Writing Success Isn’t up to You
Writing Success Isn’t up to You

Writing Success Isn’t up to You

You can do everything right: write a good book, get a good cover, write a great blurb and description, create good ads, run promotions with trustworthy promotion sites — and if your writing doesn’t connect with readers, your book won’t sell.

And you have to be okay with that.

Because that’s the business. Readers make the business go. Without readers, there are no writers. They are so important, I call writing a collaborative act between the writer and each individual reader. And you can’t force them to like your book. You can help them find it. You can encourage them to buy it. But you can’t make them like it.

That’s why I say to only write what you love. Now, I say this with the full knowledge that at least one of my partners on this site will call me an idiot for saying so. He won’t put a word down on paper or screen until he has fully researched every possible market, sub-market, sub-sub market, cross-market, and combo market out there and decided which is the most profitable. Then, and only then, when he has identified the genre a series of books will have the best chance at success in, will he begin to write.

And he’s right to do so. And yet…

It takes a lot of work to write a book. Even more to write a series of them. Do I really want to do all that work at something I don’t love and have there still be a chance at failure, even if admittedly smaller in the better researched markets?

For me, the answer is no. For him, a firm yes. “That’s why it’s called work.”

And yet…

There is no wrong answer to this question. (I hear him over my shoulder even now, though he lives a thousand miles away: “There is a wrong answer. It’s your answer. Do your market research. Don’t be an idiot.”) And though he makes some good points, it is still a question that every writer needs to answer for themselves: Do I write only what I love to write even though it has little chance of selling? Or do I write only what has the best chance of selling, no matter how I feel about it personally?

This is a bit of a trick question. Because nothing in the arts is as binary as that. There are a ton of other factors in play:

  • Most experts agree that it is difficult to write effectively in a genre without deep knowledge of it. Do you have deep knowledge of the genre you’re planning to write in? If you love it, the answer is inevitably yes. If you don’t, probably not so much.
  • Can you afford spending the time it takes to write a 5 or 7 book series if it doesn’t succeed? The more you need the money, the less chances you should take with a series. Market research and genre identification increases your series chance of success. But you may write faster on a project you’re in love with.
  • Are you established in a genre already? If you’re already a successful mystery writer, do you want to switch to fantasy ? What if you love it? What if it just seems super profitable?
  • Is this all just shiny new project syndrome? Are you in the middle of a series you should really finish before starting something new?

The sheer amount of self-examination a writer needs to function properly is only a hairsbreadth away from inveterate navel-gazing, but these questions and many others need to be asked and answered. Market research or no, we can all agree that you must “know thyself” before you can know what to write.

And then wait and see if anyone else likes it. I hope they do.