There are two approaches to writing. One is to write for the sake of writing – to let free those ideas and stories that are whirling around in your head. The other is more pragmatic – write to sell and make money. That might seem an unidealistic and mercenary way to go about writing, but there’s a limit to art for art’s sake. A little – or, if you’re lucky, a lot – of extra income is always welcome.
Let’s stay with this second approach. Write to sell. You need to know what’s hot, what’s topping the sales charts. Here are the current most downloaded books on Smashwords.
1. Mark Coker’s Smashwords Style Guide
2. Short Erotic Tales by Carl East
3. Smashwords Book Marketing Guide, Mark Coker again
4. 101 Degrees Fahrenheit by Eva Gale (erotica)
5. Zombie Nights by Tom Licttenburg (sci-fi with a touch of paranormal)
6. Fryupdale by Mark Staniforth, fiction short story anthology
7. The Seduction of Gabriel Stewart by Eva Gale (erotica)
8. We Don’t Plummet Out of the Sky Anymore by M David Blake (sci-fi)
9. A Letter to Justin Beiber’s Hair by German Alcala (poetry)
10. The Mating by Nicky Charles (adult rated paranormal)
We can ignore the two Mark Coker books since they’re what every Smashwords author has to have. So let’s another two to the list. We now have.
11. Sentence of Marriage by Shayne Parkinson (historical romance)
12. A Bride for Tom by Ruth Ann Nordin (romance)
So what do we have? 3 erotica, 2 sci-fi, 1 paranormal, 1 general fiction, 2 romances, 1 poetry. Note: These books are all free apart from Justin Beiber’s Hair which is a relatively pricey $6.99 so that has done extremely well. Being free can skew results a little.
I guess we’d better start with erotica then. This isn’t for everyone. It might be you don’t approve of it or it may be that it just gives you the giggles. Possibly you’d love to write it but are embarrassed about your children finding out! Anyway, readers love it. Readers love sex so if you want readers, well, it’s something to think about. Here are a couple of good places to start: http://writing.helium.com/how-to/14484-how-to-write-an-erotic-romance and http://www.writesex.net/
Alternate realities, the ultimate in escapism, always make for popular reading. Personally I feel you have to be quite methodical and analytical to write sci-fi. You need to have your new universe all mapped out – its inhabitants, politics, morals and so forth. So this is quite a challenge to write but, if you’re successful, there will always be demand for your writing. My own favourite science-fiction writer is self-published R Peter Ubtrent with his amazing Dark Pilgrim series. Read some of these to get a feel for this genre at its best.
I was frankly surprised that there weren’t more of this type of book in the top ten. This genre is so hot at the moment, in particular paranormal romance. The romance element frequently veers towards the erotic. It looks like we’re all interested in going to bed with vampires or other demons! Vampires are the most popular supernatural characters you’ll come across, but shapeshifters, werewolves and ghosts aren’t far behind. These books generally feature a very strong heroine and have a happy-for-now, if not a happy-ever-after, ending.
These books will ever go out of fashion. Everyone loves reading a heartwarming tale of the girl and guy, who usually hate each other at first sight, finally getting together, after overcoming various huge obstacles along the way. The romance can be set in any time period and feature straight or gay love, and, since paranormal is a subgenre of it, we’re not limited to just writing about humans either. A growing trend is for what I call homme-rom – romance from the man’s point of view. (I’m based in France which explains the ‘homme’ element – it’s French for man.) Mainstream publishers tended to fight shy of this but now that we have indie authors self-publishing, there are more and more examples of this subgenre around. It’s as enjoyable for women to read as men. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the excellent Song in the Wrong Key by Simon Lipson or The Wake-Up Call by Jonas Ericsson.
So a few handy tips for what to write if you’re wanting to sell well.