Write to Market: Book, Blurb & Collage

Write to Market, Chris Fox.jpg

Some of my indie friends requested that I start doing more research regarding publishing and marketing books.  To this end, I recently finished reading Write to Market by Chris Fox.  At 100 pages this book now takes the top spot on my, “Shortest Books On Writing,” list (coming to a blog near you).  It edged out The Elements of Style by a whopping five pages!

Now before I talk about this book I want to say two things:

  1. This book is not about marketing a preexisting book.  It is about gauging the market and writing a book to meet market demand.
  2. This concept is probably going to make some of you want to raise a ruckus and talk about how this method of writing is an author selling his/her soul for a buck (or multiple bucks).

When I started reading this book my feet were planted firmly in the second category.  I read the first ten percent of this book (ten pages) and was less than impressed.  Mostly because I thought this was a book on marketing a preexisting book, and also because I felt like writing a book for someone other than myself was akin to punching kittens.

Ethos, pathos, logos

As I continued to read I felt myself being persuaded.  Fox was offering a sound argument packed with ethos, pathos, and logos.  Here are a few points to help you gauge if this book is for you or not.  I’m not going to share too much content because this book is so short.

  • This book is current.  It offers advice that can be applied now.  This makes it a strong reference text.
  • This book is written by a successful indie author specifically for other indie authors.
  • This book is short.  It isn’t packed with exposition.  It is packed with useful tools to leverage online sources and listing tools to examine the writing market.
  • Fox shows you how to use Amazon and other online tools to examine your genre for trends.
  • Fox explains how tracking trends in your genre and writing a book that fits popular demand isn’t really selling out.
  • Fox explains if you want to write and make money, write books people want to read.
  • If you don’t care about making money, write purely for yourself.

Those last two bullets probably have some of you getting ready to beat on your keyboards.  I’ve thought about it over the last few days and this is what I have come up with.  If I would apply this books principles this would be my basic process (there’s more to it in the book).

  1. I outline my book premise.  Then stop.
  2. Use tools provided in book to research genre.
  3. Find the top 20-100 books of my genre.
  4. Read reviews and examine story elements.
  5. Find what unites these books in popularity.
  6. Take the story I was already going to write, and apply some of those elements.
  7. I have written to market.

lookingExample:  I write post-apocalyptic fiction.  So I research the market and see what is popular.  Not just now, but over the last few months.  I look at those books and find what the repeat elements are.  Standard zombies are out, mutant zombies are in.  City scenes are out, fantasy lands are in.

I look at the failed books.  Again, what are the repeat elements?  A group of survivors led by a male protagonist is a story line that is getting old.  They are also getting tired of the whole, “Ushering the mad scientist to the lab of glory to save the world story line.” Okay cool.

I take the story I was already going to write and tweak it in just a few areas to fit market demand and write it.  That’s really it.  Is writing the story you wanted to write, but adding an element readers want to read make you a sell out?  That’s for you to decide.

[Begin Rant Here]

Fisticuffs.jpgHere’s my opinion.  I want to tell my story and I want people to read it.  I also would like to make money.  Because money is good (i.e. pays bills, feeds my family, legitimizes the time spent slaving away).

If I’m cracking some beers open with my cop or military buddies, our stories often turn toward past exploits.  If I would tell my parents those same stories, I would likely tell them in a slightly different way (less vulgarity, drunkenness, and belly laughter).  I want to share those stories, but I also want to be mindful of the listener.  To do this I place a filter on the story.  It’s the same story, but with slight modifications.

I think if we are honest, we all do this to some extent.  At least in the context of how we conduct ourselves with different people.  As long as we aren’t sociopaths about it, it’s normal.  We do this in our daily life, but for some reason we are compelled to take an ethical stand on the stories that could put bread on the table.  If the story is designed to be read by others, shouldn’t we ensure we know what others want to read?

I understand that I’m a noob writer.  I’m not going to sway the market with my stories.  Maybe when one of us is a multi-platinum New York Times best-seller of destiny we will be able to push readers one way or the other.  So for now, I’m not going to try to change the flow of a river.  I’m going to test the waters (market) and float explosives (books) down it to blow the dam to smithereens (readers minds).  At least that’s my plan…

[End Rant]

write to marketAt 100 pages this book is thought provoking.  Your alternative to gauge market trends is Writer’s Market 2016, which is a soul crushing 868 pages.  It can also heat your home the following year because it will be outdated.

If you are curious about market trends, marketing a future book, or just want to be more educated in regards to authors who write to match market trends, I would encourage you to pick this book up.  What are your thoughts?  Do you feel matching a book’s content to meet market trends is bad mojo?  I’ve shared my thoughts, I’d be curious to know yours.  Until tomorrow, keep reading, keep writing, and as always – stay sharp!

Copyright Info (final)

55 responses

  1. I think it is very smart information.

    What are the top selling topics for books that are actually selling and making money? Great question! And how do we do that?!

    As a beginner blogger, and long time Social Media junkie, I have always wondered how one blog can post something on a topic that has thousands of followers, and if I dare to write a post on the same topic, I hear the crickets singing.
    I see that on Social Media too. One person can go on and on about something (definitely not book material) and they get all these responses and sympathy, and comments and even viral content. So, I experiment, post something similiar on the same topic. Now the crickets have not only stopped singing, but they have left the park! What’s Up!!! 🙂

    I wonder if it is more about not the genre (which I have no doubt that we need to take note of that), but is it more about the marketing and the marketing budget one has to promote their book (whatever it is!).

    Sort of like the Disney movie, “My Fair Lady”. Teach her all the skills of high society, put her in different clothing, and whala! A transformed and popular Lady that came from the streets and no one knows it!

    So, yeah, I see what your saying. Tweak our writing a bit, to get it to please the audience and what they are seeking. Ok. I’m on board with that. And pick a topic that will sell and what people are wanting! Got it!

    But then what! Now we need to promote it! Market the hell out of it! And that requires big budgets? Correct?
    Or am I getting ahead of the game here. Is that your next blog post? Marketing the now well sought after book we just wrote, to the style and pleasure of our audience.

    I thought your post was very practical and to the point. Loved the sense of humor, of course! I enjoyed it, even if it did evoke further questions I have. But that’s a good thing!
    Thank You!

    Liked by 5 people

    • Thanks for this awesome comment and for taking the time to read as well!

      I’m with you on this one. I have a lot of questions still. I get the premise of the book and I can’t refute the value of the argument.

      The book doesn’t really talk about promoting the book. That is something I need to research more on my own (likely a future ramble here on the blog). It’s something I’m very interested in learning more about because it’s something that seems to be cloaked in mystery. Most of the books I see regarding promoting books as independent authors were written by indie authors and have sold less than ten copies with no reviews (which doesn’t exactly inspire confidence).

      Fox does allude to the idea that if you write the book to match genre expectation it takes some of the work out of the equation for you in regards to promotion. Word of mouth and social media will actually work for you if your book has enough gusto (but even this is pure speculation in my opinion).

      While the book seemed to target indie authors, I will say someone who plans to take the traditional route to publishing can utilize the exact same formula. If anything, you will have a stronger book to offer an agent.

      I’ll keep digging! It’s nice to know other people are just as mystified by this bizarre process as I am. I don’t feel so alone. Thanks again for reading!

      Liked by 3 people

  2. It’s interesting you posted this around the same time I’m reading about marketing. Thanks for the info, and I’ll be sure to add this book to my collection. When I was taking writing classes, my teacher always taught us not to copy trends but to set them. While it is good to gauge the market, I don’t want to be another book with the same premise, character types, and plot.

    However, I do agree it’s good to see what’s popular and put your own spin on it. As always, it was another great post!

    Liked by 5 people

    • Thanks for swinging in today. It’s a very short book, so it won’t take long to read. There is certainly some value to be found in the pages. I don’t know if it’s gospel, but it has merit.

      My creative writing professors stated the same thing about avoiding tropes and trends. But in the same breath they would talk about authors who died penniless and became famous years after their death (when the mob’s opinion shifted and suddenly their books were brilliant).

      For me, I would rather do something I love (write) and reap some of the benefits while I am still above the ground. If that means I have to slightly tweak my story to appease the mob I live among – I’ll do it. At the very least I’ll do it until I have the power to control their minds through the halo effect. *maniacal laughter*

      That’s just my two cents though. These are all observations based on limited knowledge and experience. Once I start the publication process early next year I’ll have more legitimate advice to offer. Until then, I’ll just be over here plotting to take over the world.

      Thanks again for reading today!

      Liked by 3 people

  3. Hi Corey! I do not think I am a sell out if I match my book’s content to meet the market because I think the message behind the story I am writing can be sent in multiple forms (styles of writing or genre) for example: one can write a love novel with mutated zombies in post apocalyptic world where the whole time he is explaining the reality of everyday life and the chaos we are living in today. Right? I think that if your voice and the message you are trying to convey with your novel, stay true to your views of life then this matter of accommodating the needs of the market really have no weight.
    P.S. I do not see you as a noob writer. I see a man who has discovered his voice and is really good at writing about it! Take care!

    Liked by 5 people

    • I certainly appreciate all of your kind words. I tend to agree with the points you made as well. It seems to me that many writers operate in extremes: black and white. While it may be prudent to consider living in the gray.

      I also agree that if your writing is yours, then it doesn’t matter if you borrow concepts. I’ve been working on a series around the Hero’s Journey on the blog. The idea comes from Joseph Campbell and it postulates that most stories are simply ancient myths retold over and over again.

      It’s all breadcrumbs to me. I’m on the trail of information and I will sniff it out, tear it apart, and reassemble it on here. Thanks again for taking the time to read and comment!

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I do think there’s some wisdom in this. Is everyone is buying apples like crazy, trying to sell them a mango probably isn’t going to get you far. But on the other hand, following the market doesn’t always work. Even if fantasy zombies are the hottest thing ever right now, when the book is published in a year and a halfish, there will probably be a new thing by then.

    Liked by 3 people

    • The issue with timeline is why I think the book is written with indie authors in mind. For indies, they can publish a book as quickly as they can write one (for better or worse). So being able to sink into market trends and quickly produce a work to match it, bolstered by social media and all of the other nonsense, allows them to tap into readership. The concept seems to be if you can do it successfully just one time – that may be enough to propel your career forward.

      For people trying the traditional route first (people like me) I think your assumption is pretty solid.

      Fox (the author of the book) also wrote a book about teaching yourself to write 5k words a day. So in his mind, it’s very possible for a writer to turn a fast product out. While this is out of reach for many (me included) if you can burn out a book in less than a month than it may be more applicable to you individually.

      Regardless, it’s all just tools for the toolbox.

      Thanks for taking the time to read and leave some thoughts!

      Liked by 3 people

  5. This a great post. I am also full of questions about book marketing. It is one thing to self-publish your book and think you have done a great job, but it is quite another to get people to buy it. I think it is a lot of trial and error, which is something I am still working on.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I will absolutely add this book to my buy list. I just checked it out on GoodReads and Amazon and it looks solid.

      I think I’ve mentioned this to you before, but one of my dreams is to have my own publishing company someday. I wanted to focus on publishing Veteran (military veterans, like us) authors and doing outreach. I know there are plenty of vets out there who feel like they have lost their family when they transitioned out. Pair that with TBI, PTSD, and growing suicide rates for our brothers and sisters and it makes me truly sad. The more we can do to help our community the better. Not that I would limit publishing to just vets, but hey, having a target group sure doesn’t help a business model.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I would whole heartedly support that idea! With ePublishing, you could definitely make that work. Start the company, use it to publish your own works and then when the time is right to take submissions you’ve a longer history in business to help out!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Oh ho ho! You sir, (as does the author who wrote the book you recommend) walked a fine line with this article. However both of your arguments seem very valid and you are right. You can market the book by writing it towards the current trends and not “sell out”.

    I believe that is the case if you apply the books knowledge in the way you mention in this article. You still have your voice, and your message, and your story, with some small alterations. Still, I’m always going to be writing for because I love to write. I write for myself in a lot of ways simply because I need to and I love doing it.

    I agree with your methods, but was I ever ready to turn the keys and launch the proverbial comment nuke (not at you per say, but the authors methods and message) initially. You once again however, have provided a pretty good and quite interesting look and view on the message.

    Kudos! I am a firm believer in writing because you love to do so. I suppose that is easier for me though seeing as I’m not looking to publish anything as of yet. I can see where this book and the application you reference in the article itself would help out many a budding author looking to publish and get the best possible marketing for their future book.

    Well said good sir.

    Cheers! ^_^

    Liked by 2 people

    • “I agree with your methods, but was I ever ready to turn the keys and launch the proverbial comment nuke (not at you per say, but the authors methods and message)…”

      For the purposes of transparency, I would say that there are some nuke-worthy statement in the book. The one example that really bothered me was he had outlined a book and the characters for a book. Then he did the market research and noticed something: never in the history of successful books had a female character been cast in a particular role. So, despite his original plan, he changed the gender of his main character to match market demand and expectation.

      For me, I felt like that was a betrayal of the muse and the story. It’s one thing to tweak minor facets of the book to align with reader expectation, but it’s completely another to change the gender of a character to promote stereotypical gender roles. But his is rant for a different day.

      That is likely the most “controversial” statement in the book. And Fox even prefaces the statement by saying this might be controversial. The rest of it is pretty down to earth and solid.

      I am with you also on writing for myself. But when I make food for my family, sometimes I make things I don’t love eating. I do this because I love to be able to give them something they enjoying eating. To a lesser extent, as writers, I think we should do the same thing. If I have to add a dash of extra salt, or some obscure spice to make my book more palatable – sure, lets cook.

      Thanks for taking the time to read today. I know it’s a bigger time investment than your awesome poetry. Speaking of which, I need to scamper on over to your dark neck of the woods.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. I agree with the general sentiment here: that this is decent advice–thanks, as always, for posting it!

    Two thoughts: I wonder how much of this we learn, naturally, just by reading extensively in our genres? And to what extent can we get away with splitting the difference–writing some books that really hit what’s popular and some that we know don’t, but that we just write for love?

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m glad you found something useful in my continuing rantings. I really appreciate you taking the time to read and leave some questions. Let’s look at them.

      I wonder how much of this we learn, naturally, just by reading extensively in our genres?

      Fox (the author) talks about how important reading and writing within your chosen genre is. More specifically, current books in our genres. I’m pretty sure one of the quotes I pulled from the book and tossed on the collage was something like, “Read all the friggin books!” (I’m on my admin page side so I can’t see the collage…) I have yet to read a book on writing that has said, “Don’t worry about reading books – just write.”

      And to what extent can we get away with splitting the difference–writing some books that really hit what’s popular and some that we know don’t, but that we just write for love?

      Fox believes this is tied into your own personal success as an author. Readers are more apt to continue reading your work if you have establish with them you can deliver great stories. He talks about his first book (which he accidentally wrote to market) selling like hot cakes. Then when he wrote his second (still clueless about the market) it flopped. However, many of the people that purchased his first book, purchased his second one. It just failed to generate additional buyers.

      In my broken brain, this was the metaphor I came up with. I would like to look like a chiseled Greek god. To do accomplish the look, I would have to diet, work out, and do some things that are rather tedious. However, once I had achieved Greek godliness I could eat a whole pizza every now and then, it wouldn’t affect my figure. Over time, the work, dieting, and tedious stuff may become more enjoyable.

      I think writing for readers is much the same. I would rather write what I want to write all the time (eat whole pizzas). But if I want to look like a Greek god (be worshiped and appreciated for my work) I need to diet and work out (write books the mob wants to read). Once I do achieve godliness (people like gazing at my marbled six pack/reading my books) I can whoof down pizzas and they will still love me for it (write whatever the heck I want). However, if I only eat pizzas (write books for me) I will become flabby, and my chiseled six pack turns into a stone barrel (alienate readers by moving too far away from built expectations).

      I don’t know if that ridiculous metaphor answered your question or not…I hope so! I don’t know the true answer. I’m still figuring this all out myself. But for now, that’s where I stand. Until I learn something new, I’ll just be over here eating pizza and thinking about working out.

      Liked by 2 people

      • The first book I published (under a pen name) was my most successful by far. (Granted I have a modest notion of success.) It was an explicit gay romance with a healthy dose of D/s. Lots of fun to write, and I seem to have struck the right balance between trendiness, smuttiness and character.

        Yet I also like to write about power exchanges or power imbalances between characters without such heavy romance or smut. And that’s what I’m experimenting with now.

        That said, writing smut is always fun. So I will probably continue to do both smutty, romantic D/s books and power exchange/power imbalance books without the smut.

        So, I’m kind of ignoring the point of your really cool and not at all ridiculous metaphor! I’m not waiting for a decent income from writing before doing both what can sell well (again, by my modest standards) and what I’m interested in experimenting with.

        But you pointed out that some people who buy the more trendy books might also buy the not-so-trendy ones. And that’s why I want to take these older books I wrote and put them under my actual name. Some people who like the romantic ones might also want to try out the not-so-romantic ones or mildly romantic-but-not-smutty ones.

        The down side? I think when I switch author names, I lose all my reviews. Not that there are a ton, but still . . . . (Something to think about for anyone who’s using a pen name now but thinks they might switch in the future.)

        Liked by 1 person

      • Switching style and content is scary! I don’t have a pen name and wonder if I should for this reason. You have this base of readers now who expect your fantastical smutfest and if you publish something different with the same name it’s a risk.

        I think (and I’m guessing) you have the right idea though. Especially if you are targeting gay romance readers and your content still provides this (homosexual characters). You hear so much about the Bechdel Test for fiction. I can only imagine instances of homosexual characters in fiction are even more sparse. Honestly though, this is outside of my knowledge base.

        I need to do more research on pen names…

        Liked by 1 person

      • Alas, I need the support to work around my TBI so my mom reads everything I write. I shudder to imagine her reading and editing anything I wrote that was even CLOSE to the line of erotica!! Ugh… but I’ll read it when nobody is looking! 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  8. There’s a whole ‘forum’ vibe happening here lol

    Very nice.

    Since, I’m a little late to the train, I’m just going to say that is a great post and by the sounds of it a good book. I would definitely not buy an over 800 page book on writing, especially since the writing world does go up and down.

    Also, as an indie author, to those other indie authors about marketing, I have a suggestion. I may have sold like 10 copies of my latest novella, but I already have 3 reviews on Amazon and more to come… only because I reached out to bloggers. Other bloggers are amazing and would read your novel and give you a review if you’re nice, patient, communicate, and gift them your novel. It’s a small price you pay but it helps getting your book out there. Love bloggers. ^_^

    Liked by 2 people

    • This is a great piece of advice. Thanks for sharing your process and how it’s been successful for you. You can’t discount the value of those reviews for sure.

      I’ve heard a lot of differing opinions about social media. I’ve heard it said that for every 1000 followers you have you may sell one book. I think this may be true for “snatch and grab” social media. If you hoard followers on Twitter and have a 20k followers it doesn’t matter if you aren’t somehow interacting with them.

      Like you just pointed out, the blog page is different because you are building a platform to communicate with people. That’s essential. It’s a little more personal and a little more direct.

      Thanks again for stopping in and sharing, you rock!

      Liked by 1 person

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