Write What You Love Or What Will Sell?

A few of the blogs I’ve read recently have started saying things like, “The most important thing to a writer is a reader,” and “You must write what will sell,” and “You must write what will appeal to a reader or you will never sell anything and you’ll be a FAILURE!”

That’s great if you’re looking to be the next Stephen King or Danielle Steele, and never have a novel that differentiates too much from what you’ve already written and sold.

But where’s the heart, the soul, and the passion of a writer who isn’t writing what they love?

The books that are written to a trend are obvious to savvy readers. Maybe the agents and publishers think we’re stupid, but we can tell when someone’s trying to rip off Twilight or Harry Potter and quite frankly, I’m not impressed. The rip offs will never be as good as the original and sure, some people might be duped into parting with their hard earned cash; but in the long run, they’re missing something. An essence. A passion. Love. Call it what you will, but trend-written books are never as good as originals.

So what do you do? Do you write to trends and turn out a bunch of similar novels that can never compare to the original (oh my god, where do I start!), or do you write what you want to write, write something that makes you excited and hope that a similar trend comes along in time to take advantage of that enormous wave of popularity?

Of course, I don’t have the answers, because I’m not a published writer. In fact, I’ve done both. I’ve written a short story collection of some generic paranormal tropes such as werewolves, vampires, fairies, angels, and sirens – but my full-length novels are a space opera about cyborgs and a high fantasy/paranormal series about magical creatures no one’s ever written about before. If I ever write something trendy, it will be by accident.

What are your thoughts? Would you ever write to a trend – considering it takes 2 years for a book to go from bought by a publisher to on the shelves? Or would you write to a trend and self-publish (faster turnaround)? Do you only write what you’re interested in reading, like Meyer did with Twilight? Do you hope a trend might come along that you can surf the success of?


6 thoughts on “Write What You Love Or What Will Sell?

  1. Archer says:

    I say write what you think is worth reading. Statistically speaking for every dozen of so dicks who say you’re gonna fail and that your stuff is crap there’ll be someone who gets it, will explain it, will get more people to read it and a slow burning understanding will emerge. Much like the works of Melvin Burgess and James Clavell in the literature world and The Matrix Trilogy, Se7en and Donnie Darko in movies.


  2. julihoffman says:

    I write what I’d like to read. I write for myself. Since I write about vampires, my biggest fear is being compared to the rest of the herd…in a bad way. Sigh! You enjoy writing fantasy stories. I say write for that audience, and a big part of that audience is yourself and the people around you who care about you. You’re writing for a smaller group than the Danielle Steels and Nora Roberts of this world and that really is OK.


  3. Caitlin McColl says:

    I totally think you should write what you want to write about – otherwise how will it actually have a soul?!

    And whatever you like to read and write about, you should do what your heart says! As the Neil Gaiman poem Instructions says: “Trust dreams. Trust your heart, and trust your story.”

    There will be readers who like what you write. Genuine fans. Maybe not as many as the Stephen King’s or Danielle Steel’s of the world (and i’m talking about myself here too!) but you’ll have people that read and enjoy your stories. And if you enjoy writing them, that’s really all that matters! (and that your fan base enjoys them too :D).


  4. Kathy says:

    I say write what interests you – what captures your imagination. I’m sure A.A. Milne didn’t write to a trend, and his stories have endured and will endure (I’m sure) for many more years. Same with Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer, the Brontes.

    In writing what you love, you’re more likely to write something which will endure. So I guess you’ve got to weigh up what you want: money, or endurance. Hopefully though, you’ll write something which will bring in the money you need and which will remain popular and loved!


  5. CanaryTheFirst says:

    The best bit of advice I’ve heard in the industry is this: Write the kind of story you’d like to read yourself.

    Of course, whether this bit of advice applies to you depends on what you’re looking to do with your writing. Just like freelance journalists, writers need to pay the bills. If a writer is looking to make a living off writing books, she has two options:

    1) Write a lot and write what will sell. This means trends, romance or mystery serials, the works. And hopefully, it’ll be a genre you’ll sincerely enjoy. Or
    2) Have a stable job and write what you really want to say in your free time as a long term hobby.

    Most of the big trend setters were 2’s and some writers combine 1 and 2.

    As with any life career choice, it really depends on what each individual wants. It’s his life, and no amount of advice that he’s doing the “right” thing will make him happy if it’s not right for him.


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