Who would have thought that my love/hate relationship with writing would be such that I would need to write not just one post, but a series of them? I suppose I could simply categorize my writing posts under “Me ranting incessantly”, but that category is getting pretty substantial, and they might get lost in the shuffle.
I have issues, people!
In case you’re interested, you can find Parts 1 through 3 here:
Now, where was I? Oh, yeah…
Last Friday, Rachelle Gardner (who, in case you didn’t know, is a literary agent) wrote a post which asked the following question:
“(So) if you had a choice, which would you rather be:
(1) An author publishing steadily to positive reviews and strong critical acclaim, but selling low numbers of books and therefore unable to support yourself with your writing…
(2) An author publishing frequently (maybe two books a year) to average reviews and sometimes even being called unflattering names like “hack” yet making an extremely comfortable living and never having to take on other work.
To simplify: Great reviews, critical acclaim and awards… or great sales?”
Of course, I chose “both”, because she’s not the boss of me. Then she told me the point was to choose one, to which I responded, “I don’t wanna”, then she accused me of being a cheater… (This all happened on Twitter, btw. Not on her blog. But I digress.) Anyway, my point is (and I do have one), is that Rachelle posed this as a “thought question”, and rightly so. Because it really got me to thinking.
Not so much about choosing to be a critically acclaimed, award winning author or a best selling one, but about what lengths will you go to achieve the latter?
Before you get to be a published writer, chances are the words you share with the world are yours. They may be edited, but probably self-edited. Whatever point or message you are attempting to convey will be retained. The questions of critical acclaim or strong book sales are largely theoretical, because let’s just be honest: It might not even occur to you that once someone buys your story they may want to change it to fit a certain audience. You write because you have a story to tell, not to fill a niche in some yet unsaturated demographic, right?
Now, don’t misunderstand me. I think editors are the unsung heroes of the literary world. A good editor can make a good story even better, and it is in the best interest of your agent and publisher to do what they can to help you tell your story to an adoring audience. But how much control are you willing to give away in order to see your name on the best seller list? And at what point do you stop writing from your heart and start writing what you think people want to read?
I wonder about this because I have read so many best selling authors who start out with such promise, only to be disappointed by their later books. I don’t lay the blame completely on the marketing of a writer. I think some writers only have one or two good books in them, and that’s okay. What’s not okay is when they continue to write anyway because they think writing something is better than fading into obscurity. You know, like Margaret Mitchell did after she wrote Gone with the Wind or Harper Lee after To Kill a Mockingbird. I bet you probably had to google those writers just to refresh your memory…
I guess the moral of my rambling story is this: If you are fortunate enough to have your work read by a large audience and achieve financial success because of your gift, please don’t take it for granted. Remember why you started writing in the first place. Don’t be a lazy book whore.
Editor’s Note: While I have a rather long list of well known authors whom I consider to be lazy book whores, I will not share any of them here so as not to offend them. While I’m quite confident that none of them read my blog, some of you might really enjoy their books, even though they’re crap. Kidding. Mostly. (See? I’m a great self-editor, huh?)
If you haven’t already entered to win a free, autographed copy of Snow Day by Billy Coffey, see details on Monday’s post. I will be accepting entries until Sunday.