A few months ago, I briefly encountered an aspiring writer. Getting into a little conversation, he explained to me how he was previously working on a science fiction novel. While it wasn’t perfectly structured as he made it clear to see, the story and key elements made it interesting enough where it sounded really unique and unlike other science fiction stories I had previously heard. He said how he had set it aside for the time being and is currently working on something that was more so for the masses.
I couldn’t help feel a little discouraged when I heard that last part. While he didn’t say he was giving up on his science fiction novel completely, the fact he was working on something that, genre-speaking, would be more popular was almost like hearing someone surrender. Much like TV shows, movies, and music, particular themes and genres are fashion from time to time in the world of books as well, and going against them can effect your readership to a certain extent.
So what exactly is popular in literature these days? Well, if you were to have asked my five or six years ago, it was probably vampire romance stories, given the Twilight craze that a lot of people were hopping on board for back then. Nowadays, it appears to be a mixture between young adult fiction, dystopian fiction, and from what I notice is emerging, time-jumping fiction. While there are exceptions, this is what’s been catching my trend-seeking eye as of lately and, as movie executives are proving to be clearly predictable, these are the books that are more or less being adapted for screen.
The clear advantage here when writing for the masses is that you know what people want and what they are craving, and as long as the genre or plot elements is at least adhering to their storytelling desires, then you have a clear shot at getting an audience. And while I didn’t make it clear before, let me make it clear now that sometimes, writing for the masses isn’t always a bad thing, especially if the story is really unique. I just thing it becomes a bad thing when the work is ultimately a carbon copy of pre-existing works, with ultimately a low percentage of effort to be exquisitely original, and yet it’s well accepted by readers anyway.
When writing against the masses, obviously your story is at a greater disadvantage; whether it be in terms of genre, plot elements, storyline, etc. If you were traditionally published, chances are your publisher may have given a fair warning that your story is not what is selling on the market right now and if you were indie published like me, chances are you more or less know that already. But it’s these works, the ones that go against the waves, that are likely much more original than what is currently “hot.” How these books sometimes goes unnoticed could be due to the mentality of the audience out there.
Honestly, it always bothers me whenever I read a publisher or someone of a similar occupation argue how [this kind of audience] for [this kind of story] doesn’t exist. In my eyes, they offend a lot of readers, for while they may not see it, there’s always an audience out there, regardless of size, that’s looking for a particular type of story.
The fact that my debut novel, A Moment’s Worth, was written against the masses just as well may ultimately be the reason why it hasn’t been as widely read as I would have liked otherwise. But at the same time, I continue to be awestruck by how readers across the pond seem to really enjoy it. Looking at the geography more carefully, I’m also not entirely surprised. After all, the U.K. is where David Mitchell hails from.
Writing for and against the masses both have their distinct advantages as well as disadvantages. I think in my case, I’ll always be writing against the tide, but I’ll never let that knock me down. But for aspiring writers out there, what I will say is choose the decision that best suits you. Just know that in the end, there’s always an audience for every kind of story, regardless of what’s currently trending.
A Moment’s Worth is now available through the following venues: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, iTunes. Please leave a review if you can, for my goal is to get a total of at least 20 reviews on all venues (so far, I’ve gotten 12 reviews so I’m already just past the halfway point to my goal). Check out its Goodreads page, which includes two trivia quizzes for all who’ve completed reading it already.