Thinking and Knowing Are Two Different Things…

Over the last week or so I have been talking about having the freedom, the artistic freedom, of being able to write what we want to write in this new world.

Both the good side of that freedom and the side I see as a problem.

And the area that the most people seem to get stuck on is my suggestion to write what you love, not to market. (You can go back and read my points on that topic over the last week. Read the comments as well.)

But tonight I wanted to point out one simple problem the people who write to market have.

No one in publishing really knows what will sell.

For a very long time, publishers large and small have been trying to stay ahead of the game of trying to figure out what will sell. What will be the next big thing.

And at certain points in history, meaning this month or this year, certain genres or sub-genres have sold more than others. But even at that large a target, the sales are a constantly moving target. (Ranch romances anyone? How about Spicy Mystery or Spicy Thriller stories? And science fiction was by far the largest genre for a decade or more in the pulps.)

The trends never last long.

Reasons for this are fairly simple to understand. Readers get tired of the same old thing in short order and move on.

I could list here some of the trends in publishing that everyone thinks is hot at the moment, from series selling better than stand-alone novels to dinosaur porn. Or whatever it might be today.

I know for a fact, a fact, that it will all change. After forty years (and by studying the history of publishing) the only thing I do know for a fact about publishing is that change will happen.

Entire genres come and go, sub-genres get hot, flash for a short time, and vanish. And on and on and on…

Makes me tired just thinking about it.

But what I find amusing (in my own sort of twisted fashion) are the young writers who shout out there that they know what will sell and they are going to write it and anyone not writing what they think is hot is stupid. (For some reason they want others to follow them for some twisted sort of validation I guess.)

Young writers would have never done this in the old days of publishing, but the indie world has brought this to the front.

Yeah, those young indie writers know more about publishing and readers and the market than all publishers combined in the last century of modern publishing. And some of them with large egos and no real connection to reality will defend their stance.

If anyone really, really knew what was guaranteed to sell, the big publishers and all the medium publishers, and half the indie writers would be all over it.

And, of course, if that happened the readers would soon tire of all the clone books coming out and the readers would move on and entire careers of writers (writing to market) would die.

So I laugh to myself when some young writer tries to tell me I am wrong, that they know what would sell and I am stupid for not writing what they know, they absolutely know for a fact, will sell.

I say nothing because I honestly have no idea what will sell from moment to moment in publishing. For all I know, at this moment in time, some of those young writers are correct.

For this moment in time.

Instead I just wait.

And in a few years todays batch of young, confident writers will be gone, to be replaced by a new batch of hot young writers, all knowing with certainty what will sell.

That batch will tell me I am wrong and stupid for not writing to market.

Again I will just wait.

And while I wait, I will be writing what I love, having fun with my own writing.