Some of my indie friends requested that I start doing more research regarding publishing and marketing books. To this end, I recently finished reading Write to Market by Chris Fox. At 100 pages this book now takes the top spot on my, “Shortest Books On Writing,” list (coming to a blog near you). It edged out The Elements of Style by a whopping five pages!
Now before I talk about this book I want to say two things:
- This book is not about marketing a preexisting book. It is about gauging the market and writing a book to meet market demand.
- This concept is probably going to make some of you want to raise a ruckus and talk about how this method of writing is an author selling his/her soul for a buck (or multiple bucks).
When I started reading this book my feet were planted firmly in the second category. I read the first ten percent of this book (ten pages) and was less than impressed. Mostly because I thought this was a book on marketing a preexisting book, and also because I felt like writing a book for someone other than myself was akin to punching kittens.
As I continued to read I felt myself being persuaded. Fox was offering a sound argument packed with ethos, pathos, and logos. Here are a few points to help you gauge if this book is for you or not. I’m not going to share too much content because this book is so short.
- This book is current. It offers advice that can be applied now. This makes it a strong reference text.
- This book is written by a successful indie author specifically for other indie authors.
- This book is short. It isn’t packed with exposition. It is packed with useful tools to leverage online sources and listing tools to examine the writing market.
- Fox shows you how to use Amazon and other online tools to examine your genre for trends.
- Fox explains how tracking trends in your genre and writing a book that fits popular demand isn’t really selling out.
- Fox explains if you want to write and make money, write books people want to read.
- If you don’t care about making money, write purely for yourself.
Those last two bullets probably have some of you getting ready to beat on your keyboards. I’ve thought about it over the last few days and this is what I have come up with. If I would apply this books principles this would be my basic process (there’s more to it in the book).
- I outline my book premise. Then stop.
- Use tools provided in book to research genre.
- Find the top 20-100 books of my genre.
- Read reviews and examine story elements.
- Find what unites these books in popularity.
- Take the story I was already going to write, and apply some of those elements.
- I have written to market.
Example: I write post-apocalyptic fiction. So I research the market and see what is popular. Not just now, but over the last few months. I look at those books and find what the repeat elements are. Standard zombies are out, mutant zombies are in. City scenes are out, fantasy lands are in.
I look at the failed books. Again, what are the repeat elements? A group of survivors led by a male protagonist is a story line that is getting old. They are also getting tired of the whole, “Ushering the mad scientist to the lab of glory to save the world story line.” Okay cool.
I take the story I was already going to write and tweak it in just a few areas to fit market demand and write it. That’s really it. Is writing the story you wanted to write, but adding an element readers want to read make you a sell out? That’s for you to decide.
[Begin Rant Here]
Here’s my opinion. I want to tell my story and I want people to read it. I also would like to make money. Because money is good (i.e. pays bills, feeds my family, legitimizes the time spent slaving away).
If I’m cracking some beers open with my cop or military buddies, our stories often turn toward past exploits. If I would tell my parents those same stories, I would likely tell them in a slightly different way (less vulgarity, drunkenness, and belly laughter). I want to share those stories, but I also want to be mindful of the listener. To do this I place a filter on the story. It’s the same story, but with slight modifications.
I think if we are honest, we all do this to some extent. At least in the context of how we conduct ourselves with different people. As long as we aren’t sociopaths about it, it’s normal. We do this in our daily life, but for some reason we are compelled to take an ethical stand on the stories that could put bread on the table. If the story is designed to be read by others, shouldn’t we ensure we know what others want to read?
I understand that I’m a noob writer. I’m not going to sway the market with my stories. Maybe when one of us is a multi-platinum New York Times best-seller of destiny we will be able to push readers one way or the other. So for now, I’m not going to try to change the flow of a river. I’m going to test the waters (market) and float explosives (books) down it to blow the dam to smithereens (readers minds). At least that’s my plan…
At 100 pages this book is thought provoking. Your alternative to gauge market trends is Writer’s Market 2016, which is a soul crushing 868 pages. It can also heat your home the following year because it will be outdated.
If you are curious about market trends, marketing a future book, or just want to be more educated in regards to authors who write to match market trends, I would encourage you to pick this book up. What are your thoughts? Do you feel matching a book’s content to meet market trends is bad mojo? I’ve shared my thoughts, I’d be curious to know yours. Until tomorrow, keep reading, keep writing, and as always – stay sharp!