A sage piece of advice for writers who seek commercial success is to choose and know your market before you start to write.
Decide who is going to read your work and know what their expectations are. Then write to the target market.
Write to fulfill those expectations.
This includes understanding the requirements of different categories or genres.
The expectations of romance readers about how a story should be told are different from those of readers of thrillers or fantasies.
I didn’t choose the fantasy genre of The Bewildering Adventures of King Bewilliam series; it chose me. Though The Lost King is about present-day issues like divorce and career displacement, the story wanted to be told in a once-upon-a-time fashion.
Thus the setting is an imagined land, the story takes place in the Middle Ages and it includes mythical creatures like dragons.
The series was inspired by a friend’s real life crisis, a complete personal and professional derailment. I wanted to see if I could make that come out happily ever after.
That turned out to be harder than I thought. Three books later I’m still at it.
Even the strongest among us doesn’t bounce right back from such stunning losses. While King Bewilliam, the series hero, scored some successes, he continues to struggle to reclaim his life which led to The King’s Ransom, the latest release, The King’s Redress, and my current work-in-progress, The Redoubt.
To tell his story I’ve learned more than I ever thought I would about ancient times and chimerical creatures and have made friends among other writers of fantasy and paranormal fiction.
I’ve been a lifelong reader of crime fiction. So why was my first published work of fiction, The Lost King, a fantasy?
Still, I didn’t target the fantasy market and came to suspect that in many ways the books didn’t fit the genre at all. The stories feature plenty of swords but not much sorcery.
Belatedly I did some research and discovered high fantasy, a subcategory of the genre into which the King Bewilliam series fits.
The settings for high fantasy fiction are alternative worlds with their own geography, history, and rules.
The stories told are of grand epic struggles such as one man’s quest. J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings is regarded as typical of the high fantasy genre.
The high fantasy category provides an ideal framework for the series and has told the stories so well that they have found fans outside the genre.
Readers even stated that King Bewilliam’s adventures took them into worlds to which they don’t normally travel but they found the “unreal comfortably real.”
Writing high fantasy for readers who usually pick up books by Harlan Coben, Lee Child and John Sandford admittedly takes a long road toward finding fans. It’s not a case study in targeting the market before one starts to write, in fact it’s the exact opposite.
Would the books would be greater commercial successes had I written them as contemporary thrillers? I guess I’ll never know.
I don’t regret going where King Bewilliam’s story has taken me. Like his fans, I’ve fallen in love with him and his world.
I’m captivated by his plight and committed to following him as he battles from despair to triumph— and every dragon in between.
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