It’s all in the Story

There is a part of me – that crass commercialist part that wants to be an author and make a living at it – that very much worries about writing things that can sell.

Yesterday, I clicked over to Chad Allen’s post about book concept for this reason. His post is basic marketing 101 stuff. Find your audience’s perceived need and then meet that need. (Or just create a need they didn’t know they had.)

It was a good idea for non-fiction, but the plan gets a little twisty when applied to fiction.  If you read the comments, you’ll see my note.

I honestly think it might be harder to conceptualize as a “need” than a non-fiction work.

I don’t want to oversimplify that a fiction book only meets the needs of escapism or enjoyment for the reader. Though that’s part of it. There is also the concept of what’s in the marketplace, and how this story is different. There’s also the idea of the message or theme of the book, and whether that meets some sort of need.

All of the replies and subsequent notes sum up to the concept of “Story Sells” – I really like Erin Bartels’ comment. In terms of what will make a living, beautiful prose doesn’t matter as much as a good plot.


But what about Genre? 

I can admit it, I’m an overthinker. I will worry an idea into the ground. So I think about my genre, about the marketplace. Is there a glut of my kind of writing? My kind of character? Does my story work among its peers?  Would it ever be able to transcend it’s little corner in the bookshop?

Instead of worrying myself into a corner, I posed a series of questions on Facebook and Twitter.

  • What genres won’t you read?
  • What books of that genre have you read and loved?
  • Why? What made it stand apart from the rest?

Over and over again, the answer was character and story. Characters and stories will draw us out of our comfort zones and into reading something we would normally wouldn’t read.

A few people mentioned the quality of writing as a turn-off.

@hppywrtrMartha “For me, life’s too short. So many books, so little time. Plus I work with words for a living and don’t like to see them abused!”
 ‏@JRSandilands “I read pretty much anything but if it’s badly written enough to make me lose track, I’ll stop.”

But on Facebook in particular, most people will overlook genre for the sake of a good story.   ‏@keyanadrake  qualified her genres with the phrase “Unless it has some kind of interesting twist…”

Had a long chat with “The fear of opinions”  about what will make them read outside their genre, and it came down to the exact same list.   For non-fiction, it had to be a particular time and meet a particular need.  For fiction, it had to be fun.

My conclusion?

I’m going to keep trying to write good stories. I’m going to try to keep my characters lovable, and my plots a little twisty.  I’m going to write well enough to keep people engaged in those stories and characters.

What do you think?  Is there something deeper beyond the quality of the tale?


(P.S. My genre is Horror. I say I won’t read it, but I will and do. Some of my favorite authors are shelved in that section. It’s spec fic at its heart, so I’m bound to love it, I just have to get past the fact that I’m not really into being scared in purpose.)


2 thoughts on “It’s all in the Story

  1. Pingback: Honeymoon Reblog: It’s all in the Story | A.K. Anderson | Science Fiction and Fantasy Author

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