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Write What You Know, or Write What Sells?

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

  1. I tend to gravitate toward stuff that falls into multiple genres. Fantasy alternate history is one of my favorite things; alternate history with dragons, even better. The book I just finished is, um...a post-apocalyptic urban fantasy with steampunk and maybe even Weird Fiction stuff in it, but the technology level is like early 1900's so it's not QUITE steampunk, and it's not a post-apocalypse of Earth but a post-apocalypse of some other place that used to be ruled by wizard immortals. the NEXT book is a magical realism/horror hybrid with a strong historical base (the setting is kinda a direct copy of 1950's Appalachia, even though it's not actually stated if we're even on this planet.) Some of my planned ideas are even messier.

    However, it's hard for me to understand WHY readers would read inside extremely limited categories. Why would a fantasy reader NOT read something because it contains historical or sci-fi elements, for instance? When I run into something that combines genres in an unexpected way, I think, whoa, cool! I know all kinds of people who read and like a wide variety of books crossing all sorts of genres. I have no idea what Caribbean Fantabulist even is, but I sure as heck wouldn't balk at finding out more about it if someone told me they wrote it. In fact, if I'd never heard of a category of book, I'd be twice as likely to want to read it. And I know a lot of my friends are like me...if something seems entirely new and unusual, they're like whoa, that sounds cool.

    I swear half the reason I write is that the books I like DON'T EXIST. And there is only one way to make them exist, really, right?

    I have really general areas of books I like (fantasy) and then I have a few specific things that are like my kryptonite (alt history...especially with DRAGONS) but my main criteria for whether or not to read a book is, uh...whether it seems like a good book. As for genres and subgenres, the weirder the better. I like reading things that are unlike anything I've ever read. Am I so strange?

    I'm almost inclined to think that these tougher-to-categorize, more "niche" books aren't "unpopular" because people who love fantasy generally wouldn't read them, but because they don't get a lot of press. Might their "niche-ness" make it harder to GIVE them press? Idk. All these ideas of how "the market" supposedly works are completely at odds with how it seems things would work from my experience. I myself am "the market" too, you know!
     
    J. S. Elliot likes this.
  2. Exactly, exactly! As C. S. Lewis said to his best friend J. R. R. Tolkien, 'There is too little of what we like in books.'
     
    DragonOfTheAerie likes this.
  3. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    Being in the market as solely a reader is a completely different experience than being in the market as an author trying to sell your work. Uncomparable.
     
    Ronald T. likes this.
  4. TheCatholicCrow

    TheCatholicCrow Inkling

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    I'm not familiar with the magazine and I actually love the musical genre.

    Heavy Metal (1981) - IMDb

    I was referring to ^ this piece of garbage. I let a couple friends choose it for movie night. Made them shut it off no more than twenty minutes in and learned to carefully vet all of their future recommendations.
     
  5. Russ

    Russ Istar

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    Not as bad as the sequel!

    But that was based on the legendary magazine.
     
  6. Russ

    Russ Istar

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    As I am currently learning, movie rights are an insane topic. I have often said publishing is crazy...but Hollywood is plain old nuts.
     
  7. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

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    Yeah, H-wood in general is just a honey trap full of insanity, and I only got as far as the perimiter before bugging out, and that was in the early phase of remake and super hero mania. Watching/discussing the careers of two screenwriters I got to know a bit, and how despite a basic level of success, they were... how to say, not high on the career choice? LOL. They loved it, but, it was a constant struggle to grasp for a producer credit in order to grasp some modicum of control over their lives and stories.

    Another interesting tidbit was that one said point blank that the most talented screenwriters were in tv, and I'm betting that's far more true now than it ever was then. And that's a world I would loath even more than Hollywood, and it was a dircetion I was pointed to by some folks with one spec script I had, as potential series material.

    I think it was Terry Rossio of Pirates of the Caribbean fame who said (paraphrasing) that there is a stupid cloud over Hollywood, and just driving into that world affects you.

     
  8. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

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    I should add that Rossio and company must've been deep in the stupid cloud when they envisioned the Lone Ranger remake, heh heh. Just sayin'...

     
    Russ likes this.
  9. Kyle8414

    Kyle8414 Dreamer

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    I would say I write what I love first, think about the market after. I know people say to "write for the reader", but it isn't hard to spot someone following a trend over their heart. The pattern re-surfaces wherever I write. I know it would make more sense to blog about fashion or celebrity culture but I just can't bring myself to do that. In the long run, however, I think your audience appreciate the sincerity.
     
    Russ likes this.
  10. Russ

    Russ Istar

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    I would agree with you, and suggest that the dichotomy is false. I think one should write what they love keeping the audience in mind.
     
    Michael K. Eidson likes this.
  11. Devouring Wolf

    Devouring Wolf Troubadour

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    This question seems to pop up every once and awhile and I've always found it odd.

    Writing is seriously hard. I honestly can't think of any sane person who would commit themselves to writing a whole novel about something they don't even like just to make money. There are easier ways to get rich.

    The plight of the author who's created an audience for themselves writing one thing and is afraid to branch out and potentially alienate their loyal fan-base is something I sympathize with, but the idea that new authors who start writing for a hot market are doing it just to make money is something I find a bit silly.

    Are there some authors who care more about being marketable than others. Sure. But I don't think they're sellouts, they're just adaptable.They're people who are willing to change this element or that so long as the soul of their story remains in tact. I mean if you love romances and you want to write a romance, why not make it a supernatural vampire romance. The supernatural elements or lack there-of are like icing on the cake of a well-written romance. On the other hand if you love supernatural stories, it might not matter to you whether its a romance, a detective novel, or a historical family drama just so long as the supernatural elements are well-crafted and nuanced.

    Of course not everyone's like that. I for one have very specific visions of what my story should be like, but not everyone does and that's okay. They're not compromising their art (whatever that means) they're just framing it in such a way as to please a wider audience. Nothing wrong with that.
     
    Ronald T. and TheCatholicCrow like this.
  12. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

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    Writing isn't necessarily that hard for everybody, and some folks just love all kinds of stories. For a person of one or both of these qualities, writing to market is viable.

     
  13. Ronald T.

    Ronald T. Troubadour

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    If you can love whatever you're writing, no matter the subject, then write what sells.

    But you have to love writing about that subject, or it will show in the final product. Lackadaisical writing shows through every time. I often find that it's lifeless and uninspired. It's functional, yet lacks fire.

    Writing isn't easy, so if an author wishes tp produce their most effective writing examples, they must be emotionally involved in the subject. Anyone can put words on a page. But I've discovered that the most powerful stories and articles come from writers who are deeply emotional about their stories and the words they write. That's because they're in love with what they write.

    it takes passion to write a great novel.

    Do you believe that any of authors who wrote these fine classics -- To Kill a Mockingbird, 12 Angry Men, High Noon, Gone With the Wind, or Schindler's List -- did so without an endless amount of passion? I doubt it.

    But if you have the ability to put true passion into any subject matter that might pay higher dividends, then go for it.

    I have to admit, I'm not quite as gifted at writing as that. I must feel the stories I write, and feel them deeply, or I'm just wasting my time and everyone else's.

    However, my hat is off to anyone who can write with passion on every subject that might make them money. I wish I could. I could certainly use the extra cash.

    Of course, this is just one man's opinion. And what the hell do I know?
     
    Michael K. Eidson likes this.
  14. Christopher Michael

    Christopher Michael Troubadour

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    Writing isn't easy? Writing is seriously hard?
    What have I been going wrong all these years? Writing is simple. Taking the world in my head and putting it on paper is both enjoyable and insanely easy.
    Writing for market? Simple. Writing for readers? Not even approaching difficult. Writing from passion? Passion is easy to fake, so that's not difficult either.
     
  15. ..........??????????????
     
  16. Michael K. Eidson

    Michael K. Eidson Archmage

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    My goal is to write salable novel-length fiction. If you say that's easy, then tell us how much you consistently earn from your sales of novels every year. Ball park figure is good enough. If it's six figures, then we'll accept your claim that writing is easy--for you. There are a lot of people who would like to make six figure incomes from their writing, but aren't. So it must not be all that easy.
     
  17. Christopher Michael

    Christopher Michael Troubadour

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    Nothing either Devouring or Ronald said had anything to do with selling the novel.
    It doesn't matter if I earn anything or not, although I don't at the moment. The act of writing is not a difficult one. The act of crafting a story is not hard.
    The process of going from writing to selling? I'm not denying the difficulty and time consumption there.
     
  18. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    Once again, we do our discussion a disservice when we are prescriptive. Or proscriptive. We should just be scriptive.

    To say "writing is easy" or "writing is hard" pretends that all authors have the same experience. It also pretends that every word we write comes as easily or ... hardly? ... as every other. If either proposition is true, then the discussion is over. We are all the same. My experience is your experience, so no need to ask each other what we think.

    Come on, folks. We can do better than that, can't we?

    There are interesting questions to ask here. For example, when someone says writing is hard (or easy), what exactly do you mean? Do you mean plotting? Do you mean writing the first draft? Do you mean editing? Copyediting? If every single aspect of the craft does in fact not come easily, which parts are easier? And why?

    For that matter, what does it mean to say writing is hard? Does it mean I struggle for words, get only a few, halting sentences out in a day? Does it mean that I can write plenty, but the process is emotionally difficult, filling me with insecurity and dread? Conversely, by "easy" do I mean I never stumble, never get stuck? Or does it mean that it is a joyous process, one to which I look forward each day? Or does it mean that, no matter what I write, it is always successful, always well-reviewed and in need of few changes?

    In a discussion, it is always worth asking if the other fellow understands my words the way I think he should. It's probably a question worth considering when writing fiction, too.
     
  19. ^meeeeeeeee
     
  20. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

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    The only thing hard in writing for me is sitting still and doing it, I'd rather be up and moving. But if I'm in rhythm, that isn't so bad either. And maybe I'm to a point in life where I've done enough things that actually are hard, that calling writing hard (for me) would be an insult to the hard work I've done. It is a helluva lot of effort, but I enjoy the process of writing, AND the process of editing, too. The social/marketing thing I dread. But even then, I've done worse things already in this life.
     
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