3 Steps for Choosing the Right Market for Your Writing Style

Saturday, I watched cable network news, which is something that I normally never do.

Air Guitar

Dan Budiac, flickr.com

The usual places I get my news hadn’t prepared me for seeing the results of the Air Guitar World Championships, or for the fact that there was such a thing as the Air Guitar World Championships. Apparently, the winner (an American) rocked the house with his spirited performance of Weezer’s “Hash Pipe.” According to Reuters, his headbanging skills put him over the top.

I’m telling you this because the only thought I had during the entire news segment was, If there are people out winning money playing air guitar, there has to be an audience for almost any kind of writing. 

Step 1: Avoid market paralysis.

Worrying about where to sell your book before you’ve even hit the outline stage is a great way to keep yourself from writing anything at all. And a lot of Internet advice on this point is just specific enough to make most new writers nervous, so let me clarify: When you’re in the planning and writing stages of creating your book, don’t worry about your market; worry about your reader.

It’s easier, and a lot more motivating, to consider the kind of reader you want to speak to with your work, rather than wondering if your book is checking all the boxes on some imaginary editor’s checklist of this genre, or that market. Worry about finding your market once you’ve got a book to compare it to.

Step 2: Stop looking for a perfect fit.

Writers researching the market in the genre or niche of their choosing tend to suffer from a perspective problem: The works they’re reading all seem to be fantastic examples of the form (YA, self help/how-to, dystopia fantasy), and when they read enough examples, their own work seems a bit misshapen by comparison. My novel just doesn’t fit this the genre because it has X and not Y, they might think.

The fact is that every work in a genre stretches the mold, just a little, to accommodate itself. There’s no reason your writing can’t do the same thing.

To help focus your thinking, try and isolate five general characteristics of the genre in which you want to focus your pitches, and make sure the goalposts are reasonably wide. For example, the characteristics of a YA novel might be: an adolescent protagonist, a writing style that’s accessible to adolescents but not childlike, vivid characterizations of the main character’s peers, a coming-of-age, problem or memoir-focused plot, and discussion of issues familiar to most age 12-18 readers.

For more genre descriptions, check out AgentQuery.

Step 3: Own whatever kind of writing you do best.

Speaking from my own experience, readers are looking for authentic voices with which they can forge some sort of connection. Even posts on The Procrastiwriter that get the most traffic are the ones that produce some sort of identification with readers—the Yeah, I do that, too! response. But when I’m writing something I think everyone wants to read, things like emotional, intellectual and experiential authenticity (and results!) are much more difficult to achieve.

If I may return to the Air Guitar World Championships for a moment: Reuters has this quote from the winner, Eric “Mean Melin” Melin:

“All the people from around the world who do this crazy thing that we do, that is so ridiculous and so nuts and so silly… we want to elevate the art of air guitar to performance art,” he said. “We’re not pretending to play the guitar, we’re not playing invisible guitars. We’re playing the air guitar.”

So, the guy acknowledges that air guitar is silly and can be done in good fun, but also wants to elevate it to a kind of art. Why shouldn’t you treat your writing with the same sort of respect?

All writers should strive to improve over time, but your style is your style, and chiseling it to fit a particular mold or stretching it to appeal to more people isn’t going to make your writing better, or your books more marketable; in fact, it may decrease your chances of success. So keep being you, and figure out how to sell your books once the important part—the writing—is already underway.

For some great advice about picking a niche (if you’re a freelancer), check out Lexi Rodrigo’s Seven Ways to Find Your Freelance Writing Niche and Carol Tice’s How to Figure Out Your Best-Paying Freelance Writing Niche.

How did you find the market for your work? Share in the comments.

Categories: Motivation
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