, you can also get burned out working for a software company or working for McDonald’s.
And I’m afraid this is coming across as Kris-bashing. I think Kris is awesome and I do suspect that her definition of “writing to market” is different from mine: apples and oranges.
- Then there are those who, like myself, think “why the hell not?!” write to market.
- No doubt there are more factions than this but there you go.