February 26, 2019
When you first start writing, one of the most common pieces of advice you will hear is, "All you have to do to be successful is write a great book." While you should always write the best book you are able to, it's actually more important to write a marketable book. There are a lot of great books that never get published, and even more than never achieve commercial success.
To find out what is marketable, visit bookstores and see what's selling. Study the USA Today, New York Times, and Wall Street Journal best-selling lists. If your genre or a similar story concept isn't represented in the stores or on those lists, it's going to be a difficult road to publishing and profiting. By all means, don't let that stop you from writing the book of your heart. However, you can learn how to develop popular stories by researching the market.
A lot of authors have turned to writing and self-publishing commercial fiction to boost their income, gain visibility, and obtain readers. Another way to see what's selling is by looking on Amazon.com in their best seller categories. One caveat: A lot of those best sellers are on these lists because they are in the Kindle Unlimited (KU) program, which allows subscribers to borrow and read as many books that are enrolled in KU as they want each month. That being said, those books are still selling thousands of copies.
The top ten books in each category will usually follow a similar theme or trope. For example, in the Mystery category there are a lot of police procedurals, books with a strong male protagonist who are either loners, badasses, (or both) and serial killers. If you were interested in developing a mystery story, consider reading the books on the bestseller lists so you get an idea of the expectations of the genre, but more importantly what's selling. But keep in mind if your book includes a grizzled detective/former special forces operative tracking down a killer who likes to leave bloody footprints at the scene, you'll have a better chance of selling that book to an agent or editor than you would if you didn't have any common tropes.
Going one step further, if you're a fast writer and are able to jump on trends, you can quickly develop stories that already have a voracious audience waiting to read them. In romance, for example, the hot trends right now are bear shape shifter paranormal romances and reverse harem erotic romances. In the past, it has been billionaire romances, step-brother romances, and SEAL romances. Most readers, especially KU readers, don't want anything to stray too far away from the books they've read and loved. There are reader expectations per niche book. Generally, you can change very few things in a trope-related book before you lose the reader.
The most important thing about chasing a trend and writing to market is that you have to be familiar with these expectations and tropes, so it's best that you choose a genre that you enjoy reading. For example, if you like reading Amish romances and want to chase that trend, you would know the following things about those types of books:
1. They are sweet/clean romances: there isn't any sex in them. One kiss and hand holding are what the readers are expecting, if that.
2. The Amish lifestyle is predominantly featured, eschewing technology and living simple or "plain," as they call it.
3. The books tend to be religious or spiritual, with a heavy reliance on Gött's will and prayer.
4. There will probably be a "sing" (a social event), a barn raising, and a "frolic" (work related get-together like making a quilt or maple sugaring) in the book.
You would also know that if as a writer you wrote a "steamy" Amish story, that it wouldn't appeal to the majority of the readers. By bucking that trope, you would lose the popularity the trend would give you. However, you could downplay the religion, as long as you had the other three expectations, and not lose readers.
If you decided to write an Amish romance just because it was selling a lot on Amazon and didn't do your research, it's a waste of your writing time. The book won't meet readers expectations and will probably not sell well. In that case, you would be better off writing the book of your heart instead.
Writing to trend can be a lucrative way to develop a story because you are basically taking the framework of the story and putting your own spin on it within the limitations of the niche. However, the problem with writing to trend is if you are not actively researching the markets, by the time you identify a trend and write the book, the trend could be over. So, as always, write the best story, period.
USA Today bestselling author, Jamie K. Schmidt, writes erotic contemporary love stories and paranormal romances. Her steamy, romantic comedy, Life’s a Beach, reached #65 on USA Today, #2 on Barnes & Noble and #9 on Amazon and iBooks. Her Club Inferno series from Random House’s Loveswept line has hit both the Amazon and Barnes & Noble top one hundred lists. The first book in the series, Heat, put her on the USA Today bestseller list for the first time, and is a #1 Amazon bestseller. Her book Stud is a 2018 Romance Writers of America Rita® Finalist in Erotica. Her dragon paranormal romance series has been called “fun and quirky” and “endearing.” Partnered with New York Times bestselling author and actress, Jenna Jameson, Jamie’s hardcover debut, SPICE, continues Jenna’s FATE trilogy.
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