It is has been my observation that the most marketing focused writers
seem to be those that do work for hire or write with the lowest common
denominator in mind. We’re not talking about art, we’re talking about
product. Creating a marketable business model. (Remember, this is
coming from a guy who reads more product writing than he does art
writing. The product is more fun.) Even Mr. Goldberg has stated he
wouldn’t write another Harvey Mapes novel unless there was a for sure
sale. That’s market focused writing rather than art focused writing.
It’s sitting down and writing something that will sell, rather than
something that speaks from the heart.
Right now I am going through that very same struggle. Do I want to be a
"hack?" Someone that works for hire, that won’t write something he
couldn’t sell. Or do I want write from the heart? Spends hours, days,
weeks, months, or even years working on a project that, in the end,
only a handful of people might bother to read, no matter how hard I
might market it?
Now, Chadwick, is when you should create something from the heart, something that really drives you to sit down at the computer each day and write. Ultimately it’s that passion that what will make your book great, not a premeditated effort to write something you think will be "saleable"… because nobody really knows what will or won’t sell.
I wrote THE MAN WITH THE IRON ON BADGE on spec — I didn’t have a contract. It was truly a "passion project" for me, a story I was burning to tell. Then again, I didn’t have the DM novels or the MONK novels to do, only my TV work. I wrote BADGE in the time I now use to write the work-for-hire stuff.
But my life has changed since then and so have my professional obligations. I would LOVE to write another Harvey Mapes novel, but since I have to make a living as a writer, the time spent on it would take me away from my paying work. I simply can’t afford to write another Mapes now, not while balancing my script committments and the work-for-hire novels (DIAGNOSIS MURDER and MONK).
Once you make the leap to professional, and you have contracts to honor, it gets harder and harder to find the "free" time to gamble on writing the passion projects you can’t be sure will ever pay off financially. Does that make me a hack? No, it makes me someone who has
professional and personal committments and needs to prioritize his time to best fullfill his responsibilities.