Writing and Publishing

Writers Must Merge Passion With Marketability

Focus on the intersection of what we want to write with what we can sell

The goal of every writer is to make money with his or her art.

I’m sure some of you are shaking your heads over this statement. You insist you don’t care if you make money or not. You just want to write. I get it. I even agree—to an extent. But it’s not true, not deep down.

If you claim you don’t care about the cash, let me meddle a bit. Writers who say they don’t concern themselves with money fit one of three categories: they are independently wealthy, they are lowering expectations to avoid disappointment, or they are lying to themselves. Since I don’t know any writers who are independently wealthy, that leaves the other two categories. Which one describes you? Think about it. Seriously consider this. Admit the true, unspoken, deep desire of your writing heart: you want to make money writing. Then keep reading.

I love Venn diagrams. They communicate so much in so little space. Venn diagrams help me understand writing. Of all the things I can write, represented by the box, the things I’m passionate about fit in the first circle. This is where I find joy. When I tap my passion, I can write all day; I skip meals and sleep isn’t important.

Also within the box of all the things I could write sits a second circle. It represents all the types of writing that sell. Staying within this box presents the opportunity to make money with words.

Where the two circles intercept is our sweet spot, where passion and profits converge. This is where we need to focus our writing—not all of the time but most of it.

Yes, sometimes I take a short break to write what I enjoy even though it doesn’t pay and never will. Other times I write what pays even though it falls outside my passion. (Though I’m not zealous about those projects, I only pick ones I will enjoy and am good at. To do otherwise would be author suicide.)

My hope for every author is that your passion circle will overlap the marketability circle. We all need our sweet spot so we can pursue our art and pay the bills. But if your circles don’t share any common ground, then know this truth: sometimes you will write for a paycheck and other times you will write for the joy of it. The first allows you to feed the second.

May we all find joy and money when we write.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s book: Successful Author FAQs: Discover the Art of Writing, the Business of Publishing, and the Joy of Wielding Words. Get your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book Successful Author FAQs for insider tips and insights.

By Peter Lyle DeHaan

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, publishes books about business, customer service, the call center industry, and business and writing.

4 replies on “Writers Must Merge Passion With Marketability”

Like your diagram. Helpful visual. Though I’m not writing primarily for money, receiving money certainly sweetens the process. It’s also an affirmation that someone besides me values what I write. 🙂

Peter, Understanding what is marketable comes by reading and writing? I had hoped to understand FIRST so I could write what is marketable. I DO want money! There isn’t anyone I could pay to get an opinion before I spend hours writing?

P.S.-Thanks for your help at Breathe! I am just now ready to resume blogging and writing.

Claire, yes reading helps give clarity on that; so does talking to others in the industry, especially agents, editors, and publishers. Also look to see what is currently being published.

As a starting point here are some general principles of what is not marketable. (Though there are exceptions, they are rare):

A book that is too long or too short for its genre
A book of poetry (unless you are famous)
Your autobiography (unless you are famous or infamous)
A book of short stories (unless you are an established fiction author)
A nonfiction book for which you have no authority or credentials
A topic of personal suffering that has been done

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