Tuesday, 13 April 2010

When did writing become about the money?

When did it become about the Monet?  Sorry, that was awful but I couldn't resist.  Over at Pimp My Novel there's been a self-publishing debate going on, and someone pointed out that as I had a grammatical error I was deluding myself if I thought I'd get fame or fortune from self-publishing.

Okay, ignoring the fact that my blog style is conversational, and as a result I favour clarity and ease of communication over grammar, and this is not the style in which I write but rather the style in which I talk, I've got to ask, when did it become about the money?

Let's be honest.  It's statistically far more likely that you will win the lottery than become the next J K Rowling.

People don't seem to understand this, though.  Writing is seen as an easy thing anyone can do.  It is seen as something you can throw together, and send off, and the publishing world will instantly fall in love with your genius.

Well, sorry, but that's crap.

Nathan Bransford has pointed out there is a growing number of people sending in queries, and for every 1 that is readable there are 2 that stink.  My words, there.

Writing is an artform, but more than any other form of artistic expression, it is becoming about the money.  Incidentally, I don't class Hollywood movies as art; you get artsy movies, but they tend to be made by the Indies.

Painters don't paint with a market in mind.  Poets don't rhyme to industry conventions.  More and more, publisher's don't publish what is good.  Publishing is a business, as we are constantly told.  They publish good writing, we are constantly told.  No, they publish marketable writing.

Writers shouldn't have to mould themselves to a publisher's shape.  The story is the most important thing.  Some readers might read my novel and absolutely hate the fact that my heroine dies at the end.  Some people might question why I constantly point out she's going to die in my blog.  Matilda's death isn't the point of the story, it's the epilogue. 

I don't agree that winning equates surviving.  Sometimes the only way to win is to go down with your ship, so to speak.  Sometimes escaping fate reeks of deus ex machina, and pisses your readers off.  Surviving is necessary in NY styled books because if the book does well the publisher will want a sequel.

I'm sick and tired of buying Lord of the Ring clones and Wheel of Time clones and pissy fantasy books about bland heroes and heroines.  There are only so many singing forest elves and surly dwarves I can keep down, before I start regurgitating bad fantasies over my kitchen floor. 

There are better books out there.  I've found so many online.  I've read stories that rocked my world and changed the way I thought about things.  My favourite author doesn't write books (maybe I should call him a storyteller) mostly because he doesn't edit.


That's right, he thinks every aspect of his story through, and writes it down.  Then it gets betad for grammar or spelling or clarity, but there are almost never any mistakes.  After that, he might change a word or two.

He writes the best fiction I have ever read, and I read about 200 novels a year, so I've read a lot by this point in my life. 

People assume that self-publishing authors and Indie authors couldn't get "real" publishers, so our work must suck.  Well, no.  Some of us don't want "real" publishers.  Especially not when the former CEO of Random House has pointed out that publishers don't have a clue about how to treat the e-book phenomenon. 

Some of us aren't just writers, some of us are business savvy.  We look at NY publishing, and we see a creaking, groaning buckling industry ready to collapse.  We are not lemmings throwing ourselves off cliffs.  More like climbers finding our own way down.  And some of us might turn into birds and soar to the skies.  And some of us might fall. 

And that's fine.   It will separate the weaker writers from the better ones.  It will make it easier for readers to find writers who are good.  Because ultimately readers don't care who publishes books, they just want well-written interesting stories.  And 80% of the time that's not what comes out of NY. 

I'm not writing for the money.  I know my works not "commercial," but having read the clone-fiction that so often is commercial, I wouldn't want it to be.  And I'm not saying all NY work is clone work, so if you're aiming for that, good luck. 


  1. *shrug* I think a lot of good work comes out of New York publishing. Do I think a lot of it is lousy? Sure, but I also know people who love what I loathe.

    I think there are some fabulous self-pubbed works out there. I also think there is a lot of crap.

    The same can be said of small print publishers and e-publishers.

    For me, all the possibilities are rather equal in good content versus bad. I try not to comment negatively about any of them because I know people choose paths for all sorts of reasons. But I don't think that any given path makes one work inherently better than another.

    Just my two cents.

  2. I'm not saying one path makes writing better or worse, but I am saying that if a NY editor was faced with 2 books and the first one was amazing but would be hard to market and the second wasn't as good but would be easy to market, he'd take the second because it would sell more easily.

    To clarify, all my favourite novels have come from mainstream publishing. I love Lonely Werewolf Girl, Boy's Life, the Dresden Files and all Discworld novels.

    But increasingly in fantasy I see hash ups of the same tired plots. And I know it isn't because writers lack originality... there is tonnes of original fantasy on the web.

    It's because editors know how to sell what they've already sold. So that's what they sell again and again.

    It gets tired.

  3. I have a good friend, who has commented here in the past, who self-published one of the most amazing books I've ever read. (shameless plug: Afterlife by Ian O'Neill) I don't understand why indie film makers are hailed as great artists and "indie" writers are thrown under the bus. We put just as much, if not more, blood sweat and tears into our work. We put our souls on the page. I would love to be published, in any format, but NY is certainly goal.

  4. I don't like books without happy endings. I just don't. And it has nothing to do with what NY buys or with sequel potential. It has everything to do with the fact that real life is crappy enough without books with sad endings.

    This may be why I read a lot of romance. Any romance author who gives an unhappy ending will be burned at the stake. Just how we like it. muahahahahaha.

  5. Only in book form, Zoe. Titanic was a very romantic film, and far from happy.

  6. Titanic still wouldn't be classed as a romance because it doesn't fit the rules of the genre.

  7. Not enough sex scenes?

    Actually, I don't know the rules of the genre. I love Books like the Dresden Files which are straight up paranormal. I read the paranormal romances but it isn't the romances bits I'm really into.

    So what about Ghost, was that a paranormal romance?