Writing a story even though you know it won’t sell well?

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  • #199033
    Samantha_Kroese
    Participant
    • Topics - 14
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    I’m having a major problem. The trilogy I want to write really badly isn’t really clicking with any of my beta readers. Granted my friends aren’t exactly into the genre/type of story I’m writing to begin with. I knew going in the trilogy would be something most people probably wouldn’t read and I was ok with self publishing and only selling a few copies since I was writing it mainly for myself anyway.

    I’m having a really hard time not feeling like I need to work on something more acceptable. Everyone says to be unique and have ideas that no one has done that way before. But I think I’ve stumbled onto a plot/story/world that for some reason offends everyone that reads it in some way or another. It’s not the writing itself but the content of the world/subject matter. Which I really don’t understand because I’ve read worse content even just last night. I think my story would stand out because there’s nothing like it that I’ve seen anywhere else. On the other hand now I’m wondering if I haven’t seen it because it’s just not a concept that sells.

    My other ideas are more mundane and acceptable to society but they aren’t the story that’s burning to be written right now.

    I don’t have the worry of trying to attract an agent/publisher since I knew from the start I’d have to self publish this trilogy due to the content.

    Would you write it anyway if it’s something you can’t stop thinking about and feel the need to write? Even if you know the chances of it being read and enjoyed by anyone besides yourself were pretty slim? I went years without being able to write. Tried five different concepts before this that I could go back to but none of them drew me back into writing but this one. The other ones would be forced at this point instead of flowing like this one does.

    I took a bad hit to my confidence when my last beta reader got offended. This is a story line that is well out of the boundaries of what people think I ‘should’ be writing from my background and the person that I am but that’s why I want to write it.

    It’s a fantasy trilogy. I’ve already spent a year on the first book. I wrote the third book first but it has to be completely rewritten. It’s going to be a lot of time invested.

    I love authors that jumped the boundaries of their genre and came out with something new and exciting. I think I have one here. I’m just not sure what good it’s going to do to finish it, edit it, critique circle it, then self publish it and have no one ever touch it.

    #209056
    Ashe Elton Parker
    Moderator
    • Topics - 435
    • Replies - 9,295

    I’m a firm believer that if there’s something you’re desperate to write, there will be at least one person desperate to read it. I don’t think any of us come up with ideas no one will like–I think there is at least one reader for every work we ever put out, and, were I in your position, I’d go ahead and throw myself into the project which is calling to me and write it, then self pub as you plan, even if it seems like there won’t be any readers of it. I also think it’s best if you write for yourself first, and keep that mindset even through critiques and revisions, because if you aren’t pleased with what you’ve written, you’ve wasted your time, effort, and energy.

    Ashe Elton Parker
    "Just love me, fear me, do as I say, and I will be your slave." ~ David Bowie as Jareth in Labyrinth
    ~*~
    Member since 1998.
    ~*~
    Look me up on Wattpad for some of my books!
    #209057
    zette
    Moderator
    • Topics - 580
    • Replies - 887

    I suggest you find beta readers who are interested in that genre and type of book. You should never base reactions on how people feel about a story if it’s not something they would go out and buy to begin with. You could hand me the best written horror novel ever made and I would be ‘meh’ does nothing for me because it is not my genre and it bores me to tears. Why would you expect people to appreciate what you are doing if they’re not interested? Don’t allow their responses to affect your attitude towards the book.

    But second . . . if you are only writing to sell well, you are likely going to be forever unhappy. You may be one of the authors who happens to reach the right market and readers, but those are very rare. On the other hand, if you are writing to tell a story you want to share with people who will enjoy it and build up a readership for your work, you might be pleasantly surprised at the loyalty of your fans and how they grow over time.

    Write the story that calls to you and do it as well as you can. Then move on to the next one. Some are not going to be as popular as others, no matter how great you think they are. Eventually the right readers may find them, but only if you have patience and faith in your own work.

    #209065
    Samantha_Kroese
    Participant
    • Topics - 14
    • Replies - 219

    Thanks!

    I don’t really want it to sell ‘well’ I just don’t want to go to the effort of self publishing it/editing it if it’s just something that only I’m going to be interested in reading. But I guess I don’t know that until I try? Since I’m not yet published I guess I’m afraid of my first books being really out there and no one wanting to touch my others. Probably should just be writing instead of worrying. :)

    Maybe I should clarify. I have tried to give it to people who read ‘fantasy’ and I think it is ‘fantasy’ but they’re the ones that are turning it away. I guess that’s a good point though. I don’t care much for werewolves for instance but I’ll try anything with an elf in it. So I might need to narrow down what kind of fantasy it is. To be honest most people won’t even give it a try. I tell them what’s in it and what it’s about and they say no so I’m not sure how to find the right beta readers. Usually the people I know do read the type of stuff I do and like what I write but this is just too different I guess.

    It worries me more that the book is vehemently offending people. I’d actually rather they were just bored at this point. It’s not subject matter I’m comfortable posting publicly even on something like the roving crits. I have it in my private circle but those are people I have known for a long time and I asked them first. I feel a little ridiculous though the actual content of the book isn’t that controversial or bad in my opinion. I’ve written much worse and people haven’t had a problem with it.

    #209058
    Wandering Author
    Participant
    • Topics - 34
    • Replies - 369

    I would never want to stop writing the works that I wanted to write. Now, if I found someone who liked the idea of what I was trying to do, and they had concerns about a particular scene, I might worry I was getting it wrong. But if a beta reader wasn’t someone who would want to read the story I wanted to write (however well or badly I actually wrote it), how could I trust any of their reactions?

    Disclaimer: The following example is not intended to reflect on you, or what you’re trying to write. I’m simply making a point. Since I actually like stories in most genres, I had to get extreme to make it. The example is due to the breadth of my tastes, nothing else. Please keep that in mind. If someone wants to write a story glorifying Hitler, I am the wrong person to ask about it. They could be the most talented writer ever, putting all their talent to work, and I’d think the story was vile garbage. Now, in that specific example, I’d really hope they would give up. The world does not need any more of that type of filth. (And anything I’ve seen suggests that anyone stupid enough to want to glorify Hitler is not going to be a good writer.)

    But that’s not the point. The point is that anyone unsympathetic to what you want to write isn’t the right person to ask. (Even in my example, if you really did want to write something like that, well, you’ve seen what I’d say… So I would probably not be someone anyone like that would want to take advice from. In an odd way, I’m proud of that. ;) ) So listening to beta readers who are unsympathetic to your goals is not going to work for you. It might tell you what books not to buy them for Christmas, but it isn’t of any other use to you. You cannot be satisfied as a writer if you try to write what other people think you ought to write.

    There are examples of writers who have ignored everyone else’s advice and insisted on writing something that was deemed “unpublishable” – and what they wrote turned into a huge success, because there were other people who did want to read what publishers didn’t think they’d want to read. Yes, many others never did sell their books to a publisher – but at least they were happy with what they wrote. What if you wrote something you didn’t believe in – and it was a huge success? Then, your publisher would expect you to keep churning out stuff you didn’t want to be writing to begin with. Why bother writing if all you’re going to do is churn out stuff you don’t personally believe in? After all, the only thing you have to offer as a writer is yourself. That part of you, inside, that wants to write certain stories. Ignore that, and you might as well not bother.

    #209066
    Wandering Author
    Participant
    • Topics - 34
    • Replies - 369
    Samantha_Kroese wrote:
    Thanks!

    I don’t really want it to sell ‘well’ I just don’t want to go to the effort of self publishing it/editing it if it’s just something that only I’m going to be interested in reading. But I guess I don’t know that until I try? Since I’m not yet published I guess I’m afraid of my first books being really out there and no one wanting to touch my others. Probably should just be writing instead of worrying. :)

    Maybe I should clarify. I have tried to give it to people who read ‘fantasy’ and I think it is ‘fantasy’ but they’re the ones that are turning it away. I guess that’s a good point though. I don’t care much for werewolves for instance but I’ll try anything with an elf in it. So I might need to narrow down what kind of fantasy it is. To be honest most people won’t even give it a try. I tell them what’s in it and what it’s about and they say no so I’m not sure how to find the right beta readers. Usually the people I know do read the type of stuff I do and like what I write but this is just too different I guess.

    It worries me more that the book is vehemently offending people. I’d actually rather they were just bored at this point. It’s not subject matter I’m comfortable posting publicly even on something like the roving crits. I have it in my private circle but those are people I have known for a long time and I asked them first. I feel a little ridiculous though the actual content of the book isn’t that controversial or bad in my opinion. I’ve written much worse and people haven’t had a problem with it.

    A couple of points you’ve raised I think are worth trying to respond to. First, a genre like ‘fantasy’ is broad enough that there’s absolutely no guarantee anyone who “likes fantasy” will like a particular work – even a good work. I like fantasy. Abstractly, I can appreciate that James Branch Cabell had talent – but his fantasy stories are not for me. I’d have made a horrible beta reader for him. Piers Anthony has a lot of fans, but I’m not one of them. That’s personal taste, and if you try to cater to your beta readers’ personal tastes, you’ll go crazy.

    As for the fact you’re offending them, I think that’s a good thing. You’re provoking a strong reaction. Everyone is not going to like what you write. If it is dull, everyone might be bored with it. But, if you’re getting a strong reaction out of them, it suggests that somewhere out there are people who will have an equal – but opposite – reaction to it.

    Consider the example of Holly Lisle. She has people who think she’s great – I happen to be firmly in that camp. But she also offends a lot of people. They aren’t people who would want to read her books to begin with. She’s interesting, intelligent, and even when I don’t agree with her, I enjoy seeing her opinions worked out thoughtfully. But she upsets some people. Those are not her readers. They never will be. I doubt she could keep them happy, and if she managed to figure out a way to do it, she’d be miserable. (So would I; if she did, she’d no longer be writing stuff I’d want to read.)

    #209067
    Samantha_Kroese
    Participant
    • Topics - 14
    • Replies - 219

    Thank you!

    I actually adore Holly Lisle as well for the most part.

    So my problem isn’t I’ve written a story everyone will hate it’s just that I don’t know the people who will like it. That makes me feel a lot better. And excellent point on the strong response. I know I love the story personally even though if it were written by someone else I probably wouldn’t have picked it up.

    #209059
    KatsInCommand
    Participant
    • Topics - 75
    • Replies - 1,263

    Everyone’s giving you good advice. I just want to pipe in that trends are set by people are LOVE what they are writing despite not knowing if their thing will be a good sell or not. Who are we to judge what’s gonig to sell? For all you know, because you want/need to write this, it could be the thing that puts up in a good place. Your beta readers may simply not have a taste for what you’re writing. There’s nothing wrong with that. Scout for people who are interested in that scenario and have them beta read for you.

    Don’t give up on something you love. :)

    #209060
    Seleane_Gray
    Participant
    • Topics - 1
    • Replies - 36

    Samantha, I’ve sent you a PM. Just wanted to let you know.

    #209061
    JuneDrexler
    Participant
    • Topics - 16
    • Replies - 154

    Stephen King said something about not being socially acceptable if you want to be a writer. Sorry, I don’t have the exact quote, but I think what he meant is that, if you are going to be a really good writer, you have to be honest even when it’s uncomfortable. Writing what matters to you is one way of being that kind of honest. We’re going to offend some people. It’s the nature of the work.

    I also second that writers really do need to write what matters to them. I do not believe that anything sells well if the author didn’t care about it. That lack of caring comes through in the writing and readers don’t care either. So, if you aren’t excited about it, a ‘marketable idea’ won’t sell for you anyway. Might as well write what you do care about and hope for the best.

    All of that said, you might also dig deeper on why this material is offensive to your betas. Is it something they have in common that makes this material a sore spot? If so, you needn’t worry about it. Not everyone will have that sore spot. But if you really feel it is something in the material, look deeper. It could be the way the material is presented more than the material itself.

    I have been amazed at how small a thing can make a huge difference in how material is recieved. It’s possible that you have certain phrases that bother people, or even the juxtaposion of scenes can cause a bad reaction. You might have to question these betas farther to get at what that thing might be. It is possible that you only have to tweak a small amount of the text to remove whatever is so ‘offensive’ to these readers.

    –June

    #209098
    Samantha_Kroese
    Participant
    • Topics - 14
    • Replies - 219

    Thanks!

    It’s actually not one thing that’s offending them. Every single one has been offended by something different. So maybe it is just hitting sore spots. That’s what I found so confusing. The latest was a reaction to a small sub-plot of the story I didn’t think people would even really pay attention to much less put their entire focus on it.

    But thanks everyone for the support. I will continue on and then when it’s all done I’ll put it up for sale and see what happens as I move on to the next!

    #209062
    Linda Adams
    Participant
    • Topics - 38
    • Replies - 217
    Quote:
    It’s actually not one thing that’s offending them. Every single one has been offended by something different. So maybe it is just hitting sore spots. That’s what I found so confusing. The latest was a reaction to a small sub-plot of the story I didn’t think people would even really pay attention to much less put their entire focus on it.

    One thing to note that I’ve observed in critiques is that sometimes they pick up on something and get a reaction to it — but they don’t know what it is. So they comment on other things that may have nothing to do with it. In fact, I was often surprised at the diverse comments that beat around the outer edges of a problem, and yet no one actually identified the it!

    An example of this wasn’t an actual problem, but the critiquer’s reaction. When I was cowriting a book, my partner got a romance writer to beta it. She was a friend, but I had my doubts. She was a romance writer, and we were a Civil War thriller. She stopped reading on page 70 and gave us 4 pages of scathing comments. I mean she picked the 70 pages apart, sniping at word choice in a sentence — it came across as almost petty. I took one look and realized she didn’t like the story, and didn’t understand why. Several weeks later, I learned she was anti-gun, and on page 70 one of the characters drew a gun on another character. I think much later she came to this conclusion because she apologized for the critique.

    So my suggestion is to do a little digging under the surface of the story and see if there is a common element people might be reacting to. Look at where people are having the most trouble, where it is in the story, and see what’s around it. It might not be obvious, and might be really subtle.

    ETA: Look at the big picture, not the details. Most people tend to focus on the details, so something in the bigger picture can slip by without notice. Maybe a theme you don’t realize is there.

    #209063
    silvara
    Participant
    • Topics - 5
    • Replies - 48

    I would definitely write it. After all, even if it doesn’t sell, you will learn something about your writing that you will carry with you to the next novel you write, so it is worth it.

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