Looking back on things, it becomes obvious the answer wasn’t write for passion OR write to market. The truth is, you need to find a balance between the two. You can’t do one to the exclusion of the other.
This past week, I experienced something of a crisis moment in a writer’s life. I’ve never been in this particular situation before, so I wasn’t prepared for how to handle it. When I started down this road of writing and publishing my own books, I wrote whatever came to mind. I never thought other people would read the books. I had written them so I could have a paperback copy on my shelf. Then I got into ebooks because I was going to get a Kindle and a Nook.
I’ve never been a plotter. I’ve always written whatever came to me, and somehow, the story just wrote itself out. Things were always neatly tied up, or, if there was a series, I knew something left unanswered in one book would end up answered in another. This method lent itself to writing for passion. I was like a kid on the playground. I didn’t give any conscious thought to what I was writing. I was just playing and having a good time. That is what writing for passion is. (Writing to market is having boundaries set up on the playground.)
Once I realized people were actually reading my books, I panicked. Suddenly, I had a responsibility to other people. It wasn’t just me I was writing for anymore. These days, most new indie authors assume they’re writing for other people. Their mindset is different from what I went into this writing gig with.
I don’t know how many authors who chose the route I did back in the “old days of publishing in 2008-2009” were thinking of book sales when they published their books on their own instead of going with a publisher. Back then, publishing your own books was seen as the option of last resort. It guaranteed you’d sell no more than 200 copies in the book’s entire life, which could outlive the author. Not selling means no one is reading the book. This means, there is no audience to write for. We were told indie publishing was doomed to failure.
So we flash forward to 2010-2012 when authors who were publishing their own books could actually find an audience. Suddenly, we had readers. And that meant when I sat down to write, I was now aware that other people were looking over my shoulder, judging what I was writing. I started to think about the market. I soon discovered that if I wrote more for the market, I got better reviews on my books. If you look at my early stuff, you’ll see a lot more 1 and 2-star reviews. I did learn what upset people and what pleased them. The more I wrote to market, the better the reviews got.
It was a natural progression that I moved more and more to the writing to market side. I didn’t want to disappoint people who read my books. I still don’t. No author sets out to piss off anyone who reads their book. It is, however, impossible to please everyone. That was a lesson I learned when I tried to change the Virginia Series from a historical romance genre to a contemporary romance genre. It turned out, I got emails and messages from people who preferred the series as in the historical genre. That was one of my biggest lessons learned: the people who matter most are those who I can please with my books. People who can’t be pleased because my writing doesn’t resonate with them are not the people I’m writing for. So I switched the Virginia Series back to historical and moved on.
In 2016-2017, I was in another state of panic (for reasons I already went into in other posts), so I went full over to the writing to market side of things. And in doing that, I realized that was burning me out. To sum up, I learned that writing for passion is very important. I hadn’t realized just how much until I started to actually hate writing.
So then I go full back over to writing for passion a couple of months ago. Yes, I feel like a ping pong ball in going from one extreme to the other. This writing thing is not as easy as some people make it look.
Anyway, my latest finished book, The Perfect Wife, went off to the editing team at the end of last month. These ladies look out for me. They do what they can to make my books the very best they can be. And a couple of them came back with the same concerns. I went into crisis mode because I’ve never been in this situation before. There’s usually something someone doesn’t like. Half the time, I’ll adjust it. If I happen to like it, I’ll keep it anyway. But this time more than one person had issues with the same things. And, to be fair, deep in my gut, I knew they were right. After getting over the shock, I sat down to revise the story so it’s more suited to the market. The changes turned out to not be as involved as I originally thought they were going to be. In fact, I had it all smoothed out within five hours (once I figured out what I was going to do). I thought it was going to take a lot longer. I’m actually much happier with the book now.
Yesterday afternoon as I finally had a chance to sit back and process everything that had just happened over the past week, I realized that there needs to be a balance between writing for passion AND writing to market. You can’t exclusively write for passion or write to market if you want a writing career. And I further suspect that each book will be different. Some books will be more toward one side of the aisle (writing for passion) while others will go more toward the other side (writing to market). All books, however, should be somewhere along the spectrum. The Perfect Duke is more toward the writing for passion side, and The Perfect Wife is more toward the writing for market side. I now realize each book will stand on a case by case basis. So that’s what I’m going to do. I will mix both approaches for what will make for the best story possible.