I’ve never made an attempt at disguising I’m a fan of 19th century literature (French, Russian, English). Although I read (past and present tense!) plenty of contemporary novels, I am mostly inspired and influenced by the very start of novel-writing as we know it. Austen, the Bronty Sisters, George Elliot, Stendhal, Flaubert, Dostoyevsky to name but a few, and of course my all-time hero Lev Tolstoy. Time after time I can pick up one of his books just for the pleasure of savouring his sentences. This love for old books goes so deep that I’m currently taking a shot at writing a historical novel myself, Daughter of the Alvar, set in Sweden in the 1890s. No Iphones, sex-talk, SatNav or fast-food but horse-and-carriage, chaperoned walks, poachers and kitchen maids.
However, I’m currently going through a phase in which I wonder whether indulging in the work of dead authors may be making my own writing style a tad old-fashioned. I may be running the risk of writing for my own pleasure, with zero commercial appeal. So, from a sales point of view I was interested in writers’ opinions on the marketability of their books and created a poll on Facebook. Ten people were so kind to answer the 6 questions. Thank you so much.
Here are the results!
Question 1: Do you feel you can tap into the interests of today’s readers?
- That’s a difficult one. I hope so but I don’t obsess about it.
- Yes – for the segment of the market that I target. (I could not tap into YA, or Hot hot romance – not my area of expertise – age, interest or otherwise.)
- I can tap into a niche market of today’s readers, not into a wide pool.
- I think I can sell to serious readers.
- Most of the time. It depends on the genre
- Yes, I write fantasy with a strong streak of humour. People like my characters and the situations I get them into.
- Some of them, I hope.
Question 2: How much does your audience matter to you?
- I feel my audience is a niche one and they matter very much although it’s often hard to find them.
- A lot
- Audience is everything if you are a publishing author. If you write solely for your self – that’s another game altogether
- A great deal.
- My audience is very important to me, their comments and feedback keep me inspired to continue writing for those whose tastes veer from the norm
- I write the stories that I can put my hear and soul into. My audience is ever so important, but I can’t write a genre that I have no interest in.
- Vital. If you want your book to sell.
- A lot
- A lot, but in the end the only judge is me. If I’m not entertaining me then I doubt I am entertaining the audience.
- Fair bit
Question 3: Do you think best-seller writers have fine-tuned antennae with which they detect the general taste?
- I’m sure some do, but others may be best sellers because they’re celebrities and have employed ghost writers. But other variables such as luck and timing are also important.
- Yes quite possible- also a shot of luck, and sometimes their books are so good they generate a new taste.
- Not really, I think they choose to write in the most popular genre, generally, which gives them the widest pool of potential readers. Then they need to have a compelling plot. Once someone has had one bestseller they have a huge pool of people willing to try their next book, but if it doesn’t live up to the first book they will lose that audience quickly.
- I think that if an author writes chic-lit, mysteries, and romance (geared for younger readers) they can sell books, if they write reasonably well. I have an antenna but I go with my gut. I put too much into a book to try and write something I don’t really want to. It wouldn’t be any good.
- I think they pick the trends and look out for what is hot right now. Sometimes, though, they make the trends.
- No. I think they write good work and then circumstances turn the readers towards them.
- Again, some of them.
Question 4: Is it possible to learn to adapt your writing to the taste-of-the-day?
- That’s interesting , Hannah, because I feel that my writing is very contemporary in style and yet I wouldn’t necessarily say ‘it’s the taste of the day’. For me, the taste of the day – certainly in terms of genre is – for paranormal and also for trilogies, although some writing is perennially popular eg romance. But I think you’re asking more about writing style. I guess you can learn about writing in a contemporary style eg more concise sentences, shorter sections, shorter books etc but if it isn’t something instinctive then that might make it more of a chore, certainly more challenging at any rate.
- If you want to, yes – but you should only do so if it interests you. For example, I’d never write a zombie book – I’d be terrible at because it is not a topic I like or know about.
- I’m sure it IS possible, but it doesn’t interest me.
- It’s possible for some writers.
- If you want to sell books I think you have to do this to some degree.
- It must be possible, but what fun would it be?
- I am trying
Question 5: Could it be related to age, e.g. not being in touch with what is en vogue when you get older?
- I think age is a factor but I find it fascinating, for instance, watching the changes in language and colloquialisms. I think it’s important to keep abreast with changes in such things if you want characters to have authenticity and speak in the lingo of the day. Equally, if your novel is set in the past then it’s also important for the language and other details to be authentic. It really irks me, not only in books, but in TV series that are set in the past when they use figures of speech from a much later time.
- There are always a wide range of tastes – older writers can write for the 90 million baby boomers in Nth America – know your audience!
- Doubtful, my work is not for the ypung
- It could be.
- I think we can all be young at heart. But you need to read what your readers are reading and try to tune in from there.
- No, people are people. Nothing has changed except a few words and phrases.
- Yes, I can relate to an internet world, but smartphones & texting are still unknown territory.
Question 6: Anything else you’d like to add to this topic?
- I just want to thank you for the opportunity to partake in this thought-provoking discussion. Thanks Hannah!
- I cannot bring myself to write down to my readers: so I don’t.
- Building an audience is a difficult thing. Consistency has to be a big part of it. People who buy one of your books and like it must get the same experience if they buy another.