In February of 2016 I wrote a book called Write To Market. That book teaches authors how to choose stories in genres more likely to sell books. The premise is very straight forward:

#1- Pick a genre that you absolutely love (mine include fantasy, SF, horror, and thrillers)
#2- Determine that the genre has enough readership to earn you a living
#3- Write great books in that genre, which requires you to have excellent craft. Get those books out quickly.

 

The concept of writing to market was around long, long before me. Long before the United States. Long before Christ. Shakespeare used it. Asimov used it. These writers / playwrights needed to make a living, and this was how they earned their daily bread. Note that both also produced masterpieces, in addition to the entertainment they wrote to pay the bills.

Unfortunately, my name is now synonymous with writing to market, and wherever that flag is raised I am the rally cry. It leads to people like John G. Hartness writing articles like this.

Most of what he wrote I’m okay with. I even agree with the parts about the people with the get rich quick mindset being in for a rude awakening. What I am not okay with is John spreading false information to get his point across. One of the most common ways used to discredit me is saying that I can’t really sell fiction. Otherwise, why would I need to write books for writers?

I do it because I enjoy it, and because there’s a serious need for modernized education for authors. This industry is changing daily, and I do what I can to help authors grow with it. I will continue to do that, year after year. Non-fiction is less than 20% of my income, less with every passing year. People are often skeptical, as John clearly is. Fortunately, because I run into authors like John often, I have proof.

I recorded the 21 Day Novel Challenge to show that I could write books as quickly as I said I could.

Then I recorded a 2016 Income report to prove that my money came primarily from fiction.

So, John, this rebuttal is for you. The written to market book that I put out the very next month after Write to Market sold enough copies to get me on the NYT bestseller list (had they been at multiple outlets), and has many millions of page reads in Kindle Unlimited. It’s a book I’m proud of, despite having written it quickly.

You say in your article that writing to market doesn’t make a good foundation for a lasting career. Are you sure? Because the money I made from Destroyer and the sequels has kept me afloat in the year since, time I’ve used to hone my craft and to continue to put out better books. Time I’ve used to get better at both writing, and selling books. It didn’t prevent me from becoming a better writer. Quite the opposite. Writing to market helps me improve my writing.

Practice makes you better. Deliberate practice makes you vastly better. I use writing to market to pay the bills, so that I can one day I will be worthy of writing the fantasy epic I’ve been dreaming of since I was a kid. You act like writing to market is a quick sell out, and that the people who do it can’t adapt, learn, or grow. You couldn’t be more wrong. People who write to market can always aim at another market, and every time they finish a story they are a better writer. Isaac Asimov followed that methodology closely, and had 3 typewriters set up in his house so he could write multiple stories at the same time.

I’m no Asimov, but I’ve written twelve novels as of this writing. My first book came out in October of 2014. I write fast, I write well, and I turn out entertaining books. In your article you wondered if people who write to market will be here in ten years? Definitely. See you then. I’ll still be selling books, and writing stories I love. I’ll also be a far better writer, because I’ll have turned out dozens of novels across a broad range of genres.

You can believe whatever you want about writing to market, but if you’re going to offer up your opinions, please check your facts first.

 

Writing to Market Does Not Mean Writing Crap

Comments

  • Congrats on your success, Chris. I will correct my post.

    I did say that a lot of the things you sat are the same things that I tell aspiring writers to do, and mainly took exception to the banner-wavers and bandwagon-jumpers that have jumped onto your coattails. I apologize if I phrased that poorly.

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    • It’s not just the factual inaccuracies about me that caused me to post. You believe that writing to market doesn’t help to build a long term career, and there we very much disagree. It’s a powerful tool. Not a necessary tool, but a powerful one. One that you dismiss. I can list three dozen authors off the top of my head who’ve broken out in the last year, each earning six figures for the first time. The vast majority of those people intentionally wrote to market. A few stumbled on it accidentally. There are outliers, of course, but people are paying their bills now because they’re coming at being an author with an intelligent system designed to deliver good books to their fans.

      Not everyone gets there. Plenty of people read my books and somehow come away thinking they can get rich quick. Most, though, understand that there’s a great deal of work involved. I’m very clear about that. My post here is in defense of everyone who follows that methodology, who works their tails off to make a living at this. If I seem thin-skinned, that’s why. You paint most of us with the same dismissive brush, and we’re tired of it. Especially since most of us are outselling you.

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  • Nail it, Chris!!!!

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  • This discussion is getting a bit heated. As a dustup goes, it is pretty respectful. Some of the best friends I’ve had in life were those I’d fought with initially. In all those cases, the punch-ups were never that harsh and more along the lines of “Marquess of Queensberry Rules.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marquess_of_Queensberry_Rules)

    I hope the discussion continues and the passions fade as the topic gets explored more thoroughly. I also hope that these two authors both get something positive from this.

    Sure, Chris’s WTM methods can bear some critique. I think he’s open to that. His WTM thinking is solid and the methods are proved. It’s not the modern formulation of WTM that is the problem here. The problem is people viewing a very successful method as some sort of High Truth that can lead them to the promised land with the right amount of faith and devotion.

    As Chris points out, his methods are just another way to work. I’ve explored these methods with some degree of success as I put together a set of methods that suit me as a writer and the way that my head works (don’t ask…you don’t wanna know…)

    Anyway, good luck to all.

    PJC out.

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  • The key point for me is that the big, traditional publishers have been encouraging their stable of authors to write to market for decades. If they find something that works, they want more of it–and typically prodding their lead horse with hot pokers yielded less than satisfactory results. So they took aside people they liked and already knew and said, “Hey, if you write a book like this, we’ll buy it.” And so the people did. And the profits flowed. And there was much rejoicing.

    I started out in the traditional world, and I can guarantee you that writing to market was a huge part of it, despite what the editors and publishers claimed in public.

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  • You are the positive side of writing to market. Thank you for what you do!

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  • Chris: Writing to Market contains the secrets that many of us selling lots of books have learned. Your book is excellent and served to remind me how important it is to know who is our audience. Keep up the great work!

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  • John and Chris are both friends of mine, so I’m glad this has stayed friendly and civil. FWIW, I think they agree more than disagree, but neither of them realizes that. We have a problem in the indie world today when it comes to certain definitions and terms being ill-defined; this lends itself to confusion like what’s happened here.

    I wrote something really, really long as a response, and then thought it made no sense to dump several pages of text onto each other their response threads, so I posted it to my site instead. Consider it my addition to this ongoing discussion, and an attempt to clarify some terms and meanings – most crucially, the difference between writing to trend and writing to market.

    https://www.kevinomclaughlin.com/blog/2017/6/30/will-the-real-write-to-market-please-stand-up-or-why-youre-probably-doing-it-wrong

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    • Kevin, John posted a factually inaccurate attack painting me as a huckster who makes his living selling books to writers. I notice you left that out of your article entirely. Had John not included something that is a literal falsehood about me and my writing career, I’d likely not have answered at all.

      John and I agree on many points, especially on the amount of work involved in this business. But John doesn’t get to use his own definition of writing to market, then bring me up repeatedly. If you want to use me in your article on writing to market, then you should at least understand what I mean by writing to market. Otherwise, why even mention me beyond the fact that I wrote Write To Market?

      I understand perfectly the difference between writing to market and writing to trend, and so does anyone who has read my book. People who have NOT read my book shouldn’t be talking about it as if they had. That’s exactly what John did here. I defended myself, and will continue to defend myself. I don’t have a personal beef with John, but I also didn’t start this.

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      • I didn’t see the pre-edit version, so I missed the smear campaign. And I’m appalled.

        FWIW, Chris – you’ve given a heck of a lot to the writing community. That someone would imply you’re a huckster is ridiculous. You could easily be selling a $1000 course instead of $5 ebooks and make quite a lot more money. That you’re opting to reach out and help others with your time and energy (via videos, and the books) rather than just keeping it to yourself or packaging it for maximum profit speaks volumes about your character.

        As for the current article, the issue is simply that John is misinformed. He’s not talking about writing to market the way you are; he has a completely different definition that he’s using – what you and I tend to call “writing to trend”. I know you know the difference – you and I have hashed it out more than once, and I’ve learned a lot from those discussions.

        I kept my article civil and light because I thought that was the tone of the discussion, as I’d missed the pre-edit version of John’s post. I’ll be editing mine.

        Best of luck. Don’t let people get you down.

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