How to write books that sell (without selling out)

Want to learn how to write books that sell?

It takes more than good craft to write books that sell. Yes, writing skill is very important, but it’s not enough.

You also have to write something people want to read.

You’ve probably heard the phrase ‘write to market’ before.

AKA ‘selling out’ as far as some authors are concerned.

While it’s hardly true that it’s selling out, many authors simply don’t want to go there. But I will.

I’ve already written books no one has read. It’s not very satisfying. 😉

That behind me, now I want people to buy my books, enjoy them, maybe cry or something. And recommend them to their friends, too.

While this can happen accidentally, because you wrote some random story that just happened to resonate, it’s not very likely.

I’ll quote my friend Kirsten Oliphant, who (as Emma St. Clair) is now making more than a full-time income writing books that readers want to read. On purpose.

I mean, we all WANT them to want that story that’s been on our heart to write, but that isn’t always the case. We learn what the readers want when we study the trends of what’s selling.

– Kirsten Oliphant –

I know, sacrilege, right?

Also, authors and artists shouldn’t want to make money because ‘art’ and everything.

I don't even want to hear how to write books that sell!
I don’t want to hear, see, or talk about this selling-out writing-to-market crap! (photo by Paulette Vautour)

If you believe your role as an author is to not make money or that you need to write art for the sake of art, then I don’t know what to tell you.

Writing to market isn’t selling out. At all.

But it does mean either learning how to write books that sell OR writing the story you love in such a way that readers will eat it up.

If you’re like me or the authors I’ve worked with, you’ve got dozens to hundreds of ideas for characters, stories, books, and series.

More than you can ever write.

Writing To Market means looking at the intersection of writing what you love and learning how to write books that sell.

how to write books that sell

I’m not a fan of semantics, so you won’t find any firm definitions here or explanations of the differences between writing to trend, writing what sells, or writing to market.

I don’t know about you, but I have long lists of things I want to write.

◾ Romantic Comedy

◾ Space Opera

◾ Urban Fantasy

◾ Space Western

◾ Cozy Witch Mystery

There are more, too.

And within each of those genres, I have dozens of ideas.

I’ve done my research, and I’m finding that there’s a good market for some of my ideas.

Others… not so good.

So, what should I do? Write something that no one is looking for, that will probably never sell, or write something lots of people are looking for and will likely sell a lot of books?

I love all of my ideas, so the answer (to me) is clear.

I’m going to write a story that I love, in a genre that seems to be selling well, and has readers who are underserved and craving more books!

Notice that I started with ‘write a story that I love.’

No, there are no guarantees, but writing to market dramatically increases the odds that your book will sell copies.

What if I’m trying to get a traditionally published deal?

If you’re looking for an agent or publisher, you’re increasing the odds there, too.

I mean, they aren’t going to pick up a book that won’t sell, no matter how great you write.

Good writing is important, but that’s not the only thing it takes to sell books.

Readers (and lots of them) have to be looking for books like yours.

how to write books that sell

How to write books that sell that you also want to write

What you want to do is find something from your own list of loves that’s also likely to sell, and write that.

It sounds simple, but it can take some work.

Step 1 – Make a list of books you want to write

Make a list of genres, stories, characters, and themes you want to write.

Step 2 – Look for books like yours

Research the best sellers that are similar to your future book.

They should be in your genre and even your sub-genre, with similar character types, themes, settings, etc.

Step 3 – Now dig deeper

Even deeper. Like super deep.

You need to really look at the best-selling books to see why readers love them.

Read the bestsellers, read the reviews, good and bad, determine what readers loved, liked, and hated about them.

What are the tropes, themes, settings, length, patterns, structures, pacing, and points of view that keep readers coming back?

Once you have a list of what readers want, ask yourself if your story will give that to them.

If not, you have three choices.

  1. Write your story to incorporate the things readers passionately want (with your special spin on it).
  2. Write what you want, and accept that you might not get a lot of readers.
  3. Go back to your list of books you want to write, pick another, and start your research over.

You can do this manually, using the search box on Amazon, making lists, and doing math to see how well the books are selling compared to the size of the genre.

Or you can do like I do and use software or services that will do a lot of the work for you.

Some of these are affiliate links. I own all of them, I’ve personally purchased them, and regularly use each and every one of them. So, highly recommended.

My recommended products

The first is a data gathering tool called Publisher Rocker. Some people still call it KDP Rocket, but those people have been using it a long time, since the name changed quite a while ago.

Yes, Rocket has been around for a while, and it keep getting better at no extra charge.

Publisher Rocket and how to write books that sell

Publisher Rocket makes book and genre research easy

Publisher Rocket is a one-time purchase, which includes future enhancements.

No subscription required.

You’ll use Rocket after you publish, too, so it’s a great value.

researching other books in your genre teaches you how to write books that sell

Publisher Rocket scours Amazon for you

With just a few clicks, Publisher Rocket will help you learn what’s selling and what’s not.

It gives you quick and easy links to the competition on Amazon, and even tells you how much the book makes per month, how many sales that takes, and how long the ebook has been out.

You can tell at a glance which books are worth investigating to see what you can learn from them.

And after you write and publish your book, Publisher Rocker helps you sell more books by helping you check out the competition and identifying the perfect keywords for your book pages and for advertising.

While Publisher Rocket is amazing, what it can’t do for you is read all those books and figure out what about them is making them sell.

Enter K-Lytics…

Read this genre report to learn how to write books that sell

K-Lytics is research done for you

Alex Newton of K-Lytics uses powerful software (and brains) to do deep dives into the genres that are selling. He then puts all that data into a report and a presentation that you can use to learn all you need about a genre you’re interested in mastering.

I recommend that authors buy the K-Lytics Genre Report for each genre you think you want to write in.

Every K-Lytics Genre Report is in-depth, with custom reports and detailed video lessons and lectures from Alex Newton, the founder of K-Lytics.

The reports are inexpensive, and are sure to pay for themselves as you sell more books.

But what they really save you is time. You could do all this research yourself, but how much time will that take compared to how much these Genre Reports cost?

One author shared that his $37 purchase saved him over a year of writing the wrong thing. That’s a bargain if you ask me.

Writing books that sell isn’t selling out

Writing to market, at its most basic is writing books that your readers want.

I know some of you are thinking this is BS, that you should be able to write whatever you want, and if it’s good, people will buy it.

Maybe.

But if you’re trying to make a living (even part-time) with your books, but not checking to see if you’ll have readers for your work, maybe there’s something deeper going on.

Self-sabotage can affect anyone, after all.

The thing is, if few people are looking for what you’re writing, few people will read it. That’s fine if you want to do that, but just be aware that you’re writing for yourself, not for lots of readers.

Take care, and talk soon,

Roland

PS. If you’re still not convinced that writing to market is for you or need more data to understand what it takes, I highly recommend Chris Fox’s book, Write to Market: Deliver a Book That Sells.

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