I met Michelle Barber online when we crossed paths writing content for a big hungry web site. Over the years, we learned we had a lot in common in the world of creative writing and became friends. Michelle is a talented witty writer of all kinds of fiction. My favourite of hers is Will Blyton and The Stinking Shadow, an alternative detective story. She primarily writes for teen boys to encourage them to read, and her short stories are regularly published in women’s magazines. She’s also interested in historical fiction, comedy and drama. She never ceases to entertain me.
Writing for writing’s sake
When I first started writing, ideas would hit me as hard as a kick from a mule. I’d then stare into space, as if waiting for a British Chancellor of the Exchequer to understand the concept of compassion, but gave that up after a decade or two. Atmospheric music – like Carmina Burana – got me going and I would write. The last thing on my mind was selling what I had written. I would be so wrapped up in the piece that I didn’t consider if there was a market for it. However, those were the long gone days, when I sat in creative writing classes and a roomful of us argued over a comma placement in a line of poetry. Oh yes we did. In fact, we often nearly came to blows over the said comma, but that’s not what this post is about.
What to do when a market doesn’t pay its way
These days I have to sell what I write. Therefore, being a word-whore means that before I write anything I have to ask myself – where can I flog it? I know it’s obscene but those damn bills need to be paid. The problem is that some types of stories or articles that twist our pleasure spots only have a small market. Subsequently, we miss these marketplaces if we don’t keep on top of them. So what can we do if we are in a writing situation like that? What to do when a market doesn’t pay its way?
I have this problem with short stories for young children. I have them published in the lovely Children’s Corner of the People’s Friend magazine and I also have them on the wonderful website Alfie Dog Fiction. However, because the market is so small I had to wonder about continuing with this line even though I get a great amount of enjoyment from it.
This led me to question if I would be better off writing picture books instead. They are for the same age group but are written in a very different way. I read every book on writing picture books there is and spent time learning the new writing skill on courses only to find that I didn’t get the same joy from them as writing the short stories. Furthermore, you have to adore writing them because they probably one of the hardest markets to get published with a reputable publisher as they are very expensive to create. This left me back at where I started – should I abandon this market or not?
Listen up, here’s an idea
Back at the crossroads of choice, I hit on another idea because I love writing these stories for a younger age group and really did not want to give it up. I asked myself what people wanted and the answer came to me as I thought about what life is like for parents of that age group these days. Life is about struggling to balance work and giving your children your time. This is why I’ve decided to make audios of these stories so that parents can let the little ones listen to something in bed or in the car when they, the grownups, are exhausted or busy. Both my son and I have studied acting and we love to bring a story to life with our voices, so this seems like a good opportunity for us. Will it work? We hope so. The moral of this story being that if you love writing something, think out of the box if there does not seem to be a market for it. I hope you will find these ideas useful to solve what to do when a market doesn’t pay its way.