When “Write a Marketable Book” and “Write What You Love” Don’t Mix

We’ve all heard the adage: write what you love! Write what you want to read! Write what makes you happy!

Easier said than done when you want to turn writing into a career. After all, there are bills to pay, and that pesky market doesn’t always account for what *we* authors want.

I know this all too well. My favorite genre to write, and read, is dystopian. My ideas usually come from  looking at our own society and asking “what if…?” It just fascinates me. It’s what I like. Unfortunately, dystopian is what’s known as a “dead genre.” It’s not selling. Editors and agents won’t take it. RIP. Gone in the ways of Paranormal Romance (so long, Vampires, Werewolves, Angels, and Shifters) and post-apocalyptic futures (another favorite genre of mine to read *cries*). I’ve heard YA contemporary romance is heading in that direction as well, along with urban fantasy.

Why does this happen? Saturation. Think of it like the radio. A new song comes out, and the radio plays it. People like it. The radio plays it once a day, and people can’t get enough of it; they want to hear it more! So the radio plays it twice a day. Then every three hours. Then every hour. Then twice an hour. Then you can’t turn on the darn radio without hearing that stupid song! Then suddenly, no one wants to hear it anymore. Everyone is sick of it. And just like that, the radio stops playing it altogether. Maybe a few months later, you’ll hear that song once or twice, but it’s been essentially overplayed to the point where everyone has moved on.

The book market is no different. After Twilight’s success, vampires and other paranormal creatures were all the rage, until the market became so saturated with them, that people weren’t as eager to pick them up. The same thing happened with dystopians, following Hunger Games and Divergent successes.

So what’s an author of these genres to do? You work hard on a project, pour your heart and soul into it, and then get smacked over the head with “this genre is dead” and “no one will buy this” and “you’re three years too late.” First of all, let me reassure you that you are not alone. It’s a struggle I know many authors face. Right now, the market as a whole is so competitive, it’s a wonder there are *any* genres that aren’t completely saturated.

The market will always shift and change, and what’s popular now won’t necessarily be popular forever, and vice versa. But when you want to get your work out there *now*, and what you’ve written isn’t *now* material, that’s when things get tricky.

So you’ve written a book in an un-sellable genre. Here are your options:

1.) Temporarily shelve it.
Put it in a drawer for a few years. Let it rest and wait for the market to shift. It WILL happen. Maybe not this year, maybe not next year, but it will. In the meantime? Work on something new!

2.) Query it anyway.
There will always be exceptions for exceptional books. And if you’ve written an exceptional book, there will always be a market for it, regardless of current trends. Just be aware that it will likely be an uphill struggle, and you will face obstacles. There will be people who will reject your manuscript without even reading a single page, simply because of its genre. While you’re waiting to hear back? Work on something new!

3.) Query small presses.
Smaller presses are more likely to take a chance on a saturated genre than larger ones. If you get accepted, you’ll still get your work out there. While there are a lot of great small presses, I’d always say to do your research first. “Absolute Write Water Cooler” and “Preditors and Editors” are great resources. And of course, if you’re offered a contract and you’re not agented, please, please, PLEASE have a lawyer review it before you sign. Waiting to hear back from presses? Work on something new!

4.) Change it.
Only if you want to, and if you’re sure that’s what’s right for you and your project. Are there ways you can tweak it to get out of the genre rut? Can you make your vampire into a less common creature? Can you make your dystopian society a more fantasy-based society? Play around with it, see what you can come up with. But in the end, you need to be true to yourself. Make sure whatever you do, it improves the project – not just makes it more marketable.

5.) Self-Publish
I’ll admit, I don’t know a lot about self-publishing. One of the great things about this option is that there are only two “gatekeepers”: you the author, and the readers. But if you choose this route, remember that your name is going on the finished product. Take the time and effort (and yes, money) to hire a professional editor and cover designer. Self-pubbing is a great way to get your book out into the world, and into the hands of readers, regardless of market.

In the end, there are always options. Write what you love, because I guarantee it will come out much better than if you force yourself to write something you’re not passionate about. It can be so frustrating and challenging to break into a very competitive and saturated market, but it’s possible. If you keep writing, and keep submitting, it’s possible. It only becomes impossible when you give up.

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