I was chatting with my oldest sister the other day. She is working on her PhD in English Literature and had freshly returned from a big conference. In networking with other eager conference goers, she mentioned this particular phrase that would come up – “it’s more marketable” in reference to studies of choice.
As an example (forgive my extreme paraphrasing)
My sister: “I’m studying this really cool smart thing ’cause I’m smart and awesome.”
Other person: “Cool, but it’s kind of specific so therefore not really marketable.”
My sister: “I’m studying this subject because I like it.”
Other person: “I wanted to study Topic A but decided to study Topic B instead because it’s more marketable. Sometime I wish I had studied Topic A instead.”
Me and my sister: “That’s a dumb reason.”
I’m still kind of floored by that reasoning. We both came away from our conversation with the attitude that even if what you do is not “mainstream”, as long as you do it well, you will be successful.
It’s like ditching the epic sci-fi/steampunk adventure that’s really close to your heart to write a YA dystopian with a trite love triangle because that’s more marketable right now. Or discarding the draft of an original fantasy adventure to write a steamy romance novel because that’s more likely to sell copies.
Or picking another career choice because it’s more likely to pay more and you’ll have quicker success. But why bother if you’re not going to be happy with what you’re doing?
So even if you think your story idea won’t be accepted or maybe it’s not the most popular genre at the moment, work hard, write it well, put in the time and effort, and you’ll see a payoff. That’s really all you can do. You’ll impact someone with your work, and I think that could be better than being a New York Times bestseller.