As you know, the world doesn’t work that way.
We’ve never once heard a successful scribe say, “Write what you love, the money will follow.” If you pressed one of the big dollar novelists for the key to a happy career, we’re betting they’d say this: “Write what other people love and the money will follow.” At least, that’s what we think they’d tell you.
This comes to mind because, as we mentioned last week, we had a surge of success a little while ago. For us, a “surge” counts as 300 copies of a single title sold in 14 days (and the story has continued to sell at a steady clip since then so life is good.). For a title that had no push, collected no internet buzz, and came out under an unknown name.
Why did this piece sell? It had a good cover, a nice edit, and it was in a popular genre. A genre we’d never written until now. Then we found a post on successful self-publishing at Absolute Write. The author, the mysterious shelleyo, advised her fellow writers to pick a popular genre and stick with it. She wrote (among many good things), “The bigger the genre audience, the more self-publishers who're doing well, the better your odds. That's just a business truth (and once you decide to self-publish, you're running a business in a whole different way than when you're writing and submitting).”
Since we agreed with what she'd written, we thought we’d found the key to riches. Find a popular genre, write a novel in the popular genre, collect fans, sales, and a summer house in Maine. Even though we’ve never been to Maine.
Just to reassure ourselves, we thought we’d contact another writer and see if she agreed with us. Not just any writer but a writer who had a giant spike in sales when she changed genres for her novel, Slow Burn. (And you ought to check out the reviews for the story, too. Seriously.) So we wrote VJ Chambers and we said, “Hey, we think we’ve found the secret to becoming super-successful writers and that’s to pick a popular genre and then write that genre and we know you think so, too, don’t you, since we’re so wizardly smart” – or something along those lines. Because Valerie is a lovely woman, she interrupted her writing schedule to write back.
Very nicely, she disagreed with us. “I think Slow Burn took off because I compared it to Beautiful Disaster in the description. Also because a writer named A. Meredith Walters, who’s had several NA books in the Top 100, mentioned me on her Facebook page. (Thank you, A. Meredith!) And luck. I’ve been really, really lucky.”
Which wasn’t what we wanted to hear at all. We can pick a popular genre but we can’t control luck. (If we could, other people would soon quit playing the mega-lottery.) Also, there’s the whole “A. Meredith Walters” factor. We’ve heard A. Meredith only promotes novels that she actually likes – ones that display creativity and talent and imagination – and what are the odds we’ll write one of those?
Drat. Now what do we do?
Quote o’ the day: “I am a writer, but I love sex more than I love writing. And I am not getting paid for sex. But I don’t sit up at night thinking, should I do writing or sex? Because career decisions are not decisions about ‘what do I love most?’ Career decisions are about what kind of life do I want to set up for myself?” – Penelope Trunk