Your Passion vs. Your Best Chance to Publish

Many successful authors preach passion. That is, they urge writers to follow their bliss, write the stuff their hearts say is their passion. But that coming-of-age novel or literary book you’re on fire about may have to wait.
Writing Tip for Today: At least as many literary agents advise writers to “write something that sells,” in order to establish themselves as worthy. Genre novels such as romance or mystery, are always in demand, they assert. After you’ve successfully broken in as a published author with a track record, some say, a writer might be able to convince the publisher to take a risk on yet another coming-of-age novel. I struggle with this two-edged sword too. Some of my worries and questions:

  • Audience. If I write a light romance, how easy or hard will it be for me to write to another audience? Will my romance readers be disappointed if there isn’t enough romance? And will my more mainstream readers resent my pandering to the genre?
  • Branding. If I’m supposed to create a brand, what exactly is it? Is the writer better off to keep struggling and perhaps failing in their “passion” area, or is it better (if one assumes that one is willing do do almost anything to write and be published) to be grateful for the romance market’s insatiable appetite?
  • Self-pub? Even in self-publishing, one important piece of advice is to KNOW YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE. If I write sweet inspirational romances and also publish literary (and much more complex) short stories, they’ll both come up on an Amazon search. Which writer is the real me? And will readers be turned off by my efforts?

What do you think about all this? I’d love to hear your comments.

About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

6 comments on “Your Passion vs. Your Best Chance to Publish

  1. I’ve debated about this, too. I write a wide range of material, but never am quite sure where to put my limited time. I think perhaps it is best to stick to areas that appeal to you, but be creative within that genre. For example, if you want to write a literary novel, try selling some literary short stories. If you have a great idea for a nonfiction book, write some short articles on the same subject and build up an audience and credibility that way. If you want to actually make a living from writing, you may have to work in multiple areas; perhaps a pen name would help then to keep different genres separate.

    Just a few thoughts. I definitely do NOT have the answers.

  2. I’ve pondered the same thing. We are advised to become our own brand, but I read many different kinds of books. I may like certain authors and read a second or third book by that author, but if they are all the same (different place, different names), I get bored and move on to someone else. I see the validity of writing a 3-4 book series to continue a good store and show the store of several different characters, but beyond that, to keep writing the same thing over and over seems redundant and boring for the writer as well as the readers.

    Yes, when readers search your name on Amazon they will pull up all your books, but they will also pick out the literary book or the romance, or whatever interests them.

    I have ideas for more than one type of genre and would like to be known as a writer, not just a romance writer or any other tag.

  3. Great ideas, Susan. If you’ve always read fantasy or romance or mystery and that’s what you dream of writing/publishing, you may have a teensy bit easier time than we who spread ourselves thin. But the whole idea of author branding irks me for some reason. It may be necessary, even beneficial, but I guess I resent being labeled even if it’s for a good cause. High price to pay for anonimity though. Thanks for commenting. ~Linda Clare

  4. Karina,
    I agree, I think it’s as boring to read a bunch of same books as it is to write them. I guess it’s about knowing if I buy a Jodi Picoult, I’ll get the type of story I enjoy. On the other hand, I know some authors who are stranded in historicals but would really rather write other stuff too. It could be a long haul if your agent/publisher only let you write one genre. But like you say, you could use a pen name to differentiate. Steven King and Nora Roberts do just that, to name a couple. Thanks for weighing in. ~Linda

  5. I’ve wondered about that too, and here’s what I have to offer: I believe having a blog would help. Perhaps, if your fans understood your purpose for writing as an individual, and that passion is constantly being expressed, then it wouldn’t come as a surprise to your fans, but likely expected and even encouraged. A blog is one way to get personal with those who care to know your thoughts

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