Writing to Market vs. Chasing a Trend

I talk about writing to market all the time. To the indie writing community, there seems to be something fundamentally wrong with a writer who sits down at their computer, looks at their WIP, and says, “Who would want to read this besides me?”

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As James Scott Bell phrases in his book Just Write: “Without readers, a writer has no career.” Of course, writers write for more than just money, but if you’re reading my blog, you probably want to sell some of your stories. And that means writing what people like to read.

Writing to market is primarily writing popular commercial fiction. Nora Roberts, Stephen King, Dan Brown. Tom Clancy. They sell books by the truckload. Every book they write ends up selling thousands of copies. There are other writers who write commercial fiction too, like most big romance writers who don’t always make the list: Lisa Marie Rice, Susan Mallery, Kristin Higgins, Brenda Novak, Laurell K Hamilton. They write consistently what people consistently read. They don’t vary because something is popular. In other words, they don’t chase trends.

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It used to be a writer was warned off chasing a trend because traditional publishing moves too slowly for that to work.

When Twilight was popular, if you wanted to jump onto Stephenie Meyer’s coattails with a traditional book deal, it would have been almost impossible. First, you have to actually write the book. Then you have to find an agent, and she has to shop you around. If she succeeds, then your book is stuck in the publishing process that moves slower than my kids getting dressed for school.

Sometimes movies can draw out the popularity of a trend. Like with 50 Shades of Grey, there were a couple authors I know of that managed to get in on the action, though if it was just timing, or a thought out plan, I guess we won’t know. Sylvia Day wrote The Crossfire quartet, and Jennifer Probst lucked out with the Marriage Bargain. (An experience she shares in Write Naked.)

And sometimes that can backfire. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who was glad when Fifty Shades Freed, the movie, was released, and that trilogy could be put to bed. Literally and figuratively. If people are sick of a trend, it’s far too late to try to get in on it.

But with self-publishing, if you can crank out a book in 3 months, and publish it, you could very well get in on a trend before it dies.

Is that a bad thing? I’m going to express an unpopular opinion and say no. Why not? If grip – lit is still going strong and you can write a good book in that vein, why not try?

Trend chasing isn’t evil. But I say that with a couple of caveats.

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1. You can’t build an audience that way. The writers who make it, or seem to be making a go of it, remain consistent in their writing. If you want to chase a trend and can spare the time, maybe write in a pen name.

2. You still have to love what you’re writing. People think when a writer writes to market they don’t love their work, that they are just chasing the almighty dollar. To find a foothold in the industry you need an extensive backlist, and the only way to create one is to stick with it for however long that takes. And that means loving what you write. If you love the trend you’re chasing by all means. But if werewolves are trending, and you hate them, don’t bother. Which leads me to a third caveat:

3. You need to be familiar with the genre so you can hit all the tropes. If werewolves are trending, but you’ve never read them, don’t think you can write them. You’ll disappoint your readers who do know the genre and will be upset they spent their money on your book.

So, chasing a trend isn’t a cop-out. If you can plan it into your writing schedule, if you have a great idea that could potentially be published before the trend fades, why not? What is trending now? It seems like women’s fiction, mystery-driven domestic (family/wife/children) pop up on the list.

As for something sweeping the world by storm, such as Twilight, The Hunger Games, or The Girl on the Train, sometimes all it boils down to is the lucky timing of when the book was published. Ruth Ware, who wrote The Woman in Cabin 10 and The Lying Game, seems to be doing okay. But I wouldn’t accuse her of chasing a trend. Perhaps just lucky, because she’d written a few books before The Woman in Cabin 10 made her a household name.

There is a difference between writing to market and chasing a trend. I write straight up contemporary romance. Tropes, plots, and characters like those will never date themselves. For now, I’m not interested in chasing trends. Mainly because if I missed the mark, that’s time wasted on a book that won’t sell. I’d rather invest my time in books for my backlist that will never go out of style.

You are in control of your own career. Chase a trend, write to market, write that thing that’s weird, but you can’t stop thinking about it. We all have different variations of success, and you have to be honest with yourself about what those are. Only you know what will make you happy. Good luck!

 

Happy writing Vania Margene

 

Why authors shouldn’t chase trends

On Chasing Trends…. And why you should just write the book you want to write…

 

Your First Novel–Book Review

Writing a novel is daunting. Not only because of how long (many words) a novel can typically be, but because of all the components a novel contains. And if your novel is missing any of those pieces, a reader may not enjoy it which could translate into a poor review. Worse, if you plan to query, if your novel doesn’t have all the parts an agent or acquiring editor is looking for, your book will never be picked up.your first novel

One of the biggest problems a writer can face is writing a book and not knowing their novel is missing pieces.

I have never queried any of my books, and may not ever query anything I write, but I still found Your First Novel to be a very informative read. Written by an agent and a published author, (Ann Rittenberg, Laura Whitcomb, Camille Goldin, Dennis Lehane (Foreword), Your First Novel walks you through the writing and querying process.

The first half of the book explains what a good book needs to contain in order to catch the eye of an agent or editor. If you don’t plan on querying, that’s okay. Your first book still needs to have all those elements or you may find your book has flat characters, not enough of a plot, or both. Remember–your agent wants what a reader wants–a good story told well.

Part two contains information about what to do with your book once it’s written. There are chapters such as What a Literary Agent Does–and Why, and Before You Submit your Manuscript.The authors of this book offer information a writer could find useful if querying for the first time–or helpful hints on what to fix if querying didn’t go how an author envisioned (rejection letters).

There are pieces of advice a writer may take offense to, such as on page 163 of the paperback. The first couple sentences of Chapter 12 read, “As any seasoned novelist will tell you, most first novels are not actually first novels. The real first novel is locked away in a drawer, never to see the light of day.” Or on page 166, “Agents and editors should not be your first readers.”

This book isn’t for a writer with delicate sensibilities or are too precious about their work. The authors of this book want to help you find an agent and get your book published, or self-publish the best book you can. Sometimes that’s more than holding your hand and giving you advice. Sometimes that’s giving you a kick in the ass and telling you to do the work.

Writing a book and signing an agent takes a lot of time and hard work. One of my favorite parts of this book are all the resources it contains. From websites and online articles to more books, there is always something to learn about writing/craft and the publishing industry, and the authors of this book give you a long list to start work through. Keep your ear to the ground–you never know what you’ll hear about that could help your career.

Will this book help you write the best book you can and land an agent? I don’t know, but I do know it’s a good place to start.

Buy Your First Novel on Amazon here.

Other articles on querying:

How Do You Know When You’re Ready to Submit?
By: Chuck Sambuchino

How Do You Know When Your Book is Ready?
BY KRISTINA ADAMS

Are You Ready to Contact an Agent? Take This Short Quiz and Find Out