Take Aim at the Market with Your Writing

purchasing shopping cart e-commerce-402822_960_720I was coming up empty on post ideas. Those on my idea list I’d either already done or wasn’t feeling inspired. So I asked a couple friends. One, half in jest, said I could “write about our new dystopian future” and about what it might do to the “future of publishing.” That sent my mind off, thinking about a bunch of disparate things that somehow ended up tied together in my view. We’ll see what you think.

Since Brexit and the recent US election, I’ve seen multiple indie books released that, whether they were written since, anticipated the result, or received last minute tweaks between the election and release, they are different in how they reflect the future because of those election results. I think that’s good. I’m going to explain my thinking and throw out a few ideas based on those thoughts for authors to consider. My thoughts and ideas fall into three different areas although they all tie together. These are: readers, the market, and authors.

For readers, books with stories that imagine a future based on current directions might be dystopian, but they could also be utopian or near-future science fiction or any genre where the story could be happening in the future. That future could be good, bad, or anywhere in between. I think we all wonder about the future and these kinds of stories give us, as readers, a way of imagining where we might be headed, considering how likely that is, and what we think of it. Essentially a way of processing the possibilities in our mind. During periods of upheaval, readers are going to be looking for this kind of read even more than usual. That 1984 has recently hit the Amazon bestseller list should be all the proof this contention requires.

That last sentence is also a statement about the market. Those who have grabbed a copy of 1984 and read or re-read it are going to be looking for their next read. It seems logical that certain kinds of stories are going to be hot in at least the short term. These are the kinds of things that an indie author can jump on if they’re so inclined. An indie can do that. By the time a traditionally published author could react and get their book on the shelves, the hot period might be over.

I’d never recommend an author write something that didn’t appeal to them, solely because the market seemed to be there. But if you’re considering multiple projects or trying to decide between two directions a story might take, taking the market into consideration to help decide makes sense. Plus, it seems that the same things influencing readers to read a certain kind of book to “process” things or consider possibilities, might be something an author could take a step further. Whether the tale you spin is a warning of a nightmare or a future full of butterflies and unicorns is up to you.

Without getting political (our admin is super cranky this week and will definitely delete your politically charged comments…), what are your thoughts?

Author: Big Al

Big Al (who insists he only has one name, like Cher, Sting, and Madonna) spends his days writing computer programs that are full of typos, homonym errors, and incorrect verb usage. During his evenings, he writes reviews of indie books for BigAl’s Books and Pals and has recently taken over The IndieView, a website founded by indie author Simon Royle as a resource for indie authors, indie reviewers, and those who read either.

13 thoughts on “Take Aim at the Market with Your Writing”

  1. You’ve got a point, Big Al. That’s the advantage of being Indie. You can target your reader or bend genres with complete freedom as long as you have a great story. Speaking from the other side of the pond, our current political situation is as challenging as yours! When life’s grim, people seek escape. What easier way than into a book. Get those pens out or those fingers on the keyboard, Indies. As Big Al says, traditional publishing responds with the speed of an aircraft carrier making a turn.

  2. Interesting idea, Al. If, and it likely won’t happen, I were to attempt such a story I would need to find ways of showing a better future – not utopian – but certainly not dystopian. Too much doom and gloom is depressing and I also think it affects how we approach life if we are immersed in too much of it. I refuse to ‘live’ in that negative place. While I see that we have some tough times ahead, my view of the eventual direction for the human race is a positive one. That’s the story I’d write.

    1. Great comment, Yvonne. That works within my thinking too. Imagine where you’d like the world to be and what kind of people would need to come into power to make that happen, then write a book where it does. It’s all about processing what is going on in a way that works for you and, in the process, helps others who think the same way do the same.

  3. Enjoyed reading you article, 1984 is a tough book to compete with, and is a cult classic, just like: Animal Farm, We and Brave New World. thank you

    1. Thanks, JB. You’re right. But I’m not sure I’d call it competing with it. More like hitching a ride on its coattails. 🙂

  4. Actually current events have inspired me to return to a book idea I’d put on hold for several years – a sci fi story that takes place on earth a couple of decades ago – because the ending seems more prophetic now than it did previously!

  5. As a science fiction writer, I’m always trying to second guess the future, but that’s more to do with technology than politics. Nevertheless, current events do give rise to some general twinges, such as – is this the beginning of the end for the Western Era? And are we seeing the start of the rise of the East? Beyond those very general questions though, I don’t think I’d be game to forecast the future just yet. As for 1984, the book is also a poster child for what sci-fi can get wrong. I see that as a hopeful sign.

  6. Al,

    I recently reread Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” not because of any political climate but simply because I wanted to. Considering how that work came about, I think it’s safe to say that authors tend to react to the sociopolitical climate around them. Whether that enters their work in direct ways or subtle ways depends on how they happen to be thinking and feeling at the time.

    But to try to force a work to fit the market, especially fleeting changes in the market? I don’t think that’s the path to great or even good literature. In F.451, Bradbury clearly reacted to something “in the air” and it struck a chord. But it is still striking chords fifty years later, and probably always will. It doesn’t matter when you read it; it is deeper than any fluctuations in the market.

    It goes without saying that Bradbury went the traditional publishing route. One might say the world changes faster today than it did fifty years ago. Fair enough. But a work that transcends the moment will succeed no matter the path through which it reaches readers.

    Bottom line: I would say let the moment influence you, but don’t let the market influence you (or at least not too much). Write a good story and publish it by whatever means works best for you. If you write it well enough, people will want to read it.

    1. No argument, Dale. I think great (or even just good) literature is more likely to happen if someone is inspired to write something than if they try to outguess the market. But I am saying if you’re feeling inspired, don’t resist. 🙂

      That said, I think there are plenty of authors out there who have written good (or good enough to sell lots) literature by aiming to satisfy the market. Different authors have different goals.

  7. My take on the subject, aimed at no one in particular, because IU minions are far too polite to do that 🙂
    Go ahead and try to react to the market brought on by recent politics. Then check your story to make sure it isn’t as shallow, stereotyped, ill-conceived, and obviously rushed through the editing process as the works of all those other fly-by-night authors who have nothing but trendiness to recommend them. Then get yourself a job in the marketing busines, and sell your talents to people who have real novels that are heartfelt, carefully constructed and meaningful.

  8. Writing to market, if done well, is always a good idea, I think. At least for authors whose goal is to make money. Especially, as the output is just thought capital, rather than pricey supplies of fidget spinners that may suddenly fall out of favor leaving you holding the bag. If the trend fades quickly, you’ve at least earned some cash, and hopefully additional fans to buy your backlist.

Comments are closed.