When an author writes fiction, naturally their first concern is the story, with all the other necessities – grammar, punctuation, and proofreading – following on. With a fair wind and a full sail, along with an effective readership building strategy, that’s it, yes? A guaranteed best seller. Regrettably, that’s not necessarily the case. The author needs to remember that they are an artist, but not only that, they need to write to market.

Writing is an Art

Now, artists come in all shapes and sizes, each specialising in one or more of several artistic disciplines. Each one of those disciplines utilises its own specific medium. Sculptors make use of all kinds of materials while unsurprisingly, painters use paint. But as I’ve already said, we writers are artists in our own right. And just as a painter’s medium is paint, so our medium is the written word.

Although everyone has the ability to write at least something, not all those who write – especially fiction – are true artists. Suppose a budding author has written a novel, and that novel is perfect in structure, grammar, and punctuation. Does that mean it has been well written? No. Even if the story is good, the plot is intriguing, and the characters are well drawn, it’s not necessarily well written; it’s not necessarily true art. The art of writing is more than the ability to string lots of words together in an acceptable form.

Each scene in your book is like the scene in a movie. You need to take your reader by the hand and lead them in. Expand their imagination so wherever they look, they can visualise what’s happening. If it’s hot, can the reader feel the heat? If it’s cold, has the reader got goose bumps? And when it comes to emotions, you want them to feel the same fear or happiness as your characters.

Coaches to Help with Writing to Market

To a few this all comes naturally, but most of us need to be taught these skills. Just as a painter needs instruction in perspective and shading – even how to mix paint to the exact tone required – so most writers need to be taught how to paint a fuller picture with words. The painter learns how to make his pictures three dimensional; he learns how to draw the viewer in so the story in it enthrals. Fortunately, there are coaches in the Christian Authors Community who can help writers achieve the same result.

But even if everything is in place; even if the structure, grammar, punctuation, and art are all there, the book could still be wrong. How so? Because you need to write to market. If you don’t, who will buy it? Who will actually want to read it?

To illustrate my point, take a peek at my first book, The Talisman of Wrath. It’s arguably the best written book in my catalogue. When it was conceived, people were clamouring for exactly that type of book. But in the thirty four years I delayed in writing and publishing it, the fantasy fan’s tastes had moved on. I’d missed my window – I didn’t write to market. Yes it’s still a great book; every review or rating has been extremely positive, but unless the fantasy reader’s tastes change again, it will never be a big seller. My motorcycle books, however, do sell. Without realising it, with my Memoirs of a Despatch Rider series, I did write to market.

Failure has Taught Me a Lesson

The successes and failures of my various books have taught me a well-earned lesson in this regard; but what exactly does ‘write to market’ mean? Simply put, it means writing a book in whichever genre you prefer, in a style and format which is most popular at the time of publication. For instance, which books by which authors in your genre are bestsellers? Check them out online or in bricks-and-mortar bookshops. These books have a huge market, and it’s a market you can tap into with the right research.

Take a look on your own bookshelves. How does your favourite, internationally well-known author use description, narrative, and dialogue? What tricks of light and shade do they employ to bring colour to the text? How do they make the words flow like a gentle river and then rush along like a sparkling stream? This is the art of writing. But more than that, there is the niche in the genre where this particular style, plot, and reader experience fits snuggly in place. The author has written to market.

But what about if you have written a wonderful book and it hasn’t gained traction the way you feel it should; does that mean you’ve missed the target like I did with some of my books? Perhaps, but take heart. It could be it just needs some good readership building. And this is where the Christian Authors Community comes in to its own. There’s an awful lot to being a successful author, but all the necessary tools are here. So happy writing, and may the Lord be with you.