Do we give readers what marketers say they want, or what we want to write?

Over the past year or so I have paid for a number of marketing courses to help me sell my books. Unfortunately, when I signed up I didn’t realise that when they promised that I would sell tons of books if I followed their plan, that the books they were talking about wouldn’t be mine.

What do you mean? I hear you say.

Well, I mean, that these courses are designed to help you sell books that sell, which may not necessarily be your books. They cater for genre pulp fiction or non-fiction self-help type books. If you don’t write stuff like that, then from my experience, you won’t sell that many books. If you  follow the training in all of these authorpreneurral type courses where a few writers make millions out of selling novella style crime/mystery/whodunnit stories, then you will succeed. Especially if you are prepared to give most of your books away. Literature in general is suffering because of this influx of junk food style prose, in my opinion.

Readers don’t always want safe, they want different. Give it to them – please!

I don’t want to write like everyone else.

My motivation for writing does not come from the desire to make money, it comes from the desire to write for the thrill, the fun, the wonder of the written word. I am passionate about my writing. I laugh, cry, hurt when I write. I feel exhausted sometimes after I have spent a few hours struggling with sentences that won’t work, or characters that say things like, ‘Paul, we’ve done it!’ Ah! Done what? Now I have to figure out what they’ve done. It’s called imagination and you won’t find that in any course.

So, writers, not authors, writers – write from the heart, the gut, the soul – not from the bank account.


Here is a wonderful poem by Charles Bukowski which sums up my rant beautifully.

So You Want To Be A Writer

if it doesn’t come bursting out of you
in spite of everything,
don’t do it.
unless it comes unasked out of your
heart and your mind and your mouth
and your gut,
don’t do it.
if you have to sit for hours
staring at your computer screen
or hunched over your
searching for words,
don’t do it.
if you’re doing it for money or
don’t do it.
if you’re doing it because you want
women in your bed,
don’t do it.
if you have to sit there and
rewrite it again and again,
don’t do it.
if it’s hard work just thinking about doing it,
don’t do it.
if you’re trying to write like somebody
forget about it.
if you have to wait for it to roar out of
then wait patiently.
if it never does roar out of you,
do something else.

if you first have to read it to your wife
or your girlfriend or your boyfriend
or your parents or to anybody at all,
you’re not ready.

don’t be like so many writers,
don’t be like so many thousands of
people who call themselves writers,
don’t be dull and boring and
pretentious, don’t be consumed with self-
the libraries of the world have
yawned themselves to
over your kind.
don’t add to that.
don’t do it.
unless it comes out of
your soul like a rocket,
unless being still would
drive you to madness or
suicide or murder,
don’t do it.
unless the sun inside you is
burning your gut,
don’t do it.

when it is truly time,
and if you have been chosen,
it will do it by
itself and it will keep on doing it
until you die or it dies in you.

there is no other way.

and there never was.


If you would like to know more about my work, please visit my website  Oddly Books:


6 thoughts on “Do we give readers what marketers say they want, or what we want to write?

  1. “So, writers, not authors, writers – write from the heart, the gut, the soul – not from the bank account.”

    Unfortunately, for a lot of authors, there is a decision that has to be made – write what you want or write what will sell. (Some of us are lucky in that what we like to write tends to be what sells.) I have a few thoughts on that subject:

    – It’s good for authors to understand this dilemma. If you want to write a compilation of personal essays, you have every right to do that. On the other hand, it simply is not likely to sell more than a handful of copies. It’s better if authors are making that writing decision with their eyes wide open.

    – I don’t think it’s a good idea for me or anyone else to tell someone, “Don’t write that because it won’t sell.” If the writer wants to be an artist, there is nothing wrong with that. Again, I think it’s wise to advise that author of the reality of the situation so that he can make an informed decision, but I frown on actually saying, “Don’t write that!”

    – Just as I frown on people saying, “Don’t write that!” to artists, I also frown you you telling people to write from the heart instead of the bank account. That decision to be a professional and make a living from writing is just as valid as your decision to be an artist.

    • Why can’t being a professional writer be the same as being an artist? Why can’t a writer make money as well as produce art? Of course we can. That is my point. I am merely expressing my opinion, as I state in the post. I too want to make a living as an author and I don’t tell people don’t write this or that, I am saying that I am concerned that too many marketers are perhaps influencing people to become writers when perhaps they aren’t ready. Becoming a successful author is difficult, no doubt about it, my beef is with the people who run these courses making it sound like a great idea to write any old book so long as it sells. I would never tell anyone not to write what they wanted, that is the point of my post. If all you want to so is make some money, why choose to be an author, why not sell T-shirts? ‘Unfortunately, for a lot of authors, there is a decision that has to be made – write what you want or write what will sell.’ We do have a choice, don’t we? Thanks for the brilliant discussion!

  2. I’m rapidly coming to the conclusion that nobody wants to pay much for a book anyway, but hundreds will download it when it’s free. All this selling thousands of books malarkey is a waste of time. Readers sit and wait for when they’re free!

  3. I agree with completely, Nikki. If you write to make a living then you have to write what readers will buy in bulk. Before you sit down to write you have to have looked at the market, seen what’s trending and said: I’m going to write one of those, quick, before the trend changes. That’s the only way to be sure your book will sell like hot cakes—to replicate the easy read stuff that sells thousands over a short period then drops into oblivion. It’s bread and butter writing, not literature and not art. It isn’t a decision to write prose wallpaper instead of a beautiful book because that’s what sells, it’s because you are not a writer of beautiful books. As you say, you’d find it more lucrative and easier to sell T shirts.

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