The Market or the Story

“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” – Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison past away last year when I was having an internal debate about writing to a market and writing the story I wanted to write. It all happened around some stressful life moments. What was supposed to be a relaxing and easy summer turned into a summer of pressure and emotional upheaval. I’m sure all of it will make its way into something I write – even this blog post. To give you an idea of some of the stress, my 99-year-old grandfather is having health issues that might be the beginning of his end. I assure you, I’m tearing up as I type this because this man is my favorite… everything. Dealing with the emotions around this as well as my anxiety and that of everyone around me… It’s not everything at once. We get a few days where we think its okay and then have to face something else.

I burnt out in the middle of this, something I expected to happen at some point this year. What I hadn’t expected was that it was my ability to promote and market my work that burnt out, not my creativity. I sat in his hospital room and happily flowed through my editors notes; I used my free time, between incidents, to finish other things; I started a whole new set of horror stories. I get creative when under stress.

An interesting thing happened while I took a break from social media posts, advertising, and participating in giveaways. My books started selling like crazy, new and positive reviews came in, and I was getting attention. This was usually something that only happens when I release a new book. Of course, the pitfall of our promotion efforts is that we never know what exactly works. Sometimes we can see why we fail but even that is difficult. I had a moment to reflect on what I’m doing. Am I writing to market to make money or am I writing the story that I want to read?

I’m writing the story I want to read.

In all these Facebook groups I’ve joined, the effort is to make money as a writer. They focus on support for those who are writing to market because that’s the key to easy sales: write what others want to read. People make livable incomes from indie publishing. Don’t let anyone tell you they don’t. They also work themselves to the bone with their marketing. If they fail to meet a sales quota then they might not be able to pay bills that month.

You can easily get caught up in that way of thinking. They teach each other how to effectively advertise their books on Amazon, how to run mailing lists, and, in some morally compromised situations, how to game the system (disclaimer – this is minority in these groups of people). You can spend tons of money on their classes about how to do it yourself. As my own fantasy of making a living off of writing grew, my reality settled this. I felt guilty that I wasn’t connecting with readers during July, that I’d ignored my newsletter, and wasn’t making money. Then I remembered what I was doing.

I’m writing the story I want to read.

There is a problem with diversity in books and those who write to market are falling into the pit of it. When we write to the market – to what we know people will buy- we write for the majority and ignore those who don’t fit into those boxes. I don’t fall into those boxes. I talk often about diversity in the motivations of characters, especially women. The same should be for all our characters. I’ve written a Jewish Holiday series because few others have (and I mean few). The Jewish holidays aren’t the market so other authors aren’t writing them. Will they sell? I don’t know.

I’m writing the story I want to read.

Think about that as you write. You can write to the market and make some money if you constantly hustle. Or you can write the story you want to read because I assure you, someone else wants to read it too.

Our own Sara Marks is a self-published author. She primarily writes chick lit and contemporary romance books but sometimes takes on horror. In 2017 she decided to focus her efforts on self-publishing over traditional publishing. This monthly series is about her experiences publishing and promoting her own books. You can learn more about her and her books on her webpage.

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