For Love or Money?

- by Victoria Janssen

Do you write for love or money; to satisfy your own desires or to sell novels?

I think for most of us, it’s a mixture of many factors. I’m coming at this from the perspective of someone who does not depend upon novel sales for her livelihood, so I can only speak from that point of view.

Writers are steeped in their genre, and to some extent genre equals what sells to readers of that genre and vice-versa, so in some respects you’re always writing to market. And round and round and round she goes…. Plus, if you read in that genre, likely you’re attracted to it anyway, on some deep level. That’s love and money, all bound up together.

Agents/editors/crit partners might suggest you try one thing or another because “it’ll sell.” I haven’t had that happen to me yet, but if I got such a suggestion, I would consider it seriously, to see if I could make that idea my own.

I think it never hurts to consider outside advice, whether I take the advice or not. Sometimes others can see my writing more clearly than I can. I might be especially good at a particular type of story and have no idea that those stories are any better than anything else I’ve written. I might be good at something that’s more salable than what I’m currently writing. Again, it’s a tangled process of decision-making.

Here’s an example of how I think this process works for me. I’d like to do a Victorian historical romance one day, and one reason is because mass market historical romance sells more than erotica and I’d like to make more money for a book. Market-wise, there seem to be a few more Victorian-set romances at the moment, so presumably they’re selling.

My other reasons for that goal, though, are myriad: I love historical romance – it’s the sub-genre I read most of these days – and I am always wishing for more Victorian-set books, and I love research. The Victorian period is a nice segue backwards from the Edwardian/WWI I’ve already used, so I’d be following my own interests. I already have some books, which I’ve been sporadically reading.

The thing is, if I wasn’t intellectually and emotionally interested already, I don’t think it would have occurred to me to try and write a Victorian historical romance in order to make more money. You’re not guaranteed a sale, especially in a genre in which you’ve not previously sold. It’s not worth it (to me) to put all that time and mental effort into a project unless I’m going to enjoy the heck out of it.

So far, this project consists of a few notes on hero and heroine, a few research books I’ve purchased but not yet read, and a substantial research wishlist (ahem, yes, I know my weaknesses!). The project is a carrot to me, a prize for when I’ve done the work for which I’m already contracted. That looms larger for me than any monetary motivation.

Since my primary source of income is not my novels, I feel like I have a little bit more freedom to indulge.

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