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Writing to market vs. writing to a specific audience

What is the difference between writing to market and writing for a specific audience, and how does it affect they way you write?

Writing to market is sales-focused. It is writing what is currently popular in your genre, whether that be themes, tropes, subgenres, or topics. An important detail of this definition is “in your genre.” Jumping into new fads you don’t have experience with or haven’t researched usually doesn’t work out well. Writing to market requires constantly staying on top of genre trends and being ready to shift or switch focus quickly.

buy-3692440_1920Writing to market also means knowing general audience expectations, likes, and dislikes. Generally, readers don’t have a strong preference for standalones or series, a plot that moves quickly and well-developed characters keeps readers from putting down a book, blurbs and book covers that don’t accurately portray a book upset readers, readers prefer to interact with authors on Facebook more than other platforms, most readers do want to interact with authors, and readers pay attention to reviews.

Writing to a specific audience is more reader focused. It takes into account general audience expectations then narrows them to a specific genre, subgenre, or trope. Writing to a specific audience takes researching and understanding who you readers are, what they want out of a specific book, and determining the story elements that will satisfy their expectations.

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Understanding your audience means researching and identifying several key factors:

  • Specific genre/subgenre conventions that must be utilized (not all conventions are a must and there is room for creativity and exploration)
  • Trope elements that are expected by the reader (don’t be formulaic, but hit the crucial points that make the story fit the trope)
  • What your book gives the reader (a story must fulfill something for the reader, whether it be escapism, a thrill, vicarious excitement/romance, etc.)
  • Demographics of your audience (the data is out there, even if you might have to make a few leaps or assumptions to narrow it enough to your niche)

The key to writing to a specific audience is figuring out what they want from your specific book and then delivering it. If readers expect an HEA, there better be a very good and convincing reason not to give them one. If readers expect vivid sex scenes and barely gets a peck on the cheek, the reviews will reflect their unhappiness. Make a promise to your reader in the blurb and make sure you fulfill that promise with a great ending.

Writing to market and writing to a specific audience can feel limiting or frustrating when we focus too much on one or the other. Aiming for something in between is a helpful balance. Focusing too much on what sells can lessen the excitement of writing and the emotional connection to the story and characters. You need to love what you’re writing for readers to truly enjoy it as well. Know what is selling in the market and what readers want from a specific book, but add spice and uniqueness to tropes and conventions by delving more deeply into what will excite and satisfy readers on a personal level.