Selling Stories to Editors

An interesting question came up on a newsgroup I was reading. Of course all writers write for themselves, to some extent. But what if you discover you have the gift of writing stories a particular editor likes and will buy? How does that affect your output? Do you keep writing that sort of story until the editor will no longer buy it? Or until you get tired? Would you preferentially write the stories you knew would sell?

I’ve done this, written towards an editor’s taste, and it has resulted in sales. Once the sale happened the same day. But at the same time, I use that taste as a kind of springboard to give me ideas; I’m not a natural writer of short stories (few are, I think) and having some idea of where the story’s headed makes me more inclined to write a short story in the first place.

Here’s a real-life example: I wrote a story for me, and sold it. Then I wrote a sequel, and sold it to the same editor; still writing for me, but knowing I had a good chance of selling it. Then for the next year’s anthology, I tried something completely different both from what I knew of the editor’s taste and from what had been previously published in that anthology. It didn’t sell. The next submission I sent in was another sequel, in the same style as the two previous stories; still for me, since I wanted to know what happened next to those characters, but also striving to match the editor’s taste. That one didn’t sell, either.

I don’t think writing to an editor’s taste is bad at all. I think it’s sound marketing strategy. But one should have joy in of the writing as well, or what’s the point?

Tomorrow, a guest post from writer Minx Malone.

About Victoria Janssen

Victoria Janssen’s first erotic novel, The Duchess, Her Maid, The Groom and Their Lover (Harlequin Spice, December 2008), was translated into French and German. Her second Spice novel, The Moonlight Mistress (December 2009), was translated into Italian and nominated for a RT Reviews Reviewers’ Choice Award. Her third novel is The Duke & The Pirate Queen (December 2010). She has also published erotic short stories as Elspeth Potter. Her blog features professional writing and marketing tips, genre discussion, book reviews, and occasional author interviews.
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2 Responses to Selling Stories to Editors

  1. Jeannie Lin says:

    Well, it doesn't sound so much like you're writing to that editor's taste as much as you've found an editor who fives with your style.

    It's fine line between writing for the market and writing books that are marketable — who cares as long as you're writing and enjoying, right?

    Did you place those other books elsewhere? Your track record seems fabulous.

  2. Victoria Janssen says:

    I did sell both, eventually. It took me some time–maybe three years? I can't quite remember–to find a market for the "different" story. The third one in the series didn't sell on its own, but eventually it was included along with reprints of the first two stories in the series, and some new connecting material. That editor, however, was new to me, and I submitted it to her because she was looking for science fiction.

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