Do you try to be more original, or to deliver to readers what they want?
I have only been writing for three years, so I cannot claim vast experience in the writing and publishing business. I have, however, been a huge reader all my life.
When I looked at this blog hop question, in my mind it immediately boiled down to a basic money question. Publishing is a business that aims to make money. Making money means you have to provide the products that people want. So, what is it that people want?
I think most readers are looking for mental relaxation and entertainment. Modern people are always short of time and overly rushed and busy. They want instant entertainment gratification. They do not necessarily want to dwell on the ills of the world or read three pages describing a river during a storm [think Charles Dickens] or anguish over the personal problems of a main character [think Jane Eyre or Catherine Earnshaw]. The modern reader wants escapism from reality in a well written, and not overly long, book. These are the books that sell well because they deliver what readers want.
Many of the successful modern authors write to set formulas laid down by the traditional publishers and which are geared at creating stories with mass appeal. These books, in my view, do not have a lot of original content but rather provide a good twist on an existing story line that has already proved its marketing success. These authors achieve short to medium terms fame, but few will become writers whose books are in the classical category alongside the likes of H.G. Wells, Tolkien, George Orwell, Hemmingway and Ray Bradbury, to name just a few.
This leads to my other point, fame. Authors that achieve long-term fame with classic books that endure the passage of time usually make some sort of strong social or political statement. These are the books studied by English literature students and pawed over by academics who access the value of their striking messages. These books have usually been very original at the time of their publication and have enduring messages. These are the books that achieve fame but did not necessarily earn the authors a lot of money during their lifetimes. Striking out on your own in an original way is scary as it could be a complete failure, but it could be successful and bring huge recognition.
I have read Indie books that fall into both of the categories above. For some of them the money or the fame may come in due course as they do it really well. For me, I try to do both, packaging my social and political message within a reasonably attractive and well know story concept that might attract readers.
That is my aim, in any event. I know that I will never entirely escape my need to share history so that people remember the mistakes of the past. I attempt to weave it into stories that show how the bad feeling and social problems that have arisen due to past mistakes are impacting on our now and our future, in a way that is interesting and intriguing to a reader.
Having written out my thoughts above, I have concluded that I try to write original content, but within a framework of what people want as great story ideas don’t do much good if they never reach any readers.
What are your thoughts on this interesting question?
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