You’re going to be smart. Strategic. You’re going to look at the books readers are going crazy over right now and write one just like them – but better – and copies will sell like hotcakes because you’re giving the people what they want.
As you’ve probably figured out, it doesn’t work like that. You can look at the market now and see that Twilight* is popular and decide to write a novel about the forbidden romance between a vampire/werewolf hybrid and a dog lover who runs a blood bank. It’s going to be huge! The problem? It’s going to take you a few years to write and edit the book, another couple of years to find a literary agent to represent you, another couple of years for your agent to find a publisher willing to take a chance on you, and another year before it sees print. Next thing you know, a decade has gone by and paranormal romance is so blasé now. Steampunk zombies are the new hot topic.
Don’t write for the market; write for yourself. This sounds narcissistic at first, but when you really think about it, it’s quite the opposite. If you are writing for the market, what’s your motivation? You want to sell a million copies, become rich and famous, and be interviewed on Regis and Kelly. But if you write for yourself it’s because there’s a story you need to tell. You want to write the kind of book you’d enjoy reading, and you want to share a bit of your soul with the rest of the world.
Now this soul bit you create may or may not be a huge commercial bestseller. It may or may not sell at all. But it will be honest, and it will be a good story, and because of that, it will be more likely to succeed than any produced-for-the-market book would ever be. When you like your own story, you put more tender loving care into it. You take the time to get it right, and your readers can tell.
With that being said, you must also be conscious of your responsibility to your audience. Writing talent is a privilege, having your work read by others is an honor, and in exchange for these things you owe honesty, quality and completeness. So write from the gut, rewrite like a critic, and be sure to tie up all your loose ends.
*If you’re curious, I’m team TARDIS.