A recent consult with a fellow writer brought up an interesting point: should a writer write work to get published?
To give some context, my author-friend had an idea for a fantasy-romance novel. It was light fluff (in her own words). You know, the kind of stuff you see in the supermarket, only with fairies and some such. She was hesitant to write such a book because she felt like nobody respected it. When I pointed out that romance novels have never sold better, she asserted ‘but isn’t it degrading, to write something just so it will sell?’
That’s what we all do.
No author writes a book unconcerned with whether or not it will sell. All of us hold that as a core consideration. If we (the authors) don’t, the publishers and agents certainly do. And why wouldn’t they? Why wouldn’t we? Sales are the name of the game.
And I don’t mean ‘sales are the name of the game’ in the sense that we’re only in this for the money. Nobody gets into writing for the money – at least nobody smart. We get into this because we’re artists, with a love of the art form and the medium and a desire to tell our stories. That’s why we get into the business. But it’s necessary to understand that it is a business. And we may come for the art, but we stay for the paychecks. Otherwise, the very first time we had to make a choice between something else and writing, we’d do something. Because something else almost always pays better than writing.
As artists, we struggle with our desire to share our art and also our desire to live. If we don’t make money, we can’t make ends meet. We can’t write. And so, we charge money. The notion that ‘real artists don’t charge for their work’ is a lie, perpetrated by either charlatan art gallery owners (or their ilk in whatever art form you prefer) or by artists who already make so much money they have the luxury to just give away work for free.
Every artist charges, or should charge. Every artist wants to make money. Not out of greed (because – and I really can’t underscore this enough – writing is NOT a good way to make money), but because we want to live. We want to make art. And if our art can support us, then we can devote as much time as possible to making that art.
As such, we writers (and all artists) pursue a paycheck. It isn’t our highest priority but it IS a priority. And it should be a priority. Anyone who tells you otherwise is trying to scam you.
So, to my writer friends have that pulp novel that they think isn’t the highest of literature but they know will sell? Put it out there. Make your paper, and use that success to help pay for the next novel.
And if somebody accuses you of selling out, smile and let them know you sell out…every book on the shelf. People think being a sell-out means you compromised your priorities for a paycheck. Yet, they never seem to acknowledge that getting paid is – and always will be and always SHOULD be – a priority.
Oh, hey, did I mention that I published a book? You should totally check it out. 🙂