Friday, January 28, 2011

Sell Out? Sell More!

I love the fascinating discussions writers have when it comes to creativity versus earning the almighty dollar. (Heck, why stop at writing? It's an artistic discussion, since it applies to anyone trying to make a living with their art.)

Depending upon what you want to do with your writing, you're either in this business because your muse compels you to create and you're happy with that, or you want to earn some green by writing, because it's so easy. Okay, the latter statement would come from an idiot who's never written. Because writing ISN'T easy, and when someone writes for a paycheck, a reader can tell.

I fall somewhere in the middle. I write because my muse compels me to (when he's not slacking off eating bonbons or seducing hapless virgins), and because I'd like to make a living doing it. Like most of the naive newbies out there, when I started, I thought I could give up my day job and earn a ton off my first book. What a laugh. While I was learning my craft and trying to schedule writing around a 60 hour work week and my family, I fell in love with characters and stories. I wrote to write, and I'll never regret that.

But I did get to a point where I wanted to see some return on my investment. I could always and will always write stories for myself, but what about getting paid? My first sale was to an electronic publisher. I didn't get an advance, but I also didn't have to wait two years to see royalties. I was paid quarterly. And the success of that book and that first dollar urged me to write more. I did, and seven years later, here I am. Still writing nearly fifty books later.

The rest of the world has caught up with digital media. The Kindle and Nook are kicking major butt, and I see a lot more royalties because my books never go off the shelf. My highest seller to date came out in 2007 and has been in the Kindle top 100 of contemporary romance for months. (Enjoying the Show, in case you wondered.) So writing what I love now equals a nice paycheck. Hurray.

Am I selling out? Do I write to trends? Am I putting out so many books that none of them are quality? To answer those questions, no, I'm not selling out. I write what I love, and that's romance. I sometimes write to trends, but then, I write all over the place, and if it's hot and I have a story to tell, I will. But I'm not even going to try writing a historical regency because as hot as that genre sells, it's not me. Nor is inspirational romance, which rakes in millions. As to the question of quantity versus quality, I put the answer in my publishers' and readers' laps. Most publishers are pretty choosy about what they buy, and these days even smaller presses are saturated with eager writers wanting to produce. Readers do like to buy from an author they like, but if they read a book that sucks, it's doubtful they'll come back for more.

I'm a fast writer. I just am. When the story is singing to me, and I have a full day to write, I can knock out 10-20 thousand words easy. Yeah, easy. Again, the caveat is that the story is singing to me. My last work was painstaking, but on a good day I could still type 7-10 thousand words. On a bad day, maybe 2 thousand. I'm prolific, but what I write might not be to everyone's taste. (I swear, if my mother asks me to write another kid book or a book about dogs, I'm gonna lose it.)

My point with this post is that our processes depend upon our end goals. My goal is to continue to be a full-time writer, dependent on my writing income to live. I don't want to be bound by a particular location because my job is there. As a writer, my job is anywhere I can afford, because it's in my head and tied to my fingertips through a computer. Last year I wrote a post about what you can make writing ebooks. I'm happy to say that thanks to technology, it's getting better and better out there for those of us who consider writing a profession, not a hobby.

So you can sell more, but never sell out your muse. You write what he doesn't like, and you and your readers will know it; your royalties will show it.

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