author, creative writing, writers, writing

Who should you write for first? You, or the market?

It may sound like a simple question, of which most would answer they’d write for themselves first. But subconsciously, if your goal is to publish, you might find yourself bending your story to fit with the market you wish to publish in. This can shape your plot, your characters and even your settings, as your mind considers what is most likely to please readers, what won’t cause offense, or what others want to see. So, here’s the truth…

The truth is…
For a lot of writers, the long term goal is to publish our work. And so, the guilty truth is, we often find ourselves asking these questions when we have an idea. ‘Will people like this?’ ‘Will it fit in the market?’ ‘Is this an idea that will sell?’ There’s no harm in asking these questions, but it is important not to get so caught up in them that you end up changing your story in ways you’re not happy with. You need to write the book you want to write, before you factor in what other people want.

You should consider ‘readers’ while you write
The above isn’t to suggest that you shouldn’t considers readers when you write. You should, even if that reader is simply you. This is because, when you write with the mindset of someone reading your story one day, you will practice good writing habits. You will consider suspense and mystery, and how to keep people guessing. You’ll consider vivid descriptions and character development, creating strong imagery. You’ll focus on your word choices, gramma and spelling. At the end of the day, when you write a novel you’re storytelling, and so imagining people listening in is important.

It’s important to know your market…but that can come later
When you’ve finished writing and editing your novel, and you are ready to start querying, it’s important to know your market. You need to consider your audience, and who might buy your book, in order to pitch to the right agent. But you can do this once you’ve finished writing. This way, you’re finding the market for the book you wanted to write, rather than having written something you’re less passionate about, but tailored specifically for a market while writing.

My personal experience with rejection based on ‘the market’
When I queried my second novel I went through a very exciting moment where I had a few full requests at once, and the nervous anticipation of waiting to see if one of the agents would consider taking me and my story on. I received some encouraging feedback and constructive criticism and even some lovely comments. But they all came back to me with the same problem; your story has a male protagonist and in the market you’re aiming for, books with male protagonists are much harder to sell.
I’m not saying this was the only issue. It wasn’t. But it was certainly an interesting one. Ironically, when I read books in my genre, I prefer a female protagonist too. But at the end of the day, I wrote what I felt worked for my book.

Do I regret it?
So, do I wish I’d written my book without the male protagonist perspective? I don’t. I love that character, and I enjoyed every second of writing that book. I wouldn’t have been as connected to the story without his perspective, and so it’ll always be the right decision for me. That’s not to say I wasn’t gutted, and didn’t ugly cry in the face of rejection (I was, and I did)! But at the end of the day, if it wasn’t the POV it could’ve been something else. And I think, going forward, I will still have more luck in the industry if I write what I really want to. It wasn’t it this time, but it might be one day!

I’ve not spoken much about this before, and would love to hear your thoughts. Please comment below and share your experiences.

Until then,
Keep writing,

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12 thoughts on “Who should you write for first? You, or the market?”

  1. Great, honest post, Meelie. That feedback about the protagonist is interesting. I’m sorry to hear your story was rejected because of it, and can confirm we’ve all had an ugly-cry after a rejection 🙋🏻‍♀️. I don’t have any experience with feedback like that from an agent or publisher, but I do have feedback from readers and I haven’t had one talk about preferring one gender or another, they just want to read a good story and get to know the characters. On the other hand, it’s not their job to sell the book like it would be an agent so they do have to weigh up that stuff. It’s just one of the fun things to navigate on this crazy writing journey ❤️.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s sad to hear your book was rejected only because of the MC’s gender – while I may have preferences as a reader, when the book is good, I don’t care whether the MC is male or female. Then, I’ve heard the opinion that writers tend to have a wider range when it comes to the books they read. Hard to guess where the truth is. Anyway, I hope you’ll find your readers one way or another.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Tomas. I think if the book had been strong enough, the male character might not have mattered as much. After all, there are thrillers (and successful ones) with male protagonists. This just seemed to be the aspect the rejections had in common. And I can see the trend of female protags in the market, and trends rule out with commercial fiction. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and lovely feedback! x

      Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s interesting. I never think about these things while I’m writing because I always make my writing decisions/choices based on what I want to say in a story. But then I start thinking about querying, and all of the sudden I can’t stop thinking about what the publishing industry wants, which is always abstract and completely divorced from themes, etc. I just finished a manuscript and don’t know if I should even query it.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Yes, yes, yes, to everything. And things can change so much and so fast in the market, that writing just for “trends” isn’t always best, though keeping on top of knowing what the trends are I think is really good to understand where your book lands in the market

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re right Bernadette, the change all the time. I’ve also heard that agents/editors/publishers are usually working 2 years ahead too, so it can be hard to know if there’s been a shift. Thanks so much for reading and commenting ❤ xx

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Completely agree with you! I think you have to consider the reader with what you write. The whole function of writing is to convey meaning to a reader. But I also think that sticking to writing stories you are personally attached to–rather than chasing market trends or ghost writing–provides a bit of inoculation against rejection. As long as you love your story, and enjoyed writing it, there’s value in the act, regardless of publishing results.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Wow! That’s a tough break. And the truth is, market trends shift and soon enough they may WANT a male protagonist. It’s an interesting question and one I found myself debating when looking at the recent trends in fantasy. Ultimately, I’ve decided it’s ok to consider adding marketable themes in a story, provided I love my story.

    Liked by 1 person

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