Before the age of digital publishing, the prevailing advice was to ignore market trends when submitting to a publisher. Because by the time your manuscript got turned into a book, the market trends would have moved on. There was no point trying to write in the hot genre of the moment because it could have cooled by the time yourt book hit the shelves.
Now, with writers being able to upload work to the marketplace instantly, it is possible to catch a popular wave and ride it while it's still cresting. With a series, it's an even more viable option because while a novel may take you months to write, you can get your first serial episode up in a matter of weeks or even days.
Writing to the market can be lucrative but there are a few caveats:
* always write in a genre you personally enjoy reading. A series takes commitment and time and you won't be motivated if you are writing in a genre you don't enjoy.
* do NOT copy anyone else's work. Writing something that is in the same genre as a currently bestselling book is fine but make your work your own.
* don't think that just because you are writing in a popular genre, sales will come flooding in. Authors A,B and C could all write stories based on the same similar concept but for unknown reasons, only Author B's books might take off. Nothing is certain in this business, there is always an X Factor.
Don't confuse 'writing to the market' with riding the coattails of a popular book. Trying to ride coattails is when you see a book that is selling well and put out a book that has a similar blurb, a similar cover and a similar storyline to try and catch the same audience. Do you want your books to be carbon copies of someone else's work or do you want to be creative? You are a writer and part of that job description means creating your own worlds and stories. That's most of the fun. If you try to make a quick buck and end up writing something you don't enjoy, it will show in your writing and you will probably come to hate yourself and the story.
Writing To The Market
So, what is meant by 'writing to the market'? This is a technique that involves research, making predictions, and luck. It's something you might try to give your sales a little extra nudge but don't depend on it. Because of the unpredictability of the market and things like Amazon's algorithms, nothing is guaranteed.
You shouldn't try writing to the market if you are only comfortable writing in a particular genre. If you write Heroic Fantasy, you probably shouldn't try to write a Romance just because they are popular. (although you might add some romantic elements to your Heroic Fantasy).
If you are comfortable writing in more than one genre and you are looking for a subject for your series, then writing to the market can be fun and profitable.
The first thing you will want to look into is the zeitgeist. All that means is the 'spirit of the times'. What is popular at the moment? What is big in the area of popular culture we are looking at? (in our case, books)
At the moment, the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomena is still going strong. So it would be a good idea to write a book like that one, right? Not necessarily. Let's look a little deeper...
First of all, a lot of writers have already jumped onto this resurgence in the 'billionaire romance' market. If I type the words 'billionaire' and 'bdsm' into Amazon, there are plenty of stories that pop up:
So, the question you have to ask yourself is, 'Can this market sustain my book?' You may decide that even though a lot of other authors are writing to this market, there are enough readers to support all the books. To make a better informed decision on this, look at the sales rankings of the books already in that market. Are they selling well? Are only certain titles selling well while others languish in the hundreds of thousands ranks?
There is another question we need to ask. Are the readers of Fifty Shades of Grey reading these other books? Are these books capiltalising on the FSoG fanbase?
Let's take a look at the FSoG 'Also Boughts' list:
Interestingly, the book only has two pages of Also Boughts. It has E.L. James' other books, of course, which we can discount from our research. We are only interested in which books by other authors all those readers of Fifty Shades bought. The answer may surprise you:
I'm not saying that Fifty Shades hasn't caused a resurgence in the billionaire bdsm market - it has - my point is to be careful when looking at the market and be careful when making assumptions. Don't assume that because your series has the same subject as the current top-selling book, the readers of that book will move onto yours.
The #1 bestselling book on Amazon as I write this is:
And the #1 bestseller in Kindle is:
Again, disregarding the authors' own works, if we take a look at the Also Boughts we see something very different to the FSoG page.
The Mark of Athena has 13 pages of Fantasy books by other authors.
Hugh Howey's Wool has 6 pages of Science Fiction books by other authors.
So what can we learn from this? That Fantasy and Science Fiction sell well and that the readers of the top-selling books read many other books in the same genre.
So we might go a stage further and look in more detail at those Also Bought lists. We can see that what is selling well right now is Fantasy aimed at young people and Science Fiction with a post-apocalyptic flavor.
For example, in the Also Boughts for Wool, we find:
Joshua #2,483 Paid in Kindle Store
Yesterday's Gone: Season One #1,447 Paid in Kindle Store (and an episodic series!)
Ashfall #258 Paid in Kindle Store
Breakdown #79 Paid in Kindle Store
77 Days in September #48 Paid in Kindle Store
All of these are post-apocalyptic stories and all are ranking well.
You can also do a reverse search in the Top 100. So, you might see that post-apocalyptic books are doing well and then go the Top 100 to see how many of those 100 are post-apocalyptic (we already found three on the Wool page...77 Days in September, Breakdown and Wool itself).
You could do the same for Fantasy. Or for Romance. Or erotica. Or any genre you want to write in.
Some Genres Always Sell Well
You should also take into account that some genres always seem to sell well. Romance is a genre that is famous for its voracious readers. If you happen to already write in one of these genres, you have a headstart already but a little extra research could show you a sub-genre that is rising at the moment and could be a lucrative step forward.
Write What You Love
One thing I must stress...write what you love. Writing your story should be an enjoyable adventure, not a chore. Don't sell yourself out. If a popular genre happens to fit in with your interests all well and good but don't force yourself to write something you hate just because it is hot at the moment. Square pegs don't fit into round holes.
Be A Trendsetter
Also remember that you could have a hit on your hands because your series is different to everything else.
Some books and stories break out because they are fresh.
Be original and it could be you that every other writer everyone is emulating.