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Should I write an unmarketable story? Is there such a thing?
Michael Guarneiri
Posted: Monday, May 2, 2011 10:42 PM
Joined: 4/27/2011
Posts: 29

The discussion title really says it all: should I write an unmarketable story? I'm really excited about the general idea, but at the same time, I realize that it's quite possibly unmarketable (as certain elements clash in a way that will do little to attract the masses). What are your thoughts? Should I begin writing? More importantly, what are your thoughts on unmarketable stories?

Posted: Monday, May 2, 2011 11:40 PM
Joined: 4/26/2011
Posts: 8

Well, if you're writing with a career in mind, thinking you'll make it (it being money) as a writer, I have some bad news. You probably won't succeed financially--most people don't. Even successful writers often remain relatively poor and have to work a 'day job' to get by. You should write whatever story you feel passionately about, and if it sells, it sells, and if it doesn't, at least you enjoyed yourself. Best case scenario, you may find your niche and cultivate a group of fans who appreciate your original vision, which, to my mind, is worth a lot more than writing a generic Da Vinci Code thriller and ending up in an airport convenience store, even if the latter path leads to diamond encrusted hot tubs or whatever Dan Brown is in to.
Michael Guarneiri
Posted: Tuesday, May 3, 2011 12:19 AM
Joined: 4/27/2011
Posts: 29

Hah. DB's diamond encrusted hot tub made me chuckle. That's an interesting bit to respond to. Not sure where to begin. I am writing with a career in mind. However, I do not expect to make much money doing it (not enough to purchase a diamond encrusted hot tub, at any rate), but I would be lying if I said that I don't write with the hopes of success. One day, I do hope to make enough money writing to live a somewhat comfortable life - that's what dreams are for. Still, I didn't start this discussion to talk about possible financial success. I should have been more specific. My intention is to one day aquire that niche, that group of appreciative fans, as you put it. Alas, first I must get published. Thus, my intention here was to talk about the possibility of publishing in a broader sense (though, I suppose publishing is inectricably linked to monetary success). Not sure where to go with it from there. What is an unmarketable story to you?
Robert C Roman
Posted: Tuesday, May 3, 2011 3:03 PM
Joined: 3/12/2011
Posts: 383

First, unless you get really lucky, it can take decades to go from 'published' to 'full time professional author'. Which genre you're in can effect that, as can the relatively new phenomenon of impulse-buy-priced eBooks.

As to 'unmarketable' books: NOTHING, and I repeat, NOTHING, is completely unmarketable. You can write complete dreck with no redeeming qualities, including being completely unentertaining, and if you price it at ten cents on Amazon, some people will pick it up. HOWEVER....

Repeated studies have shown that the number one reason people buy books is personal experience with the author, followed closely by word-of-mouth from personal friends. If your story is weird, but presented in such a way that the reader goes 'wow, I would read something by him again' You Win. Assuming you can put out books often enough for readers to remember your name, every person who does that will pick up your remaining books as long as your quality remains the same or improves. That means the two big things for a career author are craft quality and backlist.

Now, having said that, I have personal experience with, shall we say 'market challenged' stories. I write what can be charitably called 'Weird Fiction' Some of it falls under 'Contemporary Fantasy', some under 'Urban Fantasy', some under 'Space Opera', but most of it is hard to pitch to buyers. I've had quite a few readers say 'I'll pick up anything you write in the future and give it a try', but the initial sales are tough. Contrast that to a friend of mine who *did* go from 'published' to 'full time money' in five years. Her biggest sellers she's seen are Paranormal Romances featuring Shapeshifters. They fly off the shelves.

So... Should you write something that's hard to market? I say if it's the story in your head, get it out. Polish it. If it's got 'no fly zone' material in it, like glorified incest or bestiality or necrophilia, put it away in a drawer somewhere, but get it out of your head. Otherwise it's going to seep out into other things you're writing.
Rik Roots
Posted: Thursday, May 5, 2011 10:36 AM
Joined: 5/2/2011
Posts: 14

By 'unmarketable', do you mean: nobody will read it even if it's given away for free? Because I wrote one of those, and I'm currently writing another, even more unmarketable, one.

I think you have to write the book you're passionate about - even if that means including dragons in your historically accurate romance: why else did god invent editors, if not to turn our passion into something that might, just possibly, interest others?
CY Reid
Posted: Friday, May 6, 2011 9:55 AM
Joined: 3/13/2011
Posts: 52

I'd have to agree with Rik's question - I'm curious as to what degree, in the context of your work, "unmarketable" clashes may damage the appeal of the book, as it's hard to offer advice when for all I know your "clash" may be the sort of thing I'd want to read. Why not use us as a test audience?
CY Reid
Posted: Friday, May 6, 2011 3:52 PM
Joined: 3/13/2011
Posts: 52

Coming back to this later in the day, it's occurred to me that many classic novels were completely unmarketable, even boring, ideas. Catcher in the Rye springs to mind, actually. (And everything I've gone near by Jane Austen, but that's a long rant for another time.)

If you boil it down to its base description - "young, angsty boy quits boarding school and goes to see some friends in New York" - where's the motivation for me to read that over anything else? Then again, if you've read it, it's quite clear that the book itself is nothing short of brilliant.

I've come across some incredible ideas for novels, and unfortunately the execution has sometimes been terrible. That doesn't make the idea itself poor, and I think how you write it and how you pitch it can turn something from a mess of genre-clashes and seemingly random correlations between themes into a strong, original work that stands independent of all the paint-by-numbers manuscripts filling up the slush pile.
Alexander Hollins
Posted: Friday, May 6, 2011 9:58 PM
Joined: 3/13/2011
Posts: 416

NOTHING is unmarketable. I'd find something that people considered to be unmarketable, and write it, just to prove I could market it.
Kenley Tan
Posted: Thursday, August 4, 2011 10:14 AM
Joined: 4/27/2011
Posts: 27

Think of it as something like this. If you have no competition, then your technically the best.

The bigger the market, the more likely you are going to face competition. Use this strategy instead.

Instead of aiming your books towards proven markets, try aiming it towards markets no one has heard of. That way you have the attention of that crowd.

Marketable is usually used to refer to large markets which have been proven. Unless you are THAT good, you're better of with small markets. They're more loyal.

I also recommend that you read All Marketers Are Liars by Seth Godin. Everything you might need to know about marketing is right there.