Why Writers Should Ignore ‘The Market’

When I worked in publishing we talked a lot about ‘the market’.

The market loves literary fiction right now. The market is so hot for Scandi crime this year. The market is just flooded with teen vampire fic.

It all felt very cool, like we knew something other people didn’t. But in hindsight, it all seems like opinion.

Sometimes we would publish a book that we thought the market would swoon over… and instead it would vanish into obscurity like a rock in a dirty pond.

Other times we would publish something that we all thought would sell a few hundred copies at best, and ended up scrambling to order thousands of reprints to keep up with the market’s demands.

Eventually I realised that opining on ‘the market’ — the reading public — was about as good as looking into a crystal ball.

We couldn’t predict anything beyond a best guess. And you never can. Nothing is a sure bet when taste is involved, because taste changes all the time — both our individual tastes, and our tastes as a culture.

Really, your own taste is all that matters. If you write to satisfy yourself, you will almost always create something that has resonance for someone else.

Now, writing with the intent to be read can help close the gap between your taste and what you’re capable of producing.

But if you don’t love what you’re doing, no reader will either.

Your taste is what will keep you coming back again and again, trying to achieve something more interesting with your writing. Your taste will drive you to write something better than the stuff ‘the market’ seems to love. Your taste will hone your focus on the type of stories you want to tell, and how you want to tell them.

So write for your own taste. Ignore what anyone says about what the market wants. There’s an audience for everything, so write for yourself first, and the rest will follow.