Is Pleasing the Market Still Relevant?

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I have a favorite blog written by a literary agent. He’s funny. He gets all worked up about things and he gives writer’s pretty good advice.

For the sake of honesty, my honesty that is, I’m not going to mention his name. If you’re curious drop me a line and I’ll send you his link.

The other day he spoke about the writer’s market. He brought up a decent topic concerning our books. Where does your book belong, he asked. Picture a bookstore and try to see what section of the store your book will be found.

I understood right away what he was getting at. A writer needs to sell. The agent needs to sell and the best way to sell is to understand the current market.

But something bothered me when I read this. I agree that the market will always have a strength in a certain category and later, that particular category will change and something else will take its place.

But does that mean we need to chase it?

Do we have to constantly tweak our stories to coincide with market conditions? And if we do are we sacrificing a part of our craft that we are really good at?

Do we really have to worry about that bookstore and where our books will be placed?

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All of us have a certain strength. We don’t know why, we just do. You might knock a description out of the park while I write the best dialog in town but that’s not what I’m getting at.

What if we do something that doesn’t exactly fit with the market?

Do we panic and create our own bookstore or do we stop what we’re good at in order to please the market?

I have some friends who create an odd mix. Their stories are a combination of comedy/folklore/chase thriller and a few other surprises that I can’t remember.

Their style may never find a place on a particular bookshelf but they are really good at what they do.

My point to my rambling is this: We could spend the majority of our time worrying about the market or we could get to work and do what we do best:

Perfect what we’re good at.

If we concentrate on the things we do best the market will come to us. Why not be the best at that one thing no matter how weird or whacky others may think.

There’s lots of competition in this craft we have chosen. All of us need some sort of separation, otherwise we’re all the same. So if you are the best folklore/comedy/chase thriller in town why not pick it up a notch and be the best they’ve ever seen.

The market is constantly changing and it can be exhausting chasing it. But instead of chasing it, own it.

That’s how you rock the world.

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20 thoughts on “Is Pleasing the Market Still Relevant?

  1. Great post!! I suppose it comes down to writer preference: do you want to maximise sales or write what you love? For me, especially at this stage, the latter is more important. There’s also a lot more genre flexibility and fluidity these days, now that ebooks and self-publishing are taking off!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Rebecca. I think the reader would see it in the writing if all we did was chase the sales. Enthusiasm, or lack thereof, will show through. Like you said, we live in a great time where we have a lot more flexibility.

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  2. So very true. Fundamentally it comes down to being true to ourself. There’s no point changing our style, that’s like trying to change our personality to please someone else. Writing what we love has to come first.

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  3. Hey Bryan! I stand by what you say: that’s how it ought to be. But a strange thing happens. Every time someone brings this up, and comes to your conclusion, I do a little mental fist pump and am like yeah, amen! But after a while I am disturbed. I mean, things can’t be so clear-cut – that we either “write to the market” or “follow our hearts”. There are a million colours out in the nature besides black and white, so why not here?

    So, your post makes me ponder a few questions. What does it mean to “sell”, deep down? What is this “selling”? And what is it to be good, to be the best you can be? Are they supposed to be opposites? Can they be? Should they be? And what is “the writer’s market”? What does it mean to either discover or look for “your market”? Where is it? Who is it? Who makes it, and what does it really mean to follow it? And if I sell myself, as artists are vilified for doing, why is that a bad thing?

    I dunno, Bryan. My heart stands with you and Pressfield, who wrote another fiery admonishment on the topic, but even so I find myself in the fog.

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  4. That is a situation me and many others face. I can’t speak for others but I do know if I write according to what is selling my work will fail. I have to believe in what I write otherwise I just can’t do it.

    Some people are really good at creating things that the market dictates. I don’t know if they’re good people or if they’re just good old sneaky salesmen. Whatever their label, they do things I can’t do.

    The fog you are in is a common place. We have all traveled through it. What direction we take is up to us. I know the direction I took and so do others who commented. There is no right or wrong. I think it all comes down to being honest with ourselves.

    I just know that I am a terrible liar and the reader would figure me out in the first sentence.

    Thank you for your in-depth comment. You never disappoint. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  5. If everyone writes to the market, then the genre will never evolve. Progress only comes with change. But it is riskier. And as others have said here, when you write to market expectations, you are not writing what fits you best as an author and a creator, and I don’t think the work will be as good as it can possibly be.

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  6. I look at differently. I don’t find it mutually exclusive. I write what I want to write, and then I find the marketing terms for that phase of it, when the book’s out in the world, to work with my publisher, agent, etc., so people ordering/selling the book aren’t scared off. The books are always more than one thing, but it’s massaging language and the creativity of finding a way to communicate a book’s uniqueness while still working for those who are used to boxes and drawing within lines. I had to learn to view it as a creative challenge every bit as important as writing whatever is my passion in the moment. Yes, this is my passion; it’s also my business, not my hobby, so I have to find a way to make it work.

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  7. That is true. On one hand we need to stick to our guns and do what we’re good at and at the same time find that place where it belongs. We don’t have to chase the market we simply need to find places where our work fits.

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  8. Photographers often face the same dilemma … stay true to their craft or chase the market. The artist says stay true, the business person says chase. It’s a conundrum. I’m a photographer who does a little writing and my brother is a non-specific genre novelist. We’ve both faced these decisions and finally decided to stay true to our craft.

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  9. It is an ongoing battle no matter what type of art one has chosen. In the end it feels like most of us chose what we’re good at. It just feels natural, doesn’t it.

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  10. Awesome points. I agree. If we stop focusing on the NOISE and start focusing on perfecting these talents that we have- whatever they may be- then the market will ultimately come to US. Granted, that won’t be easy. It was easy though, everyone would do it amiright?!

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