How Do I Find Topics that are Going to Sell?
Years ago, I went to a small conference on writing for young adults. After a talk by an editor for a well-known publishing house, one of the participants got up and asked, “How do I know what kids are going to be interested in? How do I find topics that are going to sell?”
That seems like a reasonable question, especially in such a competitive publishing market. We’re all taught to write for an audience—some teachers have us imagine our “ideal” reader and write for that person.
But the editor gave an answer the questioner clearly wasn’t expecting. “Don’t sit around trying to figure out what kids are going to be interested in,” she said. “Write about what interests you.”
The Audience is You
I think the editor was getting at two things. First, “kids” aren’t some huge mass of identical humans. Even if you narrow the category way down to, say, 12-year-old girls, you’re going to find people who are interested in everything from action movies to ballet, soccer to fairy tales, dog breeding to fashion trends.
But there’s an even larger issue here, and that issue is passion. When you start with a topic that you’re supposing (and hoping) will click with a particular audience, you’re working from the outside in. How much better it is to start from something simmering inside you and bring it to the outside.
Find the Excitement
Back in the days when I was pitching ideas to magazines, I ended up writing many, many articles on topics I was only half-way interested in. The writing was a chore. My research seemed to take forever, and putting it together into a coherent (not to mention entertaining) piece made me want to pull my hair out. I ended up wondering why I was even pursuing the free-lance career—and, after about 65 publications, I left magazine journalism for good.
These days, I blog about one of the passions of my life: the relationship between spirituality and writing. Now, when I get up in the morning, I can’t believe I’m so lucky as to get to spend my day writing about something I love.
See Your Writing Shine
Not only has my writing life become more enjoyable now that I'm writing from my own passion, but my writing has improved. When you’re enjoying your work, it shows. It bubbles up onto the page. It can make the difference between writing that seems flat and writing that sparkles.
Write It and They Will Come.
Passion is contagious. So is boredom. If there is a massive audience out there for works about new tech gadgets or hip-hop or island vacations, but you don’t happen to be into any of those topics, forcing yourself to write about them is not a good strategy. Your own lack of interest is going to show through no matter how hard to try to disguise it. Fake it, and you’ll come across as inauthentic, which is even worse than coming across as bored.
If a topic sends tingles up your spine or keeps you up reading even when you have an early day ahead of you, that is what you should write about. Your passion will spill onto the page. Readers who are already interested in the topic will find your work, feel that passion, and feed on it. And you’ll attract new people to the topic. Even readers who’ve never given a thought to it will be drawn in.
The history of writing is chock full of writers who started entire trends by writing about things they found exciting that others had overlooked. Imagine being one of those authors.Write from your passion, and you just might become the writer who sets an idea on fire.
Causes Jill Jepson Supports
Humane Society of the United States, Defenders of Wildlife, Interational Society for the Protection of Burros and Mustangs, National Wildlife Federation,...