One thing I noticed with the books that are written to market is that most of them start to sound similar to one another. Why? Because authors can’t afford to take risks with their writing. I know this because when I wrote to market, I went with what was safe. I scanned other books in my genre and picked out stuff (such plot, hero trope, and heroine trope) that seemed to resonated well with the greatest number of people. After a while, I felt boxed in. I felt like I had nothing fresh and new to offer. There were no story ideas that lit my writing self on fire because I’d already exhausted the safe stuff that interested me. I could never write something that went against my core values. I have to be comfortable with everything I write. Because of that, I ran out of things to write a lot faster than other authors would have.
I have noticed that books written to market tend to sell better. Obviously, there is a demand for those books, and they resonate with a lot of people for a reason. Maybe it’s the familiarity factor. I haven’t researched this idea, but the part of me that got a degree in Psychology is intrigued with this. If I had more time on my hands, I would delve further into this particular topic. But suffice it to say, my hypothesis on why writing to market is so lucrative is because most people gravitate toward things that are familiar to them. (Please note I wrote “most” people. There will be outliers. I happen to be an outlier. I hate the same old-same old. I love stuff that’s different, which is probably why I got bored writing to market.) Anyway, I think most people like picking a book where they know what to expect. That’s why I think there’s monetary value in writing to market. When you’re writing to market, you’re hitting up something that has already been established. It’s easier to ride the wave of what’s popular than to take risks with stuff that is different.
If you happen to be a writer who wants to write for passion, I think the path is going to be more difficult. After all the stuff I’ve read over the past 3-4 years, I think that most writers who embrace passion don’t make as much money as those writing to market do.
But there is hope for writers like us. It involves getting our financial house in order. The main reason writers are flocking to writing to marketing is money. If you can lower your dependence on book sales, you will free yourself up to writing what truly matters to you.
I know this isn’t easy. Most of us are not independently wealthy. We have to find a way to pay the bills and buy food. I totally understand because, even with a husband who is working, our four teenage sons eat all the time, and I have to use some of my writing money at the grocery store. But there are some expenses we can all cut back on. It’s a matter of searching them out.
I tracked my expenses for a couple of months like the financial experts suggest, and I was able to trim out some excess. The biggest one was eating out. I don’t enjoy cooking. I do it because it’s cheaper than eating out, and I’m finally at the point where I’m used to it. (In other words, I’m no longer grumbling about having to do it.) I also gave up my cell phone service. I am using a Google phone now. The Google phone hooks up to the internet so you don’t have to pay a telephone company or a cell phone company to use a phone. We cut out satellite. We shop at thrift stores for clothes (except for underwear; I can’t bring myself to wear underwear other people have worn). The Dollar Tree offers the same school supplies other stores do, though I notice even Walmart can be cheaper on some items, like Composition notebooks. I’ve learned to comparison shop and look for coupons. Also, we gave up newer cars to buy two 10+ year old vehicles, and we live in a house that is considered cheap in our area. When we bought the house, it was a fixer upper. We’ve been slowly working on the place as funds allow.
In my opinion, the best way to cut out expenses is to get out of debt because when you’re in debt, you’re making interest payments AND you don’t own the thing you’re paying on yet. Those interest payments can really add up. I know because my husband and I spent most of our 19 years of marriage living under the curse of debt. It wasn’t easy to get out of the debt mindset. When I lost half of my writing income in the span of a year, I realized how dangerous debt was. (For that alone, I can say losing money was a blessing in disguise.)
If you’re a writer who needs their writing income to make money right now, my advice is to write to market and get books out as fast as you can. Then save as much of the money you make as you can. A lot of authors will tell you to spend that money on ads, so be careful on how much you spend if you choose to do ads. I see ads as a short-term boost to sales. Already, some authors are seeing it losing effectiveness. And to be honest, I also think writing to market and publishing books quickly will also lose its effectiveness in the years to come. I just don’t see how the human brain can possibly keep up. I guess you could start farming out writing to ghostwriters, but then, what’s the point of being a writer if you’re having others create the stories for you?
For those who want to write for passion, cutting expenses, getting out of debt, and saving as much as you can are all things you can do to buffer yourself against the ups and downs of the indie publishing business. If you can get multiple streams of income coming in, then you’re in an even better position.
It’s been three years now since I got serious about being intentional with my money. I realized if I wanted to keep writing books, I was going to have to make sacrifices to get there. I needed to make myself as financially independent of book sales as possible. That way I could embrace the passionate side of writing and not worry about trying to market myself to the point where my health or my relationships were affected. I’ve heard of authors who’ve ended up with serious health issues and ending up in divorce because they made the pursuit of sales their main priority. I don’t want to end up like that. So that’s why I started cleaning up my financial house.
The changes I made that helped me get a better financial foundation were gradual. I started with a small change that didn’t scare me too much, and then I slowly added more changes as time went on. I’m still slowly adding more changes. This is a process. At least it’s been a process to me. I can’t go cold turkey on everything at once. I tried it, but I ended up falling back into old spending habits. I had to ease myself into the changes in order to make them permanent. I know Dave Ramsey talks about cutting everything out right away, but that didn’t work for me. If it works for you, then do it. You’ll progress faster than I did.
And now to my final thought on this topic…
When you start to feel discouraged (because the road to progress is never smooth), remind yourself of why you want to write for passion. Write it down if you need to. Get a picture to look at that inspires you to keep going. Print out an email from a reader who encouraged you. Whatever motivates you, do it. This is not going to be easy, but it’s worth it. If your main goal is to write books you love without having to worry about the ups and downs of sales, then getting your financial house in order will help you get there.