Author Etiquette - Writing to Market vs Writing What You Want To Write

by Jennifer 1. April 2018 18:45

Authors are faced with many decisions. Some are easy, such as whether to wear your PJs all day when you don’t have to go outside or what kind of music to listen to while writing a fight scene. Other decisions are a bit more difficult such as whether to reveal a piece of information early or later in a story. Certain facts should always be trueformatting, proper grammar, punctuationwhile other things such as what font you use while drafting a story is up to the author. But one thing authors have to face some time or another is whether to write what they want or to write to market.


This can be a very difficult decision for many. By writing to market, an author has to make changes. Sometimes it means putting away stories they love to keep the lights on or turning away from a particular style that they are known for. On the other hand, some authors expand their toolbox by writing in different venues for different types of markets.


But writing what you love has pros and cons, too. Writing what you love gives you the security of knowing every aspect of the world you write in. When your audience finds you they know what to expect and readers will often seek out all of your work if they like it. However, it is easy to become lost in the shuffle if you are known for only one type of writing.


What is “Writing to Market?”

Before we look at what kind of decision needs to be made, first we need to define “writing to market” for those who do not know what this means.


Writing for market means that an author is writing for a particular market, has been contracted to write a particular story in a world, or they are following a trend that is selling well. This could be authors who are writing for a themed anthology, writing tie-in stories, or are wanting to bank in on a particular sub-genre or trend.


To work a writing to market story, an author must be aware of the history of the world or sub-genre, often must deal with rules on how things work in that world, and must also realize that fans can be very critical of the work once it is released. A writing to market piece must fit in the world you are writing for without making huge waves (unless that is what you’ve been contracted to do),  but it also must be unique enough to move the goalposts forward.


While there are no guarantees that these stories will sell, many times the author will see increased chances of sales by accepting writing to market proposals.


How is this different from “Writing what you Want?”

In writing what you want, the author is often the builder of their own worlds, creator and master of the universe they are writing. They can take inspiration from anywhere and mold it to fit into their stories. An author can combine genres or slice away what they think distracts from their story. Often there are no rules or history to worry about until the author decides to put them in place.


Writing what you want allows an author the freedom to explore what they can do, how they can do it, and how long or short they can confine a story in. There is no expectations except a finished story. It can stand out boldly, or it can fit neatly into the genre you want it to.


In writing what you want, an author takes a chance that their work may not be hugely popular (although it does happen). Writing what you want does not come with a built in fanbase. Sure, if you write an unique epic fantasy you might be able to draw in LORD OF THE RINGS readers, but then again, you may not. At times, authors who write what they want, struggle to find fans, markets, or see sales.


How to Decide

Every author is unique and each one will decide whether writing what they want or writing to market is right for them. Many authors will suggest going where the better chance of sales will be; however, writing what you love can also be very fulfilling.


For many authors, especially those who are writing full time, the question is: Will it pay and how much? This question allows authors to keep bills paid, groceries in the pantry, money for emergencies, and money for fun things. It’s more difficult to take a chance with writing what you want when bills are involved.


Writing to market often has a built in fanbase which means stories will sell somewhere even if it’s been rejected for a primary market. So that vampire story you wrote for an anthology could have a market in a horror magazine if you get an R. However, by writing what you want, you might just discover an untapped niche market and you’d have the fans all to yourself for a little while.


If you want to work with a group of professionals, writing for market is a good choice. When you write to market, you will be working with publishers, editors, other authors, and various people who work within that type of publishing. It can be quite complicated sometimes, so be forewarned. Writing what you want can allow you space  to develop your own world without the constrictions of rules.


Writing what you want can allow you to be more experimental. Want to write non-linear, experimental prose? Writing what you want is the way to go. But if you want more structured stories, writing to market could be a good fit.


Can you do both?



In many cases, authors write to market in worlds that they are familiar with and love. This gives them that special touch when it comes to writing in particular worlds. Game tie-in authors often play the games they write about, giving them that extra dimension of knowledge. Love writing about spaceships, magical elves, or big stompy ‘Mechs? Tie-in writing could be a great venue for you.


Authors can write work to market pieces to pay the bills while writing what they want. This takes a lot of balance as the work to market stories often takes priority. Authors also have to be able to set aside different story lines especially if they are working on several projects at once.


Some authors even find that there’s a reversal. One of their writing what they want turns into a writing to market proposal. That first novel you send to an agent could turn into a multi-book series. Or perhaps that novel attracts the attention of someone in the write for market world and you are offered an opportunity to write for (insert world.)


Either way, authors have to decide what is best for them. Sometimes it requires one to make hard, painful decisions about one’s work. Other times it opens up great opportunities. Check out all of the opportunities being an author has to offer.


Comments are closed

Apocalypse Ink Productions

A small press publication house specializing in dark speculative fiction.

Latest Releases
Five Minute Stories Podcast
Buy Now. More Information.
A is for Apex
ABC book
Buy Now. More Information.
The Prince of Artemis V
comic book
Buy Now. More Information.

Karen Wilson Chronicles

Buy now.
More Information
Industry Talk

More InformationBuy Now.