Updated: Nov 18, 2018
...for Money or for Art?
Honesty in writing is pretty important to most fellow authors. We want to stay true to our own interests and visions, but it’s not a straight-forward issue. At the end of the day, how authors proceed can boil down to this one question:
Are you writing for the art, or are you writing for the money?
If you’re writing for the art, you’d best make sure you have the money to do so! You’ll need, at minimum:
A decent writing program
Most writers have that covered. But if you’re writing for the art, you probably want to reach people. Also worth considering:
An advertising budget (Goodreads promotions, Amazon ads, radio/podcast ads, etc.)
A promotional budget (if you’re giving away paperback books, you still have to pay for those, for example)
A book cover budget
A formatting budget (you can do this yourself if you take the time; word of advice, don’t use 12pt font)
An editing budget (if you don’t have credible contacts willing to critique for free)
Website expenses (hosting, domain, design, etc.)
This gets expensive fast.
I love that there are authors out there who write for the pure sake of it. It’s therapeutic, soul-cleansing. What ticks me off are writers who write for the art, but expect the world to latch on to their book with absolutely no money put into it.
The market is saturated, so it takes some money to get exposure, let alone make money. Even if you’re sending your book off to agents and publishers to go the traditional route, you’re going to spend a crapton on postage. Blog touring alone isn’t the answer. Everyone and their mother hawks their books online.
This isn’t the kind of field you don’t spend any money in to get somewhere. You’re not taking online surveys for extra cash. If your goal is to get exposure of any kind, you’re building a business.
If a business is truly your goal, a successful one takes money and time. And during that time, keep writing more books– prolificity is an author’s best friend when it comes to sales. You might as well burn your money if you spend a ton of cash on marketing and have no backlist.
What if you have no immediate ideas for another book?
This is where the honesty in writing bit comes back into play. So, we’ve established that A) you need to spend some money for people to notice your book, and B) one of the best marketing tricks is to just keep writing.
This is where reconciling art and money can get even tougher; it’s why you see a lot of self-published authors releasing short, cheap serials.
A lot of authors aren’t passionate about their characters and their worlds anymore, but hey, it pays the bills! They know they aren’t going to become the next James Patterson, but they’re going to do better than the average Joe with only a couple of titles for sale. Serial writers have pretty much given in to writing for money. Especially romance writers; they know it’s a genre that sells, so they keep pumping out novellas. That isn’t to say that there isn’t an artistic element to these works, but art is not a serial writer’s primary goal.
I think the key to happiness and honesty in writing is finding a middle-ground. Write what you love, but make sure you’ve got the money to spend on marketing, just like when launching any new business.
But hey, if you’re all about just making money and people dig what you write, that’s fine, too. Being honest with yourself isn’t going to put food on the table, so there’s no judgment here! Sometimes dishonesty is a necessity. There are loads of writers out there who want to break into genres like thrillers, but stick with more profitable ones, like romance.
There are also writers out there who say “to Hell” to beta readers who criticize their book because changing it would mean sacrificing their vision (even if the changes would make the book more profitable).
What are your thoughts on honesty in writing?
I’ll leave you at the end of the post with this quote:
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