Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Write What You Want, But Pay Attention To The Market

I hear a lot of writers complain about "not being allowed to write what they want" when it comes to the publishing industry. In fact, we do know that a lot of authors have gone into self-publishing because they don't want to be told what to write. Yesterday, for example, there was an article on NPR CLICK HERE about e-readers tracking what readers do with a story and then the potential of writers improving their writing with this. In this case, there are indeed writers out there who will go ahead and do what they want to, regardless of the comments. Others might listen.

The dilemma though is whether we say to heck with what the market says, and writers do what they want, or should writers really pay attention to the market. I do have to say, that since this is a business and writers are out to "sell a product" to consumers, it is crucial that a writer listens to the market and writes to that market. This, in no way, is saying that a writer cannot have his or her own voice or write the story of his or her heart. What it does mean is that the writer needs to find a way to blend the two ideologies together into the story. Remember the end goal, if a writer is in publishing as a profession, is to "sell" the product.

Businesses shape their marketing plan constantly to adapt to the changes that are happening with their consumers and the market around them. If a product isn't selling anymore, a story doesn't just keep adding more inventory of that product. The producer of the product doesn't keep cranking out the item even though sales aren't there. They either dump the product entirely or find a way to adapt the product to meet the new needs of the consumer.

We have seen this a lot over the years in publishing. Covers change, formats change and story ideas change depending on the market. Just examine the lines that have come and gone at Harlequin and you can understand. For a period of time, there was a need for lines such as NEXT or the NASCAR line, but then when the sales declined, the product went away and writers found a way to adapt those stories that might have gone to those lines to another line.

In all honesty, writers cannot ignore market analysis if they want to develop a career or keep a career. Flexibility in this market is crucial for it to remain a growing and organic business. And yes, I do know that existing and well known authors can stick to their guns and not change, but for these authors, they already have a following who will be there for them until the end of time. But this group is small and like market research, we don't just look at one example but the "over-all" trend. And this means that the majority of writers out there will have to continue to pay attention to the real world beyond their computer screens

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