Recently, I stopped listening to a podcast that used to be on my weekly listen list. In last week's episode the hosts encourage people to use the Author Earnings Report to find out what genres are "hot" and to then go research those best-sellers among indies and copy what they do. Make your covers look like theirs. Write similar book descriptions and write in the same genre--even if you don't read that genre or don't write in it usually. Write what sells, they say.
I'm still sniffing marshmallows over here.
You see, there's a difference between a writer and a producer of texts. And guess who is going to be a player in the long game?
I have a real problem with people who try on genres in hopes they'll sell. I write a vampire series. Do I do it because I figure people will scoop it up and it will sell well? If so, I've learned nothing from the six years in between now and when I published the first book in the series, that's for sure.
My motivation to begin that series came from reading and teaching Dracula in my World Literature courses in the early 2000s. Each time I read the book more gaps appeared and I wanted to know who the three mysterious women were in the castle--you know the ones who attempt (?) to seduce (feast upon?) Harker. And then there are the other women--Mina and Lucy in particular. For Stoker, these women serve as devices to a large extent. We know, for instance, Jonathan Harker loves writing down recipes for Mina to cook for him later, but we learn little about what she thinks about beyond the few letters she writes included in the novel.
There's a wealth of material there--that's my point, I guess. And, the writing is far more a private puzzle in the beginning of the process. I'm also interested in the fairly asexual lunatic that is Renfield. How did Dracula obviously "infect" Renfield prior to even coming to England? Where do the dots connect?
My point is writing on spec to some market hot right now does not work for me. If I'm going to invest months--possibly years--of my time to a novel as a writer, I have to be doing more than phoning it in hoping to make a lot of sales.
Look at it this way: When I was teaching Composition to students who didn't give two sh*ts about writing and who just wanted to earn a paycheck I was doing a job. It was a long one, but it certainly wasn't what I would hope for as my career. I left in part because that portion of my work time had come to an end. It served its purpose. I spent nearly 25 years operating in an environment where everything I did was meant to "sell." Sure, not in the way that we think of when we talk about fiction writing and sales of novels, but I was working in a very standardized genre and a very standardized set of expectations.
Since leaving that job, I've been rewriting a novel that has nothing to do with Dracula or any of Stoker's characters. And I'm taking my time. One of the first things I noticed when I picked up the manuscript after it sat in a desk drawer for about six months was that I'd taken a kitchen sink approach to the plot. Things were convoluted and there are probably three or four different novel plots in the original text. I'm about 1/3rd of the way through the rewrite at this point and I've added a new character who is becoming an important one; while there are bits and pieces I can use, so much is changing.
I am a Book Bub subscriber, and I see people writing what they think is "hot" right now. I don't buy their books (nor do I download them when they are free on promotion). I'm also a Kindle Scout nominator and I see a lot of trend-following attempts. Finally, I get emails from people asking me to review their books just because they "think" their book is like this other one I reviewed and they found me through a bot search on Amazon.
Write because you can't NOT write. And write what you are driven to write, not what you think will sell. Be a writer, not a producer of texts.
Once this book is rewritten, Book 4, tentatively titled Whitby will be in the works. And not because I'm banking on vampire fiction sales to rise.