When Writing to Market Doesn’t Go as Planned

Anyone who has followed the blog knows I’m switching gears and moving from 3rd person past contemporary romance to 1st person present billionaire romance in an attempt to write more toward what’s selling right now. The change was easier than I thought it would be–this coming from a self-declared hater of 1st person present novels.

I made the change thinking readers would be easier to find. I wouldn’t say that switching to billionaire romance was trying to catch a trend because billionaire romance has been around since 2011 when EL James made Christian Grey a household name. Billionaire romance has been in the spotlight for over a decade, and only now according to Alex Newton of K-lytics, is reader demand for the subgenre tapering off. (It seems due to COVID every romance writer has decided to move to billionaire romance–I can’t blame them for doing what I did–and the market is, unfortunately, saturated.)

Lately I’ve been putting my KU subscription to good use and reading some of the top billionaire romances on Kindle. With a sinking heart I’ve come to the sad realization that my books don’t sound like them. For one, my characters are at least a decade older. My Stella and Zane series I have on the back burner are more with what’s selling now–he’s 31 through most of the series and she’s 27–which is still about five years older than the average for the female MC. In this new series I’m working on, the characters in the first book are a lot older than the average I’ve come across: Colt is 37 and Elayna is 35. Not only are they older, they act like it.

If you’re reading billionaire romance, it stands to reason there’s going to be a billionaire in there somewhere, probably the male MC, and you’d hope he’s smarter than the average toaster. The heroine will be unlike any woman’s he’s ever met before. He’s captivated by her vulnerability and her fresh outlook of the world. At least, that’s what you would think picking up a book like that. In the books I’m reading now–we barely read the hero’s POV, it’s mostly the heroine, and she’s immature, makes terrible choices, and overall is unlikeable.

I read these female characters and wonder why a man with his resources and good looks would choose a woman who throws temper tantrums and is irrational to the point where you wish her parents would have spanked her as a child for being so insolent. Of course, that turns into the hero’s job–making her grow the fuck up.

Maybe it’s my age, maybe I just don’t have the patience for characters that aren’t likable, maybe I’ve already raised my children and don’t care for characters half my age, but it makes me worried because my characters do not fit in. And I wonder what I’m going to do with that.

Did these authors do market research? Are they writing heroines they know readers adore? I look at a book’s profile on Goodreads and it has over a thousand reviews and most of them are positive. What is carrying this book? The sex scenes? The sexy billionaire? The cover? Are the readers that much younger than me they identify with the heroine and her constantly snarky attitude? There’s so much eye-rolling going on that my own eyes get sore just reading it.

The problem is, even if I had read these books before I started writing, I’m not sure I’m capable of writing such immature characters. My characters act grown up because I want them to be. Because I am. They’re professionals. They’re tackling life’s problems while also navigating falling in love. Yeah, some of their problems are more over the top than mine will ever be (corporate espionage! murder! kidnapping!) but if I wanted to write quiet stories I would have stuck to my small town romances.

I keep going back to Ana and Christian. Yes, she was young when they met–just graduated from college, and the scene where she gets drunk and throws up all over Christian’s shoes is on par with the books I’m reading now. But she grew up and it didn’t take her that long, either. She found a job in her field. When Christian took her into “his world” she didn’t embarrass him. Of course, I didn’t read the books–my take is from the movies, and that could make the world of difference, too. I read the Crossfire Series by Sylvia Day, and while Eva made some mistakes, her mother, married to a multi-millioniare herself, was there to guide her into Gideon’s world. Eva didn’t want to embarrass Gideon, she wanted to be an asset. The women I’ve been reading are so against wanting their men for their money (a popular trope in billionaire romance–the heroine isn’t impressed by the money) that they forget he’s more than his bank account. He has a reputation to uphold. He’s human–with feelings.

Trying to write to market, I completely missed the mark. A lot of authors are against writing to market, and you might be saying, so what if I did miss what I was aiming for? You can only truly say that if you honestly don’t care if people read your books. I’ve published for four years and fought tooth and nail for every reader. I’ll always fight to find new readers, but being able to get picked up by the Amazon wave and riding it for a while would be nice, too.

So what am I going to do with a book or series that isn’t quite right? Publish it anyway. Write my reader magnet with the same sophisticated characters that I’ll always write in the voice and style I’ve honed for the past four years and hope the readers who sign up for my newsletter to grab that freebie like my style and stick around to purchase books going forward.

It’s all any author can do–hope that readers like their style enough to stick around.

It’s tough to pick apart another author’s work–and it’s why I don’t leave book reviews, negative or otherwise. I could list every stupid thing I hate about the book I’m reading now, but what would that get me? Besides, I’m obviously an outlier, and all that tells me, and all that should tell you, is that when you’re reading an author you don’t like, you aren’t their target audience. The authors on the top 50 of billionaire romance–they don’t care I don’t like their books. They’re doing just fine without me.

I’m glad I’m doing market research–it will help me when I’m ready to publish and I can create a list of adjectives that will describe my books. Mature. Elegant. Professional. Down to earth. Intelligent. I don’t know about you, but I find intelligence extremely sexy.

I just need to find readers who think that, too.

If you want to know more about selling books not written to market, Lindsay, Jo, and Andrea recently recorded two podcast episodes about that very thing, and you can listen to them here.

Thanks for reading!

12 thoughts on “When Writing to Market Doesn’t Go as Planned

  1. The trending books that you’ve described… I’ve seen them on Wattpad. I think you may have heard of it. Some start as fan fictions and will be published as original stories. Some will be influenced by the stories that they read. “After” is a book that came out through Wattpad and later made into a movie. I’ve heard so many readers and writers complain about the immaturity and selfishness being glorified. I haven’t personally read them, so I cannot say myself. But yea, those are the trending stories now.

    Want to hit the right audience? Make your MC the meanest, most selfish, spoilt kid who takes everything for granted, her/his love interest a rich snob who bows to no one except your MC, and you’re gold.

    Of course, I don’t recommend you do this. It wouldn’t be you talking but someone else in your name.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m glad you made this post. It’s disheartening to read only because you’ve done so much to make this change; you’ve gone to a POV you don’t enjoy reading/writing, and for what? That said, there ARE people out there that do enjoy the mature, sophisticated, and down to earth characters. The problem is how to find them in a sea of junk? Obviously, I am light years away from where you are right now in regards to experience, but I say keep writing as close to market as you can, but without losing yourself in the process. Kinda like you said in your post.

    I’ve matured enough in my writing to not cast off with the idea of “who cares if anyone reads my book,” but at the end of the day, if you start going outside of who you are as a writer, what’s the point anyway? Because then you start to resent writing, you begin to dislike doing it, and you don’t want to put yourself in that position all because there are a bunch of readers out there who haven’t quite gotten out of the high school mindset.

    Real grown ups don’t outwardly roll their eyes that much, hopefully someday more people will get into reading at their maturity level vs sticking to what’s popular right now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve actually come to enjoy writing first person present and to keep in that mindset, it’s all I read right now, too. Hence the research, I suppose. If I thought I would hate it i the long run, I never would have started. Readers can tell if you had a hard time writing because they’ll have a hard time reading. I would never want my books to come across such as that. If I really hated writing 1st person present, then I wouldn’t do it. As much as I love writing to market, and think that ISN’T a sellout, writing a genre or a POV that you can’t stand just to make some money definitely would be to me. Thanks for reading!


  3. I’ve never been a fan of writing-to-market. I feel it stifles true creativity and leads to tropiness… but that’s just me. 😀

    As for your older characters, I’d make that a key selling pitch. I see posts regularly on social media from readers looking for older characters, and I know I personally backed away from romance and went back to suspense for a while because I was tired of twenty-two-year-olds. Sexy doesn’t stop at thirty… go for it! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! I write romance, so the tropes sell. I don’t shy away from the tropes, but i think authors fall into unintentionally giving their characters negative characteristics in an attempt to make them less flat. The characters that display such immaturity, I’ve noticed, don’t have well thought out backstories, and that can make the world of difference to making your character a real person. Thanks for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

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