Write What You Love or Write What Sells?

The choice is illusory.

Photo by Peter Lewicki on Unsplash

If you have fellow writers in your life — or follow any on social media — you’ll be familiar with the dilemma. Should you write what you love, or write what sells?

It applies in other creative pursuits too. Keep plugging away at your dreams or sell out for a quick payday? It can be a hard choice to wrestle with, but the answer is simple.

It doesn’t have to be a choice.

In fact, I would take it even further: the choice doesn‘t even exist.

The idea that certain specific things sell and others don’t is nonsense. I‘ve spoken before about the “crazy” sounding ideas that made it to print or to screen.

If you put your heart into something, if you work hard, if you understand your genre, respect your readers and get the marketing right and maybe get a dash of luck then yes, your book can sell.

Think your idea is too unique, too niche? Nothing is too unique, there are billions of potential readers out there. There is a market for hockey-based romance novels and dinosaur erotica. There’s a famous quote from the movie Field Of Dreams that works here.

“If you build it, they will come.”

If you write it, they will come.

When people think of “writing what sells” they think of big-hitter books like Twilight or the Harry Potter saga. But did anyone think there was a viable market for teen-vampire romance or the adventures of a boy wizard before those books hit the shelves? The authors were not trying to write what sells. Those were the stories they wanted to tell.

Those stories resonated with readers and so they sold well.

The writers who struggle with the choice seem to think it would be easy to write something that “sells” as if they could dash off something in what they see as an inferior genre in ten minutes and then be rolling in the money.

But you have to understand the genre you write in. Read in the genre you write in. If you think writing in romance is easy and you go in without doing your research prepare to have some angry romance readers on your hands. It‘s more than likely your attempt to sell out and make a quick buck will fall flat.

If you want to write what sells, then write from the heart.

Maybe your heart lies in military sci-fi — write that, there are readers waiting. If 600-page fantasy sagas are your thing, then write that. Sports-themed romance, a supernatural detective story… you get the idea. Write it. Put the effort in and the rewards are there.

The readers are waiting to buy the novel you poured your heart into because it‘s a novel that can sell.

Thanks for reading! Keep in touch on Facebook or Twitter, or join the mailing list.

David is an author and freelance writer. He has two short story collections available, and his non-fiction work has appeared on The Mighty, WhatCulture and Just Football, among others.

Navigating parenting with a disability and trying to write a novel. Email: davefox990@hotmail.com

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