It may sound like a simple question, of which most would answer they’d write for themselves first. But subconsciously, if your goal is to publish, you might find yourself bending your story to fit with the market you wish to publish in. This can shape your plot, your characters and even your settings, as your mind considers what is most likely to please readers, what won’t cause offense, or what others want to see. So, here’s the truth…
The truth is…
For a lot of writers, the long term goal is to publish our work. And so, the guilty truth is, we often find ourselves asking these questions when we have an idea. ‘Will people like this?’ ‘Will it fit in the market?’ ‘Is this an idea that will sell?’ There’s no harm in asking these questions, but it is important not to get so caught up in them that you end up changing your story in ways you’re not happy with. You need to write the book you want to write, before you factor in what other people want.
You should consider ‘readers’ while you write
The above isn’t to suggest that you shouldn’t considers readers when you write. You should, even if that reader is simply you. This is because, when you write with the mindset of someone reading your story one day, you will practice good writing habits. You will consider suspense and mystery, and how to keep people guessing. You’ll consider vivid descriptions and character development, creating strong imagery. You’ll focus on your word choices, gramma and spelling. At the end of the day, when you write a novel you’re storytelling, and so imagining people listening in is important.
It’s important to know your market…but that can come later
When you’ve finished writing and editing your novel, and you are ready to start querying, it’s important to know your market. You need to consider your audience, and who might buy your book, in order to pitch to the right agent. But you can do this once you’ve finished writing. This way, you’re finding the market for the book you wanted to write, rather than having written something you’re less passionate about, but tailored specifically for a market while writing.
My personal experience with rejection based on ‘the market’
When I queried my second novel I went through a very exciting moment where I had a few full requests at once, and the nervous anticipation of waiting to see if one of the agents would consider taking me and my story on. I received some encouraging feedback and constructive criticism and even some lovely comments. But they all came back to me with the same problem; your story has a male protagonist and in the market you’re aiming for, books with male protagonists are much harder to sell.
I’m not saying this was the only issue. It wasn’t. But it was certainly an interesting one. Ironically, when I read books in my genre, I prefer a female protagonist too. But at the end of the day, I wrote what I felt worked for my book.
Do I regret it?
So, do I wish I’d written my book without the male protagonist perspective? I don’t. I love that character, and I enjoyed every second of writing that book. I wouldn’t have been as connected to the story without his perspective, and so it’ll always be the right decision for me. That’s not to say I wasn’t gutted, and didn’t ugly cry in the face of rejection (I was, and I did)! But at the end of the day, if it wasn’t the POV it could’ve been something else. And I think, going forward, I will still have more luck in the industry if I write what I really want to. It wasn’t it this time, but it might be one day!
I’ve not spoken much about this before, and would love to hear your thoughts. Please comment below and share your experiences.