Who do you write for?
Who do you write for? Who is in your head when you start to write your book? Do you write to sell–following trends–or do you write whatever you want to write?
These are questions I think every writer needs to have the answers to, and there is no one right answer.
Writing to the Market
There’s nothing wrong with writing to the market. Writing is, after all, a business. We do this to make money–whether it’s money to play with, or money you need to live off of doesn’t matter, it’s money and we all like to earn it.
But how far will you go to do so?
Some writers have no problem following trends or writing in a particular way to lure in readers.
I was recently reading an interview with an author who said that she wrote the first book in her series as a light-hearted, funny romance, but after that the books get darker because that’s what sort of writer she is. She writes dark, romantic suspense—but only wrote the lighter book in order to lure in readers. That’s not really what she writes or what she likes.
Is she writing to the market? Yes, she is. And she tells her interviewer that that is exactly what she’s doing.
Would you do that?
I know of many writers who write a particular genre or sub-genre because those books are currently selling well. I once tried to write a knitting romance when those sorts of books had a spike in sales. Do you see that book among those I’ve published?
Why? Because even though I thought it was a fun book and I love to knit, I never finished it. It wasn’t what I wrote. Maybe someday I’ll pick it up again and try it once more, but at that time, it just wasn’t me. (It was a contemporary, small town romance with a touch of paranormal to it when I was writing traditional Regency romance. I’ve now had a little more experience writing contemporary and paranormal, so there is a possibility that I’ll go back, increase the paranormal element and write it… someday.)
There are a number of writers who do try out new genres just for the market.
Two of my favorite authors have done so: MaryJo Putney wrote some contemporary romances (happily, for me, she went back to writing Regency), and even Georgette Heyer wrote some more traditional historical novels, and even some mysteries (not her best writing, but happily she only wrote a few of these and mainly kept to her Regencies).
I think we all need to try to expand our writing repertoire. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. It shows us our strengths, gives us a break from writing the same thing, allows our creativity to stretch its legs and reach in another direction. I love going back and forth between writing traditional Regency and my paranormals (even though most of them are set in the Regency).
What I don’t do, though, is write to the market.
I write what I want to write, what inspires me, what excites me, what I can get into. If I try to write something that I’m not excited by, it’ll show. My writing will be flat and boring. I need to love what I’m writing or it won’t go well.
Who is your audience?
Now, what about your audience? Who is it that you write to? (Is this a change in topic? I’m not so sure—we all have someone in our heads as we begin to write and, at least in my head, she starts out by picking up my book off a shelf, reading the description and deciding whether this looks like something she’d be interested in investing a few hours of her life. She has to “buy” the book first.)
So, who is it who is holding your book and reading it? Who do you picture that person to be?
Oddly enough, the person holding my book is just like me. She’s a woman in her 30s-40s-50s-60s. She’s got children who take up an inordinate amount of her time. A job to which she is devoted. But every now and then she needs to escape. She wants to just sink into a good book and go somewhere else—to another time, another place. She wants to have fun adventures, although it doesn’t need to be so thrilling that she’ll stop breathing. She wants it to have a touch of mystery, maybe a small puzzle to work through. But most of all she wants it to feel good and have that sweet ending which leaves just the lightest touch of a smile on her face as she wonders about what happens to those characters after the end of the book.
I know who this person is—theoretically—and have her mind as I write. She is who I write to. She is the person I write for.
Recently, I’ve noticed a number of reviews for my books (yes, I read them) comment if there’s “too much” sex. I write sweet romance, mostly, and usually there’s nothing more than a kiss at the end. I had one reader complain because I used the word “nipple.” She was horrified and said she’d never read anything else I wrote. 🙁
But because there is clearly an audience who don’t want any sex in their romances, I deliberately wrote my last book with none. No nipples, hardly a kiss at the end, and certainly no detailed description of it.
Am I writing to my readers?
You betcha! I want my readers to be happy and if they don’t want sex. I won’t give them any.
Is this wrong? Giving in?
I don’t think so because there is no need for sex in the book I just wrote. It wouldn’t work, and it wouldn’t fit. It’s good without it, so honestly, I haven’t given anything up or left anything necessary out. If the next book I write needs sex to move forward the plot or create conflict, I’m not going to leave it out. I won’t sacrifice the story for my reader, I’ll just try to keep her in mind as I write.
So who do you write for? Do you have a specific person in mind? Do you write to the market or just whatever it is that you love and feel passionate about?