By Megan Burkhart, a professional writing student at Taylor University.
Have you ever been given the advice to “write for the market”? I have, and at first I bristled at the idea. I’d always believed in writing what I was passionate about and what was on my heart.
I still believe in that, but when it comes to the business side of writing (ahem, making money), there’s a lot of value in looking to the market for direction.
Writing for the market means researching what people are currently reading and searching publishers’ websites for what they’re acquiring, and then writing that. It’s the equivalent of being given a topic or writing prompt before you start a paper.
This may feel unoriginal and constraining, but when you write what people want…it sells! Not many people are willing to put aside a project they’ve poured their heart and soul into for the sake of a quicker sale. Here’s the thing though; writing is both an art and a business. When it comes to business, sometimes you have to take risks and invest in things that will pay off in the long run.
Writing for the market is a business decision. It allows you to get your name out there and start building a platform and relationships with publishers. The extra income is nice too. Then, as you gain credibility as a published author, you’ll be able to write whatever you want.
Take J.K Rowling as an example. After the success of the Harry Potter series, she can write whatever she wants. Publishers ask her to name her price because they know she can sell books.
You have to start somewhere.
I’m not saying you have to go write a bunch of stuff you hate just to make money. Writing is not ultimately about the money. It’s about the readers and impacting them with your words. But if this is something you want to do for a living, sometimes the market will have to trump your heart.
When writing for the market though, don’t pick a trend you have no interest or expertise in. If publishers are looking for STEM, make sure you know something about science, technology, education, or math. There are so many trends in the market right now, and there’s a great series of blog posts about them on literary agent Cyle Young’s website. The market is not as limited as you might think. After some preliminary research, I think you’ll find plenty of new projects worth exploring–and ones that you’re even excited about!
So next time you receive the advice to, “write for the market,” don’t be discouraged or angry. It’s not an insult to your writing or your creativity. If you look at it from a business standpoint, it’s an investment to springboard into your career.
Few will take the risk, but you’re a writer, and writing is all about risk.
Megan Burkhart (writing under the pen name Megan Lynne) is an award winning writer of both fiction and non-fiction. Her recent awards include the 1st place Tar Heel Award for her speculative fiction novel and an honorable mention in the 87th Annual Writer’s Digest Competition in the inspirational category. Megan is also a junior agent with Cyle Young Literary Elite and a freelance editor with Sherpa Editing. Find out more about her at meganlynneauthor.weebly.com