Erotica author, aka Elspeth Potter, on Writing from the Inside

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Talent versus Marketability

All of us are good at something. Sometimes the hard part is recognizing what we’re good at, and not only what we’re good at, but what we’re really good at.

You can be good at a lot of things, but only one or two of those things sing.

For a writer, fiction that sings is the fiction that engages and involves people on a deeper level than most of their everyday reading. Naturally, that varies person to person. But there is still an indefinable something that some writers seem to have and some don’t.

Even if you have that something, it isn’t necessarily present in everything you write. Think of a favorite author who has more than one series, one of which is on your ultimate keeper shelf and another which you traded away on BookMooch. What did the keeper have that the transitory read did not?

The reader who can figure that out can save herself a lot of money and time on books she won’t adore. The writer who can figure that out might be on the path to selling a lot more books.

I think a way to go about finding what sings for you is to think about market categories. This serves two purposes. First, it helps you narrow down story elements and plot structures that particularly work for you. Second, it helps you think about how salable what you’re good at might be. I don’t think there’s any shame in trying to make your work marketable. After all, after you’ve written it, don’t you want a lot of people to read it? Not to mention money (but if writers only wrote for money, there would be a lot fewer of them!).

What reader reaction did you get from your contemporary romance versus your historical suspense novel? Did readers fall in love with your spaceship captain heroine but feel nothing for the vampire? And what did you love most? Did that translate into your writing? What lives in your writing, and what is limp and dead?

I’m going to keep thinking about this. I’d welcome input!


  1. Interesting, thought-provoking post. For me personally, there are things I like to read and things I like to write, and they're not always the same!

    I discovered years ago I had a talent for writing sex scenes, but I stuck to writing mainstream short stories (no sex scenes). I sold a few, but it was an uphill battle.

    About a year and a half ago, I started writing erotic romance (probably bordering on erotica) and sold the first two novellas I wrote to the first publisher I submitted them to. (In fact, today is the official launch of Spanked! the anthology with both of my stories). Is it a coincidence that getting so published was easier when I did what I seem to have natural talent for?

    One thing I do know is that writing is like any other profession: the quality of one's work will always vary even when you're writing in the same genre. Just because one piece may not be your BEST doesn't mean it isn't GOOD. A gold medalist doesn't always get the gold.

    Recently I read three books in the same genre by the same author. The first book I liked and it made me read the second. The second one I LOVED and consider it one of the best books I've read all year, but the third one, I didn't like at all.

    It is what it is...

  2. I confess I'm glad there's no "formula for success." It's more fun to try different things.