I had another post planned for today, but while I was working an extra shift at my job on Saturday night, I finished Scratch: Writers on Money and the Art of Making a Living. This book is a collection of essays by writers about, yeah, money and writing.
As an author, I love looking through paperbacks. How is the copyright page constructed? Who did the author dedicate the book to? I skim over the table of contents. Do they use a quote? And by whom? I also look at the Acknowledgements. I like to read who people thank. In the indie world, sometimes I know a person who is mentioned. I like seeing who has helped the writer turn author.
I read Manjula Martin‘s acknowledgments, and something popped out at me. She said:
Thanks to the members of the Blood Moon writing group, who always reminded me that writing is more important than publishing.
She goes on to list names of people whom I don’t know, but I can appreciate their message.
In this modern time of CONTENT CONTENT CONTENT, that sentence is extremely powerful.
In this age of free books, blog posts, tweets, and author updates, how often we publish has turned more important than what we publish.
This has never been more true than the today with the market being saturated with bookstuffers to take advantage of KU page reads, or authors who team up to publish a book every two weeks, or authors who hire ghostwriters only to blame them when they are caught plagiarizing. There are even those who sell their previously published books to new authors who will strip the book of its title, repackage it, add a new author name, and put it up on Amazon for sale.
What happened to the quality of what we publish?
What has happened to the way we think about our content?
It’s a hard question for me, and I’ve been thinking about this while I’ve been writing my series. I have a different blog post about something similar already, in that I would like to try my hand at women’s fiction. I won’t get into that post now, but that quote does make me think about my publishing journey.
Sometimes publishing isn’t always what we should be doing with our work.
Sometimes we should be writing to practice. Sometimes we should be writing to learn. Sometimes we should write to give ourselves therapy, like writing in a journal or diary, or writing a poem.
Sometimes we should write for fun.
Sometimes we shouldn’t be writing at all. Too busy, burnout, nothing to say. There’s no harm in not writing–even if it feels like there is.
Though indie publishing is becoming more widely accepted (even some of the big-name authors use POD–especially for their non-fiction titles) it may always carry the stigma of people publishing crap.
There are legitimate reasons to write to publish: you’re on a deadline, or you freelance to pay the bills and if you don’t hustle, you can’t eat. But that doesn’t feel like the majority of my writing peers. We write to be published as any of our debut novels can attest.
This not only impacts our own writing careers–who wants to start a lifetime writing career on a cracked foundation?–but if affects all of us a whole.
Write to write, and then publish.
Lots of people ask writers, “If you were never read, would you still write?” Of course most writers say yes. Writing is a passion, and they would write even if they never had another reader as long as they put words on the page. To be honest, if someone told me from here on out I wouldn’t have a single reader ever again, I would stop writing. There are other ways for me to communicate my passion. I would start running again, or I would volunteer. I would do what I set aside because writing takes up so much of my time. Because I love it. But an audience fuels my love of it, if that makes sense.
Now, if I were told I would still have readers, but I wouldn’t/couldn’t make any money, I would still write. If I was locked into only blogging, or publishing my work on Wattpad, I would still publish my stories. Being read means more to me than making money.
Seeing your book on Amazon is a crazy wonderful thing, and I don’t fault anyone who is damned proud of it.
But sometimes we need to take a step back and ask ourselves why we write. What fuels us? What do we get out of publishing our work? Would we be just as happy, just as proud, if we posted that novel for free, or even more mind-numbing, shoving that novel under your bed?
If we began every project without thinking of the cover art, or who is going to format for us, or when our publishing date is (Hello, Amazon and your one year pre-order deadline now) how would that change our perception of the project? Would we take our time? Put more of our hearts into the piece? Would we dive deeper into the truths of what we want to put down on paper?
Maybe if we wrote to write, writer’s block would be obliterated. After all, if we only wrote for ourselves, we wouldn’t fear criticism or disappointment and the blank page wouldn’t scare us so much.
When indie-publishing is so easy now, we have to stay aware of why we’re writing and what we’re trying to say to our reader.
Open a new document and put words on the page just to write. No agenda. No deadline.
You may find you’ll write something worth publishing.
I loved reading Scratch. There were great essays by some of the top authors. I particularly enjoyed Manjula’s interview with Cheryl Strayed (she talks about her book deal for Wild), and Jennifer Weiner’s essay on earning respect for your work vs. earning money and if you can have both.
Until next time, lovelies! Have a wonderful writing week!