So my friend, not to mention brilliant writer, Monica Valentinelli began texting me from a novel writing conference she happened to be attending. “What is with this attitude that writing for money is evil? Why can’t I love to write AND make money?” Don’t get me wrong, as professional writers, we know better than to believe writing is our sure path to riches. That being said, there is this attitude that bubbles among some writers, typically self/under/poorly-published ones where some of us are told with some measure of disdain that writing for a big publisher makes us a “house slave” or we are informed with equal condescension that they are an artist who cares about story and thus don’t have to worry about writing.
I’m going to pause here because Tobias Buckell put on a clinic on his blog on the kind of rhetoric which takes on a new level of offensiveness with those of us people of color. He said things so much better than I could.
Monica’s experience reminded me that I probably come across as the exact flipside of the attitude she encountered. I was at the Indiana Horror Writers meeting a few weeks ago saying that I won’t roll out of bed for less than five cents a word. I know I can sound mercenary, or as Lon Prater dubbed it, Mauricenary. Again, let’s be straight, five cents a word isn’t much. No one is going to make a living, much less get rich, working for five cents a word. I simply wanted to drive home the point that as much as it clashes with our delicate artistic sensibilities, money is the driving force of our industry. It’s the business of writing that propels the art of writing.
The fact of the matter is that you can find endless places who will take your stuff if they don’t have to pay you. You will be invited into all sorts of anthologies, and, believe me, I understand that initial thrill that comes with being invited into a project rather than having to scrap and claw and submit. However, I also know that you can get trapped there at that level, still pursuing or clinging to the dream “exposure”. The same level of exposure you can get on your own, especially if you put any work into it (thus one of the arguments of the self-published; one I agree with, mind you. I can’t stand when writers act like all they have to do is slap a cover on their work and throw it out there. That’s an equally bad attitude and that lack of quality control is what ultimately hurts the ranks of the self-published).
When all is said and done here’s what I care about: 1) telling good stories and 2) making sure they’re read. The former focuses on my craft, the need to keep reading widely and deeply, the need to keep honing and experimenting with my style. The latter focuses on the business, things like money, distribution, promotion.
A writing career, which is what I’m trying to do (as opposed to writing hobbyists) is about building a reputation as well as readers. I want to be where I’ll be read and for paying markets, it’s in their interest to build readership to keep their doors open. For example, Dark Faith was Apex Books’ most expensive project. Therefore, it was in their interest to make sure it sold. They pulled out all stops in terms of marketing and promotion. Other Apex projects felt on the short shrift of not being marketed as hard. The reality was Apex had to invest in its promotion and go that extra level, which devoured a lot of resources. But that investment means that the market I have sold my story to has an equal investment in finding me as many readers as possible.
Pursuing payment also allows the newbie writer who might not know the scene as well to avoid a lot of scammers [David Boyer says what] preying on writers. Let’s face it, because of the ease of technology, anyone can slap together a project, declare themselves an editor, and not have a clue what they’re doing (other than padding their resume). The adage “money flows TO the writers” protects against a lot of that.
Story is my magic canvas. I’m a professional day dreamer, cloaking myself in my safe little Walter Mitty-esque world of spies, ninjas, assassins, dragons, monsters, demons, and magic. I write because I love to tell stories. I write because I have an inner compulsion with drives me to put pen to paper. I write because I have the tacit hubris to believe I have something to say. I write because that’s who and what I am: a writer.
I write for pay because I want to be read as widely as possible. I write for pay because I have the tacit hubris to believe something I’ve written deserves to be read. I write for pay because I have the less than tacit hubris to want to be paid for my efforts. I do want to get paid, and possibly be able to do this full time as my sole means of income … so that’s part of the long term dream. And I am a creature of pride, meaning, that I would also love the recognition of awards (including the “award” of huge sales). Of course I still have to chase down royalty statements and checks. Just like I still make exceptions for when I’d writer without a check (such as if I am doing a favor for a friend or if I really dig the project). I never want writing to get to the point where writing is a chore or something I dread (a risk with the mad scramble to SOLELY chase dollars).
Not that I should have to justify wanting to get paid for the work I put into something, especially if I value it or my time. Should I never be able to get another book deal or sell another story, I would keep writing. It’s why I have a blog: to allow me to put my thoughts into the great expanse. If I wanted to write 4theluv, I’d just stick my manuscripts in a drawer.