Should you write the book of your heart, or should you write a book for money?
In this video, I give my answer to this much-debated question of the author community. Watch the video below, or here on YouTube. You can also read the transcript below the video.
Hello, Creatives. I'm Joanna Penn from TheCreativePenn.com. And today I'm talking about a question that's come in from a viewer which is, “What sells more, fiction or non-fiction, and what should I write?”
So the basic question, which I find a difficult one, is what should I write? This is a really deep question and I wanted to tackle it because it's something that comes from two angles. There are always going to be two competing sides of the equation.
The artist writes what they want to write. The artist is inspired by what they love.
The business person is inspired by writing something that is going to earn money.
Now, there is nothing right or wrong about either of these sides. Plenty of people write for money, but, I guess when I became a writer, I had spent 13 years implementing Accounts Payable into large corporates. I had spent 13 years doing a job for the money and when I decided to write I couldn't bear the thought of writing things for money.
Of course, some of my non-fiction is about helping authors, and non-fiction in itself can make money because you can do courses, you can do speaking, you can do multiple streams of income from higher priced products with non-fiction.
But fiction, you can actually make more money in other ways. For a start, if you get into a series which I've talked about before why you make more money writing a series in fiction, if you write fiction you know a reader will find you. And just get so excited and be like, “I love this author.” And they will read through your entire backlist.
So over time, the fiction side can make more money because those books don't age.
For example, my ARKANE series book 10, Valley of Dry Bones, is about to come out, and if people find it at book 10, they may go back and read all the other books, and some people love that series.
So this is the thing, non-fiction readers might not necessarily care about you as an author. They just want an answer to their problem.
With fiction, the reader wants to escape their life and you're offering them a way into this other world. Those readers often become loyal to your brand over time.
So when this question comes up for you, it is usually at one of two different points in your life.
If you haven't written anything yet, seriously, go with your heart.
You need to write the book of your heart. You have to. Why would you do this otherwise?
Writing is not a get rich quick scheme. You write because you can't not write. You love it. You love reading. You love words. You just want to do this, and even if it never makes any money, you're going to do it anyway.
That's where I think we all start, where I certainly started. I wrote the book of my heart, which became Career Change, a non-fiction book about finding work that you love which really reflected my journey at the time. So that was the book of my heart.
My first novel, Pentecost, that became Stone of Fire, was a book of my heart and I never really expected much to happen. I certainly never expected to be making considerable income from fiction years later. But this is the point – it's years later.
So the question of, what should I write? What sells more, fiction or non-fiction?
There is no correct answer. The only answer is about you.
What do you love reading? What do you love to write? What do you want to create in the world that is from your heart?
Now, that doesn't mean that later on in your life you might not write things because they will make more money. For example, if you get a publishing deal and the publisher says, “Oh, well. You know, this book didn't sell so well. Maybe you should write this genre,” which I know happens to a lot of authors. Then you make a decision.
Or, for example, I wrote How to Make a Living with Your Writing to share how to make a living with your writing. But it's also a title that means people are interested in buying the book.
So it was partly to help and partly to make some money, and it does both. And so you can definitely do both as you progress as an author, but what I would say is when you're just starting out, please, please write what you love.
For more videos, check out my YouTube channel – The Creative Penn, and please do leave any questions, thoughts or comments below.