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Write What You Know, or Write What Sells?

Discussion in 'Marketing' started by neodoering, Mar 2, 2017.

  1. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    Let's tone it down Russ.

    We all know that it's hard - and unlikely - to write in a way that actually does pay the rent or feed the family.
  2. Um...Ouch...

    Ima leave this discussion, if it's going to get personal.
  3. Insolent Lad

    Insolent Lad Maester

    I spent a couple decades writing magazine articles, mostly on fitness and bodybuilding. That was a subject that interested me so it was both writing what I know and writing what sold — but it was still a job, to pay the bills and nothing more. Now I try to write things that actually mean something to me and, with any luck, to someone else, an essentially different endeavor. Yes, I would hope they sell but, as W.H. Auden put it (more or less), I write for people who like my work. That's my target audience. :)
    FifthView likes this.
  4. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    It actually does. Not having been in it yourself, can you really attest to knowing what it takes to sell your fiction for a living? It's so, so much harder than anyone realizes. Sometimes writers are able to find their audience right out of the gate. Most of the time—no. Writing what you love is best intercepted by what readers love and it takes time to figure that out. What's really important is learning story structure above all else. If you can get good at that, like, really good, understand what readers want out of that particular genre (and what you want is different than what they want because you are not your readers), then your chances of writing what you love and making a living increase.

    But it takes a strong back list for most authors of work that people are willing to pay money for, and a serious adjustment of your writing if what you're publishing isn't hitting the mark. To you, Dragon, this may not be something you're willing to do because you're only 16. As an adult responsible for a family, my focus is different. I do write for money but I love what I write. I just think it comes across as harsh and judgmental when the attitude is put out there that writing for a living means you're a hack. It's offensive to someone (like me and many other authors) who get up at the crack of dawn to write for hours, take care of our kids and husbands and wives, sometimes have a day job, etc. At the risk of getting personal, my husband has been undergoing a major health crisis in where I thought I was seriously going to lose him. It's been a terrifying couple of months that I've still needed to write through or else bills won't get paid. Have you any idea how stressful that is? So when I read comments like "if you write for a living you're giving up your art" (paraphrasing here), it's hurtful and makes me not want to participate in these discussions.

    Because writing for a living is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. I'm at the mercy of my readers in order to take care of my family. You absolutely BET I'm going to give them what they want and anyone saying that I don't write artistically can take a hike. It's so disrespectful and I believe that's why emotions run high when these sorts of conversations come up. Just because one writer puts in hobby time to write their book doesn't mean they are any better/less than a writer who produces more, because I could easily say the same "if you don't get up at the crack of dawn to write you're wasting your time in this profession." That would be mean, right?

    I wanted to add that for an Indie, there's much more than just the writing. There's building a mailing list, often more than one (right now I'm running 3). There's commissioning covers, editing, formatting, marketing, building relationships with your audience and other authors, booking promotions, getting involved in cross-promotions, keeping up with the changes in the industry, etc. ALL of that I do on a regular basis on top of my writing. So see? It's not easy. There's a grip of stuff to do if you want to get paid. Not to mention keywords and the study of your competition and reading, which is so important. Writing for a living means you'll be marketing and that takes up a huge chunk of time + family. It's not ez-pz the way some might think.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 3, 2017
  5. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

  6. Annoyingkid

    Annoyingkid Banned

    I write what I know. I know romance sells, but I don't "know" it, really don't like writing it, and so what I do have either isn't there or very minimalistic. Left up to the audience. I've heard writers say similar things about action.
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2017
  7. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    What’s your point as a creative, an artist; an author?


    A purveyor of the written word?


    Why are you here, what is your purpose, your goal as a writer?


    What do you hope to achieve?


    Yes. This pretty much sums it up for me.
  8. And I am going to change the analysis to illustrate a point.

    What’s your point as a creative, an artist; an author?

    1. To write for fun.
    2. Get paid, eventually.

    This means that I can write for love because I have a job that gets me paid, and I get a lot of writing done in my job too.

    So, I ask what is your goal? If its get paid and get paid now, write to market primarily. If you don't need dem benjamins, then write what you love.
  9. I definitely don't intend to disparage those who make their living writing books; if you do it, great, if you love doing it, even better.

    However, I know that for me personally, thinking of writing as a job only, even if a job I really enjoy, would be...I'm not sure of the correct way to word this. Unfulfilling? Writing is an entire identity for me. It's the way my inner self is fully realized; as freaking hokey as that probably sounds...that's the truth. I do think of myself as an artist; I do think I have an obligation to the craft, to myself, to my ideas...of sincerity at least.

    Call me naive; do it. I don't care. All this is important to me personally.

    I'm not saying that making a living writing can't be fulfilling. Or that y'all who do aren't fulfilled. It's a very personal thing as far as I can tell...my goals are different than others'. But if (if) writing as a job and writing as an art really can't be reconciled (for me anyway)...

    At the end of the day, I'm going to write the stories that excite me and that I enjoy. I believe their readers are out there. (Otherwise I am rather alone in the world. I write all the things I wish other people would write because I would like to read them.) If y'all disagree, and think that my weird and impossible-to-categorize stories do NOT have an audience and I can NOT make a living writing them, or sell them at all...well, I'll keep looking, and I'll keep writing.

    But, I'm not sure of anyone's point here. One moment, I hear that writing for a living does not require compromising the ideas you love. Next moment, I hear that the kinds of stories you CAN make a living from are narrowly defined. Being a writer of really weird, quirky stuff that doesn't fit into any categories that exist, perhaps I am the only one who can see a serious contradiction in this?

    Is there anything WRONG with my stories for being what seems like hard sells? I've heard you say that you should be attentive to what your audience wants, and I agree for the most part. But, if my stories are not much like anything that's popular, is that a flaw in them, then? Is the reason no one has written what I write simply that no one likes it?

    That's a depressing thought. But I don't really think it's true.

    I love my stories. Making money off them would be nice. But (using this example since at least some of the things I write probably fit best into the YA category) if that means throwing in 100 pages of angst over two hot boys, because that's what people expect of YA...I'll have to figure something else out. I certainly hope it doesn't. Geez. I hate love triangles.
  10. (Also, I'm not calling any of you 'not artists'...I think that's something you define for yourself. If you think of your work as art, you'd be an artist, and I can't judge either way.)
  11. Annoyingkid

    Annoyingkid Banned

    If I was just writing to get paid, I would change the title characters to white straight males. A buff bad boy jock, the father figure for the older crowd, and the nerdy, yet still hollywood pretty one.
  12. Christopher Michael

    Christopher Michael Troubadour

    Which is precisely the opposite of what anybody writing to get paid would do. Why? Because the readership does not want those stock, boring, characters.
    TheCatholicCrow likes this.
  13. Annoyingkid

    Annoyingkid Banned

    Stock automatically equals boring? I don't think so. Especially not with the amount of sex and violence I'd put in. Of course not too explicit with the violence, don't want the teenage girl audience to get alienated.
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2017
  14. This is an exhibition of the way I think...Im part of "the readership." In a lot of ways, I feel like my audience is people like me.
  15. staiger95

    staiger95 Scribe

    I would compare the question to the same hurdles that musicians face: compose with your own passion or sell-out to the industry. Either way, you have a narrow chance, but I would rather be remembered for something that was uniquely mine if I did make it.

    All this machinery making modern music can still be open-hearted, sot so coldly charted. It's really just a question of your honesty. One likes to believe in the freedom of music, but glittering prizes and endless compromises shatter the illusion of integrity. --Rush
  16. I agree. :)
  17. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

    No, there's nothing wrong with writing what seems like hard sells. Nothing wrong in the least. For me, I like to take a balanced approach to things. I keep in mind that some stories will have wider appeal than others. And like it or not, there is a business side to writing, and that's something that can't be ignored if you plan on making money with your writing.

    One of the things I thing every writer needs to learn is how to weigh all the opinions thrown their way, whether it's a critique about their writing or how to approach writing itself. There is no one-size-fits-all. There's just what fits you and your situation.

    Take what's useful and discard the rest.

    Which brings me to another thing, understanding what you want, and to temper expectations accordingly.

    For every "success" someone has by using method A, there will be a failure by someone else who used method A. So IMHO find you own way, whether that ways means following someone else's path step-for-step or blazing your own. It doesn't matter as long as it fits you.

    And be wary of anyone who tries to force you down a path you don't want to go. There's nothing wrong with pointing out alternatives, but for me, anytime someone says this is the only way, and you must go down it because it leads to a specific destination, it gives me the impression they haven't bothered to really look around and see all the alternatives available or realise that not everyone wants to go to that specific destination.
  18. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

    1. Write what you know.
    2. Write what sells.
    3. Write what you can.

    Seems I fall @ #3 lately.
  19. No kidding. I learned that first-hand. :rolleyes:
  20. Michael K. Eidson

    Michael K. Eidson Archmage

    One might add: "Write what you love."

    These are not mutually exclusive for me. I endeavor to do all four. #2 is the one I'm least capable at currently, so it requires more attention. I'm not going to write about something I know nothing about. I'm not going to write more than I can (by definition, impossible). I'm going to write in the genres/subgenres that I love, because I would suck at other genres/subgenres. I've been studying the craft to help make my stories more salable, and trying to apply these techniques.

    Look up the etymology of the words "technique" and "technology." They are based on the Greek for "art, craft." One is no less of an artist because of applying certain techniques to their work.

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