Sparked by Words

Blowing Up the Market

J.K. Rowling blew up the book market. The Harry Potter series has been read by gazillions of people in a million languages all over the world and on Mars.

She knew her genre – fantasy – and she knew who she was writing for – middle grade readers. In other words, elaborate fairy tales for children. She worked damned hard and was incredibly lucky, lucky, lucky.*

*If you don’t believe Rowling was lucky, talk to Vincent Van Gogh who sold one painting in his life, lived in poverty, and suffered from mental illness as well as disdain from just about everyone. Today his paintings sell for millions, but he benefits not one bit.

Do not count on becoming the next J.K. Rowling. You’re a guaranteed failure if you do. Write the best book you can. Know your genre and your intended audience. Even if you self publish, you need to know those two aspects of your story or you have no chance of marketing.

And if you have no chance of marketing, you might just as well write on napkins in a coffee shop and give Mom the whole packet when you’re done. At least she’ll be able to sop up your tears.

Be as inventive as your imagination and skill will allow you when writing. When marketing, you must trek the potholed path because you can’t count on being J.K. Rowling. Even she couldn’t count on success. She queried twelve publishers before being accepted by Bloomsbury.

Work damn hard, write well, know your genre, identify your intended readers, query till your computer bleeds, and you might get incredibly lucky, become published, and sell a few dozen books.

Now you can autograph a real book for Mom.

Dear Mom,

Thanks for believing in me.


Your kid the writer.


Just a Thought 38


Painting Spirit of the Night, 1879, by John Atkinson Grimshaw, courtesy Wikimedia Commons




Comments on: "Blowing Up the Market" (53)

  1. You are so right Sharon, however beautiful, brilliant and intelligent someone writes it is often luck in the end that decided tha fates as far as economic success counts.
    Your example of Van Gogh and Rowling is a strong proof.

    As you say, we can but write, paint, create direct from our hearts and dreams.


    Liked by 4 people

    • Luck has so much to do with it, also knowing people who will help. It’s not always economic success but being considered worthy in your field. It was that Van Gogh was so often not considered a capable painter that upset him. But I agree that as artists in any field, it’s better to follow our impulses than to be slavish in following trends. Thanks for commenting, Miriam.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Sharon, there are so many stories of now famous writers struggling to get recognition, just as Van Gogh was scorned in his lifetime! How true that luck plays a huge part … the writer can help him/herself by producing their best work until ‘your computer bleeds’! I love your dedication – I’m sure this one or something similar it written by most writers – Moms are amazing and their belief never falters!

    Liked by 2 people

    • The field is enormous with self publication and indie presses making it possible for writers to get their words into print. Marketing is still key to sales. For me, I want my books in print more than recognition – but a little acknowledgment from readers wouldn’t hurt.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Writing a book is hard. Marketing that book is even harder. At least it seems that way sometimes!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Carrie, you especially, with several books now in print, know how difficult the marketing is. Getting into that top echelon of well recognized writers whose works arrive with professional and field reviews on the jackets is the ticket to book sales. Most of us can’t do that no matter now strong our writing chops. What are your best tips?


  4. Self-publishing is such a boon for us forgotten authors. Nice post, Shari. I’m planning to binge on writing today–this inspires me.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Jenna Barwin said:

    Great advice, Sharon. Still, I look at the explosion of successful sub-genres–sub-genres that traditional publishers ignored–and think that someone had to be the first to write them. So while writing to market has its distinct advantages, writing what you love to write and finding a market that has yet to be discovered, well, it’s worth a shot. The challenge is framing the new market and finding them.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I don’t actually disagree with you, Jenna. It’s not writing sub-genres that’s problematic and giving those stories a chance to breathe. It’s writing “something” with no idea what you’re really doing and thinking that you’re going to be the next Rowling because she did it. I’ve read WsIP where the writer has no clear voice and mixes in so many directional strands that the result is a mishmash reading like bits and pieces of half a dozen other books. Everything derivative and nothing original. Your last sentence is key to marketing but first, writing well is the most important.

      I couldn’t write anything I didn’t love. That, at least.


    • Jenna, I’m with you on this one. Everyone has a different way of beginning a project. Maybe the lucky ones are those people who study the market first, but that’s sadly not who I am as a writer. LOL. I fall in love with a project and let it take me where it’s going to take me. Being so deeply in love is more than worth a few struggles figuring out who your audience may be after. BUt I tend to be reckless in love.

      Liked by 1 person

      • So, Adrienne, you’re one of those who read all the threads. I admire your stamina as I usually don’t.

        I didn’t mean to imply a writer should aim for a particular market, but should know who their market is once the book you loved writing is complete, and aim to market to them. It doesn’t mean there can’t or won’t be cross over readers, but it makes it easier to market to the known followers of your market. For instance, I don’t think it makes sense for you to put a lot of effort into marketing on a sci-fi website, but undoubtedly, there will be some die hard sci-fi fans who love your books.


      • Haha! I don’t always read everyone’s comments but I try to on blogs like yours that attract such thoughtful and interesting commenters.

        I know you didn’t mean that. I was more thinking of some books I’ve read on marketing that ask writers to sort of play the market. I wish I was better at that stuff but I’ve always got my head in the clouds so lately I’ve been doing a study of marketing and still feel just as confused as ever. There’s so many things to try and they don’t always seem to work–so we’re back to a certain amount of luck, I guess. 🙂


      • I’m with you on that – nothing sure fire but lots of misfires for sure.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Although J.K. Rowling has had phenomenal luck with her Harry Potter series, if you read one of her other books, you’d realize she isn’t all that great of a writer. I know that once I have a book published, I’m going to have problems with marketing. I know I’m lousy at it and will probably have to pay for help with it. In the meantime, I’m going to keep on trying to improve my writing skills.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Glynis, Rowling is an undeniable success as a writer. Millions of people of all ages adore her books, especially the Harry Potter series. I worked for a huge national chain bookstore during the years the series was being published. At notification of each new book’s debut, people would line up outside the bookstore for hours, just to be one of the first to get their copy. Most stayed up and read the book that night – I know because many came back and told me.

      Each of us has personal taste about books, clothes, food. I won’t tell you whose books to admire any more than what blouse to wear. But neither of us can doubt her success nor that her books are well loved.

      Have you been following the PBS The Great American Read? Of the 100 books listed, I’ve read 47, most of which I really loved, have long intended to read about 20 others, and would have liked to replace at least 15 titles with books I feel deserved more adulation. But that’s the great thing about living in a free country – we do get to make our own choices and to announce them. Thank you for making your views known – always appreciated.

      Liked by 3 people

      • You’re right, I hate to admit, but I was sorely disappointed in Rowling. Still, that is my opinion and no one else’s. I do have particular tastes when it comes to books. Chances are most people would think my preferences are weird.

        Although our personal tastes are free to have, this country, as a whole is getting more and more socialistic in its attempt to keep people safe and healthy. [At least, that’s what I have experienced. 😛 ]


      • I think most people read the books they enjoy reading, picking authors and genres that appeal to them. We’re also influenced by what friends suggest, and if we belong to a book club, as I do, we read selections made by other members. All these influences may take us out of our comfort zone and direct us toward books we wouldn’t otherwise consider. But the matter of personal preference is ours alone to make.

        I didn’t mean to come off so harshly in my first comment to you. The point of the original post was not whether or not the Harry Potter books are outstanding literature, and I was definitely not trying to promote them as such, but how so many aspiring authors think they can break the book marketing mold the way J.K. Rowling did. The reasons for her success are multi-layered and would need far more space than I want to devote here. Most writers don’t write as well as she did, and almost none are going to have her good fortune of an audience hungry at a particular moment in time for the kind of fantasy books she wrote. All authors would do better to write their own best stories and not count on serendipity. I put myself in that same teetering boat.

        This was the point of my post. I’d like to just leave it at that.


  7. Excellent points with perfect examples, Sharon! Timing and a clear goal are vital, and some of the points I mention when giving writing talks to emerging authors.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Very welcome! Keep going 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Excellent advice to a world full of Indie writers who write and self-publish!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Terri. I meant it also for writers who are traditionally published or aiming for that route.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think it would be rather exciting to work with a publisher!


      • I would love to work with a publisher. However, I can’t go through the front door with the kind of books I write, upmarket commercial fiction, sometimes called upmarket women’s fiction. My understanding is that children’s book writers can bypass agents and go directly to publishers with their proposals. It’s a different model, which is why it’s relatively easy to self publish an adult book in any genre and more difficult to self publish a children’s book. For one thing, the illustrations are prohibitively expensive to reproduce on most writer’s budgets.

        Marketing is different as well, as kids’ books are marketed more to parents, teachers, schools, libraries, children’s book reviewers, and book stores rather than directly to kids. Kids are kind of the after market thought. But once kids get attached to a series – Harry Potter, Emily Windsnap, Percy Jackson, etc. – then the kids take over with specific requests for more of the same. Which is what happened with the Potter books. Kids started demanding, parents read alongside their kids, teens caught on to the excitement, and Rowling brilliantly wrote the sequential books to appeal to older audiences. Her readers were growing up. By then, everyone was hooked on her books. Marketing genius, marketing serendipity.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Inspiring, Shari. Enough as we are.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Very poignant post, Shari! I belong to those who absolutely love the Harry Potter books and have re-read them countless times. 😉 And she really was lucky! I doubt she would have it as easy – and I know it really wasn’t for her back then – nowadays. The marketing is like a hydra headed monster in my mind – no matter how hard one works to cover all the requirements there’s always something left.
    And thanks for reminding me of poor Vincent – he’s one of those enlightened artists who had it underservedly hard in his life.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Sarah, for your thoughts. I agree that part of what worked well for Rowling is that her timing was perfect. Had she started her series ten years earlier or ten years later, it might not have taken off so well. I think she also opened the door for a surge of children, teen, and young adult readers and therefore, writers. I know so many kids who never read a single book they didn’t have to read until they read Harry Potter. And then they were hooked.

      Liked by 1 person

      • You´re so right with kids getting the read bug thanks to the Harry Potter books, and a lot of the kids I teach in pottery got it through the Twilight series. I got mine long before Harry Potter though. 😉 The first books I fell in love with were by Enid Blyton. 🙂


      • It’s interesting what books (music, poetry, theater, sports, politics, world events, etc.) motivate kids generation by generation. I’m not familiar with Blyton at all, but then I’m quite a bit older than you.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Oh, Blyton started writing in the 1920´s and died in 1968. But my guess why you haven´t heard of her before is that she seems to have reached her audience more in Europe. In fact none of my WP friends living in America seem to know her work either. She wrote over 750 books, mostly children´s book series. She was incredibly successful and talented as a writer. I think your grandkids would actually enjoy her stories. 😉


      • Thank you for the info about Blyton. I’ll take a jaunt around the Internet and see what I can find about her. To have written 750 books is amazing.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. Sigh, and so we struggle on for our art!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. great post as always, Sharon. I do my best to remind myself that success is measured in many ways…


  14. I couldn’t agree with you more Sharon. I said something similar in my next memoir post but I think I missed the deadline to get it in.


  15. Great post. She knew exactly who her audience was and she wrote something they would love. No luck involved.


I would love to know what you think.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: