I read the phrase ‘writing to market’ a lot in the author community. The idea is to identify a reader group, for example people who want sweet and clean ‘Billionaire romances’, or YA (young adult) urban fantasies, and then write books targeting those markets. It makes business sense – find the market and then supply them with the product they demand.
However I have some issues with this. Did JK Rowling sit back and spend hours working out if there was a market for the story of a boy wizard? No, the world and the idea came to her and she just wrote it and her audience came later. EL James was inspired to write ‘50 Shades of Grey’ as a piece of fan fiction for the Twilight novels – she had no idea it would become so widely read that she’d end up appearing on Newsnight talking about anal beads.
Also, I can’t write what I don’t want to read. I don’t read YA urban fantasy, and so in order to write those stories, I would have to spend years getting my head around the genre and the world before having the confidence to create my own take on it. And if I didn’t really love reading that genre, then how could I love writing it?
So instead I write the kind of books that I love to read. Stories and characters that I am passionate about and love to write. Then I find my audience. Every writer has their tribe, it may be a band of three or a congregation of millions, but your audience is always out there.