September 1, 2013

Writing what you enjoy or writing what sells

If you've scanned the best seller lists recently, you'll find that they have been dominated by three types of books:
  • Books by authors who are already wildly popular, like James Patterson or J.K.Rowling (even when writing as Robert Galbraith)
  • Books in a popular series, especially if that series is tied to a movie release, such as Divergent or City of Bones
  • Romance books
If you're an unknown author like me who's writing a new book, there's nothing you can really do so that your book falls in the first two categories. I'm not a famous author and none of my previous books are popular, and neither of that is likely to change before my next book is published.

That leaves #3. The hot genre right now is romance. It may have started with  50 Shades of Gray, or it may have been the case for a long time without my noticing it. However, nowadays, I can't help but see how many romance books are making the best seller lists. In the author forums that I frequent, I sometimes read about new romance authors who've published their first book wondering why it only sold 50 copies in the first week. It takes me months to sell 50 copies of a book! Elle Casey, an author who I admire and whose YA novels I've read, didn't make the best seller lists until she released her first romance novel, Shine Not Burn.

All of these anecdotes make me wonder, why aren't I writing a romance novel? Why aren't I taking advantage of the popularity of the genre to make more money by writing romance? The simple answer is, I don't like to. I don't like reading romance, I don't like writing it, and I sure don't know what goes into a  romance novel. One good thing about being an indie author, especially one who has a full-time job to pay the bills, is that I can write what I enjoy writing. I happen to like YA speculative fiction, and that's what my novels have been so far. That's also the genre that my current work in progress falls under.

That's not to say that I should shun popular genres for the sake of independence, but there's no reason for me to chase a hot genre right now to make a buck (or thousands of bucks). And it's not like YA speculative fiction is unpopular. It's just not nearly as popular as romance. The second most popular genre today seems to be thrillers. That's actually a genre that I like to read, but I've never written a thriller. I've thought occasionally of trying my hand at a thriller in the future. It may happen or it may not. In the end, I'll do so if I find that I enjoy writing one and if I feel that I can write a good story that readers will like.

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