Today I want to give you the first official update as I write my first series to market. This is something I announced a while back, and I’ve come a long way since then.
In this video, I’m talking about the research phase of the process and what exactly I’m doing when I say write to market.
How to Write to Market (Part 1: Research)
I’m following Chris Fox’s method in his Write to Market book step by step. I wrote everything down in a dedicated notebook as I went along.
Step 1: Pick Your Market
Pick Amazon categories in your wheelhouse until you land on one that you love and has the top book in the top 1000 or so and the top 20 book around a rank of 2000. The last two pages of the category should rank at no more than 25,000.
As for me, I found out that YA contemporary romance fit. I’ve already built a small fanbase and two complete series around this so I decided to go with it and learn how to really hit the tropes this time so I can hopefully hit it big with my next series.
Important: pick something you’d love to write and you know will sell; that’s where the magic is at.
Step 2: Learn the Tropes (Read the Top Books and Their Reviews)
I’ve always read a lot of romance, especially NA, but not always a ton of YA romance, although I read a lot of YA. I tend to read whatever’s popular, like Hunger Games, Harry Potter, Mazerunner, etc. It had been a while since I read straight up YA contemporary other than movies and TV shows, like High School Musical and A Cinderella Story.
So it was time for me to finally really learn the tropes and find out what my previous books were missing. They’ve never been huge bestsellers. Why? I know the story is at least part of the reason why my books never took off.
So I picked and read 3 top-selling books in the YA contemporary romance category, taking tons of notes as I read.
Decide on what to read by going to the top 20 of your category. The book should have around 1000 reviews and have published within the last year (this is what readers want and will go crazy for). Ignore boxed sets, 99-cent sales, and anything that obviously doesn't fit in the category.
The books I picked met these requirements pretty well, although not perfectly. I think this means that YA romance isn’t super hot (like space opera) but is still an underserved category so I think it will work.
I also noticed there are some niches within this genre (sports, tragic, fun/quirky, emotional/social issues, although some books some may overlap).
Here’s what I learned after reading 3 top-selling YA romance books:
Readers want modern Cinderella retellings. 2 of the top 3 books were Cinderella stories.
Readers don’t want anything too explicit on the page. Kissing is fine, but sex needs to be behind closed doors towards the end of the story or told poetically and briefly.
Readers want an ordinary girl in an extraordinary situation. Think Everything, Everything. Girl with a super rare disease who can’t go outside falls in love with the boy next door. I think I did this a little bit more with my second series, but not nearly enough.
The story needs to be about how they can get together and needs to have a HEA.
Protagonist is a teen girl, usually in 11th or 12th grade, good girl
Coming of age feel, figuring out life in some way, growing up
Boy she falls in love with plays a critical role in this journey of self-discovery and growing up
The guy is sweet, good, and pretty mature for their age (can be a friend or someone they just met)
Parents play a minor role or are dead
Friends or even frenemies play a big role in the story
Protagonist must confront her flaw to get the guy in the end
School/college plays a big role
May like/have liked some other guy that doesn’t deserve her/isn’t nice
She’s pretty average or thinks of herself as average but is thought of as beautiful, smart, and above average by others
Some kind of extraordinary circumstance, whether it’s a rare disease or having a stranger she just met become her pretend boyfriend for prom (who she ends up falling for)
Often stuck in horrible circumstances out of her control or has lost everything (like in Cinderella or a big breakup, for example)
Top indies price at $5-$5.99, trad at $9.99
Guys and girls often balance each other out (quiet versus outgoing) but have something in common that brings and holds them together (book, movie, or some kind of struggle)
Clear, authentic YA voice
Titles are unique and catchy (Everything Everything, The Fault in Our Stars, Cinder & Ella, The Law of Tall Girls)
Covers are clean, colorful, with big pretty curvy fonts that make you want to buy them just for the cover
Here's some of what I learned from the top reviews. Readers want:
- All the feels (laughter, tears, heartbreak, etc) and to be emotionally invested
- Escape from household chores and life (be swept off their feet for a few hours)
- Happily ever after and messages of hope and love
- Witty banter between the love interests
- A fun story
Recommended reads if you’re interested in YA romance and/or want to know what I read/plan to read:
- Cinder & Ella
- Everything Everything
- The Fault in Our Stars
- The Law of Tall Girls
- Anything by Amy Sparling
- Reason to Breathe (series)
Step 3: Figure out your speed of execution
Create a process from beginning to end for publishing a book, preferably every 3-6 months Budget time to outlining, drafting, editing, sending it to an editor, formatting, etc. Consistency is important in the world of publishing.
By when will you publish this next book? Can you have book 2 ready or almost ready by then?
Using a set process like this and setting deadlines for yourself will help you build momentum that much faster and will help you take advantage of pre-orders.
Want to learn more about writing to market? Read Chris Fox’s book, where he goes more in depth and has specific exercises for you to follow.
So that’s what the first phase of the write to market process has been like. Hopefully that was helpful for you if you’re looking to write to market yourself so that you can finally make a living at this while writing what you love.
Next time, I’ll be back with what I’ve been doing since then to start my own written to market YA romance series. And if you have any questions for me, just leave them below.
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Keep creating your art.