Saturday, June 30, 2012

Writing to try to hit commercial targets

As I mentioned in my post on the Barnes & Noble group panel last week, one of the questions we received was whether we ever tried to write to hit particular commercial targets.  The questioner was also wondering if we felt writers should do that.

As I said then, my answer was a resounding, "Never!"  I wanted to go a bit more into my thinking, though, because the question is fair, and I see a lot of writers choosing to go the other way.

One of the reasons I don't bother even trying to shape a work toward a target is that the whole enterprise is a mug's game. No one knows what makes this book a bestseller and that one a commercial failure.  No one has a formula for success.  Sure, many people know how to leverage an existing author's well-known name into additional successes, but the path to making any arbitrary book a hit is simply unknown. 

Another of the reasons I don't go down this road is that I'm not writing solely to make money.  Yes, I like selling my work, and, yes, I deeply wish every single one of my novels was a multi-million-copy-selling, New York Times list-topping bestseller, but I write for the only reason I consider worthwhile: because I have to.

The biggest reason I don't aim for commercial targets, though, is in no way practical. It's personal: My writing is the one thing in my life that is utterly and completely mine.  Here I'm discussing the work, of course, not the rest of it--not the marketing, the covers, etc.  Others control all of that, but I control the work itself, the words on the page/screen.  It is my art, as pretentious as that may sound, and I want it to be my own.  So, if you like it, great, I get that credit.  If you don't like it, I'm sorry, and I get that blame. 

My way, of course, does not have to be anyone else's way.  If you're a writer and a given path works for you, great; go for it.  For me, though, the only way forward is to tell the stories that I most need to tell, and then to hope for the best commercially. 


Anonymous said...

Of course it all has to be written for at least the you who hasn't written it perspective. So its something you would not want only to write but to read.

And if a writer completely writes for self then the overall story will suffer. You didn't become as good a writer as you are by not thinking about your audience. So in the end even with the way you worded it, this still comes across as anti-sale out talk about other authors. At least to me.

Which is a little funny because you did it so politely. saying "I am not going to sale out Ever!! Not that selling out is bad or anything." lol


Mark said...

Thanks for the note, Rehcra. You definitely made me think. FWIW, I absolutely did not mean it as an anti-sellout jab at the other writers. I honestly meant it as a statement of what I've chosen. I did not want to give the impression of attacking anyone.


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