mo' money, mo' authors lamenting it.

| Friday, April 16, 2010
Today's Tune: If I had a Million Dollars

Jessica over at BookEnds had a post on making money as an agent/publisher this week, and in it she shared an attitude that I often wonder about. She mentions the attitude a number of unpublished authors share: that publishers and agents only want books that will make them money. To which her answer was pretty much, "No duh."

As I mentioned in comments over there, this mindset baffles me. I kind of get it, I suppose. We're artists, and we want to share our art. It's about expression, not money. And it would be just wonderful if there were businesses out there that existed only to distribute art for the sake of art without a care in the world as to how they were going to pay for it.

But therein lies the problem. Publishing is a business, not a grant distributor or non-profit organization. How can people get down on them for... wanting to make money? Of course they want to make money. If they didn't make money, they couldn't continue to produce, you know, BOOKS.

No business can solely take on projects that only a handful of people will ever purchase just because they want to support starving artists. It sucks, but it's true. This attitude feels, to me, like extreme ignorance about this industry. If you'd like to be published through traditional channels, you have to accept the fact that you are no longer just an artist - you are a business person. Working for a business. To criticize the industry you want to be a part of for wanting to remain in the green is incredibly disingenuous and naive.

Believe me, I hate the fact that more people are willing to buy and read a mass-produced, not-so-well-written thriller by This Week's Bigwig Author than a heartfelt rendition of true Pulitzer-level artistic merit, but this is reality. The general public doesn't appreciate "artistic" literature; they appreciate "entertaining" literature. The public and what they buy dictates what the industry does. And I don't mean to get down on Bigwig Authors, because they have their own merit and are only doing what we all hope to do - achieve success.

This is the other bit that gets to me. Aspiring authors will grumble about the industry being too commercial and too concerned with the almighty dollar... while they're out there querying agents and submitting to publishers in the hope of achieving some sort of compensation. Even if they're not "in it for the money," at the very least they're in it for recognition, which is a form of compensation. They want someone to look at their work and say, "This is worth publishing."

Many people disapprove of how publishers work, and they prefer to remain true to their artist-heart and not "sell out." This attitude is fine. I can respect it. Art is important, and I will always support it. I just grow weary of the hypocrisy around those who talk a hefty load of smack against the industry that they are simultaneously trying to sell their work to with their other hand.

We all want respect. Recognition. Acknowledgment that our art is valid. I get it. If you can't agree with how Big Publishing functions, that's cool. If all you genuinely want is to see your name on a bound book, there are options for you. If you want your book to reach a lot of hands and be read and appreciated, well, that's a tougher road, but there are options for that as well.

Let's call an orange an orange - yes, publishers want to make money. No, they don't owe you publication, even if you're brilliant. Crushing and cruel though it may be. Either way, this community of the Unpublished is here for you.

But f'realzies, cool it with the whining about Big Bad Moneygrubbing Publishing. This is the industry you want to be a part of. You know it's a business. They don't hide that fact.


{ JustineDell } at: April 16, 2010 at 6:23 AM said...

Nice post. It's all true...oh so very true. Can't argue with a single sentence or thought. I want to be a part of that industry and I'll probably die trying!


{ Matthew Rush } at: April 16, 2010 at 6:34 AM said...

I totally agree Steph, thanks for sharing your thoughts!

I will point this out though: In find it interesting that in publishing going the independent route (see: self or vanity publishing or POD) is basically kissing any writing career good-bye. Unless you're Christopher Paolini you pretty much lose any respect you could have ever hoped for from industry professionals.

I used to own a small independent record label and no we did not get rich but we did sell records, quite a few in fact. I often find myself wondering why it's cool or even smart to stay independent in music but it's basically giving up in publishing.

Just my two cents.

Today's guest blogger is Rachel Alpine!

{ maybe genius } at: April 16, 2010 at 7:30 AM said...

Matthew - Yeah, self-publishing has a stigma that is really hard to pull oneself out of, definitely. I think it's mainly because so many self-pubbed or vanity projects are people who got tired of waiting and published something that wasn't quite ready yet. There are some great self-pubbed projects out there, but they're battling against that stigma.

I supposed I view an independent record label as something a little different. I think those musicians still have to be signed on, rather than paying someone to produce their music? Or am I wrong?

{ jjdebenedictis } at: April 16, 2010 at 10:06 AM said...

There are three reasons why a person seeks publication:

1) They are a megalomaniac displeased with the level of adulation they receive from the public, and so they have written a novel to rectify this strange oversight.

2) Their self-esteem is lower than the underside of a doormat and they desperately want a stranger to say, "Yes, you are good at this," to rectify the situation.

3) They want to make money.

Writing for enjoyment, or for self-expression, or for the sake of creating a potent work of art does not require publication. Seeking publication means you either want attention or you want money.

The second impulse is the most healthy one.

{ Olleymae } at: April 16, 2010 at 1:26 PM said...

Right on with this post. The whole point of being published is to make some money for your expression.

That means that you'll have to accept the ugly side and the pretty side of industry.

{ KarenG } at: April 16, 2010 at 3:04 PM said...

It's called sour grapes. And the second a whiner is making big bucks, you can bet the tune changes.

{ Lisa Green } at: April 19, 2010 at 3:54 PM said...

So true! It is a business. And no you can't blame publishers for wanting to make money. Luckily they are in a position where they can also promote good books. Books that move them. Books that entertain them. Good books sell. So it's not such a bad situation really. The most unfortunate part is that there are sooo many good books and good writers out there, that not everyone is getting picked. But I wouldn't blame that on running things like a business.

{ Tracy } at: April 20, 2010 at 6:23 AM said...

Hi Steph! I followed you over from Justine's blog ... and I recognize you from Nathan's forum too.

Great post. I think the part people forget is that you can be artistic with your writing all you want, if your goal isn't necessarily publication. How many famous painters never made a penny on their work and only became famous long after their death? Hell, Shakespeare wrote his most famous plays because he was commissioned to by royalty.

I firmly believe if a book is truly great - be it artistic or entertaining - it will find it's way to publishing. Most of the bellyaching, I believe, comes from writers who craft stories that only they would want to read.

{ Christine } at: April 20, 2010 at 6:36 AM said...

No, duh, is right. I want to make money one day in this industry. And writing an artistic book that doesn't resonate in the marketplace won't do that for me.

Commercial fiction drives the industry.

I may not be making money at this game yet, but when I figure out how to write that perfect combination of plot, character and voice then I might stand a chance of hooking the publishing industry.

And I want to have a lot of those perfect combinations out there. If you aren't invited to the dance, maybe you're still learning how to dance. And that's okay by me. Every rejection is actually a recommendation to continue to hone my craft.

Great Blog!

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