On Writing,  publishing

Writing to Market… Timing

Artistic Freedom Part Three…

I got some great comments on yesterdays post on this topic, but a few people, both in the comments and in private e-mails to me are confused about what I mean exactly about not writing to market.

I finish my work, don’t I? Isn’t that a form of writing to market? Nope.

I try to sell what I do write. Is that a form of writing to market? Nope.

What I have been attempting to say is this:

When you decide, before you have written a word, to do a project because you think it will sell (because you know more than anyone about selling books, right?), you are writing to market.  

So BEFORE YOU HAVE WRITTEN A WORD you decide to write a story to fit some market you think will sell better.

The timing is everything.

Putting critical thought on a project before the creative voice has a chance to even pop up is always, always a bad thing in my opinion. And putting money on top of a creative voice can just kill the poor thing.

That’s what I have been talking about in an artistic freedom framework.

We as writers now don’t need to play that game.

We now have the freedom to write what makes us passionate, what we love to read, what we are scared to death of (Stephen King’s suggestion).

We also have the freedom now to write for a certain market.

Freedom is a two-sided sword.

I spent a decade and slightly more writing to market and it killed my career. Completely. And killed my soul and made me turn away from writing. As I have said many times, the only reason I am still around publishing at all now is because of the indie world came to life.

And when the indie world came along, I used to talk with Kris about how worried I was about not having my voice anymore. I felt I had copied so many other writer’s voices, done so much writing to market, tramped down my own voice that I no longer had a personal voice.

And at first I didn’t. But given enough books, enough stories, my voice has come back now.

And me deciding to take the freedom to write what I want has allowed me to write things like Poker Boy and my big Seeders world and my retired detectives solving cold cases and on and on.

Do they sell? Damned if I know how well any story or book does.

I only look at the money overall for WMG Publishing each month. I never look at my own individual book sales or reviews or anything. Could not care.

But I can tell you that having a lot of product up for sale does add up. My overall book sales are way past six figures. So something must be working somewhere. I make far more money now than I ever did writing for money. Go figure.

So you have the artistic freedom to write what you love.

On the other side, you have the artistic freedom to write to market, to put a critical voice decision on your creative voice before you type a word.

You have both choices in this new world.

I stand solidly on one side of that choice because I have watched and lived the disaster of the other choice.

It just makes me sad to watch so many writers crashing because they walked that other side of the choice. I remember clearly what that feels like.

It ain’t fun.
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  • Vera Soroka

    I follow a few indie writers who have had huge successes and as far as I can see, writing a lot of books is how they did it. I can see that they sort of chased market but I know they are writing what they want. I can also see them copying each other from time to time. One huge best seller is exclusive to Amazon. She does pretty good and it seems Amazon rewards her for being a good pet. The other gal tried with a couple of new series she started. That didn’t last long and she put them everywhere. But writing quickly and prolifically is what I think bought them success financially, even if they were following what was hot at the time.
    The one thing I am guilty of chasing trend on is coloring books. I have a serious addiction to them. But I have discovered artists from all over the world and colorists as well. I love art and I want to draw my own coloring books and put them out for sale. So, that is one bandwagon I want on.

  • David Beers

    This is a dumb binary, this 300k/year pumping out market-tuned horseshit vs. sticking to yer guns and going full Legend. What do you like about writing? Do you want to tell People in Bars or at your HS reunion that you make a quarter million a year filling the Kindle world’s current insatiable desire for Horny Housewives Who Also Run Private Eye Businesses From Home? Is that what you wanted when you said you wanted to be a writer? Or do you want to be able to hand somebody a book with your name on it and say “I wrote this, and it’s good.” You can make that kinda money doing anything. You have the degrees and the drive to work your way up the corporate ladder to make perfectly good money *not* doing what you want already–why go into business for yourself if you’re just going to spend all your time getting bossed around by the Hottest Trending list?

    Imagine a real chef as the owner/operator of a Domino’s Pizza. Sure, he’s making a quarter million a year in profit a year. But he’s not making his own food. He’s cooking whatever shows up on the truck, and letting corporate decide the menu, based on their market research. The best seller list even functions as advertising in the way the commercials do.

  • Michael Kingswood

    “I spent a decade and slightly more writing to market and it killed my career. Completely. And killed my soul and made me turn away from writing.”

    All due respect, but isn’t it possible, given your previous experience, that you’re jaded about it and thus not really giving due consideration to the arguments some of these Indy-types are making?

    Don’t get me wrong. As I said in my comment on your last post, I suspect you and they are not REALLY all that far apart. They’re just using terms in a different way than you are. But still, like you keep saying, every writer is different. Could be some will find energizing what you found soul-killing. Different strokes, right? 🙂

    • dwsmith

      I have no problem at all with people picking their own paths. Artistic freedom after all. I am just talking about what I have observed with the different paths and what I have learned, nothing more. Each person makes their own choices.

      But realize I have been around for 40 plus years now in publishing, watching and being part of this business. I am sure the writers with a few years experience know better than I do. After all, I’m old and jaded, right?