Can you imagine spending months, maybe even years, on a story, only to find that there is no market suitable for its publication? Even the most brilliant work of fiction can be doomed to the back of a closet, if there is no market for it. You can easily avoid this fate for your manuscript if you give a little forethought to what genre story you are writing will fall into, or to what type of markets will be suitable to send submissions.
First, what genre will the story fall into? Will it be bodice-ripping Romance or lean to the more empowering genre of Chick-lit? Will the basis be Science-Fiction, or Fantasy? Will it be a hard-boiled Mystery, or a fast-paced Thriller? If your story is more ruminative in nature and lacks a strong plot, it may be more suited to the Literary genre.
Certain markets, like Romance, expect certain formats in a manuscript. I’m not talking about manuscript formatting; I’m talking about the standard plot points. For instance, you would write a Romance novel in which the girl ends up alone. You wouldn’t write a mystery in which the whodunit is never solved, although you can write a story like that, but it won’t fit into the Mystery genre, so you’d better write towards another market where the mystery is not central to the book. Knowing the story’s genre will help you keep the narrative and focus of the story within the expected parameters.
Second, what type of market are you shooting for—online publications, print publications, book publishers? This will largely depend on the genre of the fiction, as well as the length of fiction. Generally speaking, as individual market guidelines will vary a bit, anything under 500 words is considered flash-fiction, anything under 10,000 words is a short story, between 10,000 and 50,000 words is a novella, and over 50,000 words is considered a novel (at least with a standard adult novel, writing for children and teens carries much shorter word counts).
The point is, if you know what the market requirements are ahead of time, you can be sure not to deviate too far from the norm and increase your chances of acceptance.
Writing towards a market for future publication options will increase the chances that your manuscript will get published, but for many people it is the act of writing whatever pours from your soul that is the true prize. Yes, considering a market before writing a story can inhibit the creative process and influence what the story turns out to be. At the end of the day, it boils down to whether you must write the story, or that you must write the story that will be publishable.
***I wrote this post a while back, but for some reason never got around to publishing it, so here you go. Even though older, it is still true, even if you plan on Indie Publishing. Not only will defining your market ahead of time help you “focus” the work, but it may prevent you from putting out a book with no market, or a very tiny one.