Thursday, May 1, 2014

Commercialism and Publishing

I understand. I understand that agents and publishing houses have to look for a book that can sell. They're literally in the business of selling books.

But does that mean that the authors have to be in it for the money, too?

It's no secret that many authors can't live off of what they make from selling their books. Unless they're J.K. Rowling or Stephanie Meyer, odds are that they're not pulling in six/seven figures. That's okay. I don't have any stats or anything with me right now (I'm supposed to be working on, like, three different papers as I type this), but it's not uncommon for many authors to have regular day-jobs to help support themselves on the side.

I mean, come on. The most common thing I hear coming out of the mouths of other English majors-especially all those creative writers-is: "If you're in this room, you're not in it for the money." And I fully accept and embrace that fact.

So I repeat: yes, many agents and publishers are in the business of only taking in titles that they think they can sell. But my thoughts have been bugging me, lately, over something that I heard somebody say on Monday, and I can't help but wonder: should authors write for the money, too?

It's not uncommon for writers to follow the market; they see what's big or selling and they write that genre. Personally, I don't see much wrong with that as long as whatever story they tell, they tell it well. But what about the influx of books that are being optioned for the big screen? The most recent of which I found out was Not a Drop to Drink, by Mindy McGinnis (and yes, I might be somewhat obsessed with this book given that I talk about it a lot). Here's another truth: whenever I hear of books being optioned for movies, I get excited. It's a big step up into a new world for these amazing people who've been gifted with the talent of writing amazing books.

You want to know that thing that bothered me so much on Monday? Without the context, it was: "This book strikes me as very well put together, and I believe it would make for a really great movie due to the way that the scenes and POV were put together. When you were writing this book, were you writing it in hopes of somebody picking it up for film?"

When you were writing this book, were you writing it in hopes of somebody picking it up for film.

Maybe it's just me. I don't know. But the last time I checked, books and movies were two very different media and they don't really go hand-in-hand upon the early stages of conception and writing. Personally, I heard this guy's question come out sounding more like: "Did you write this book so that hopefully somebody would make a movie out of it?" Which I then also heard the added innuendo of: "And then you'd get a massive check out of it?"

I'd love ya'll's honest opinion, here. Isn't there a point where we have to draw the line? It's a common misconception that authors make a ton of money off of their books; I can't even talk some members of my family into believing that even if I get published, I might not have enough to live off of and still buy them a lovely summer home.

Isn't there a point where we have to let authors write because they want to tell the story, because they want to share it? Commercialism is huge these days, as is capitalism; I understand that. But what, exactly, should be the motives behind an author that we want to idolize?

Comment, question, call me out on a whole ton of BS if you really want to. I love hearing ya'll's opinions on these things, and if necessary, somebody please set the record straight.



  1. I think for most authors, it's more like we'd like to be heard. We'd like our words to be read. It feels good when we get praise on it and while, writing for ourselves is good enough, it's just that the fact that someone might and would pay to read your words, that someone would be inspired enough to want to make a movie out of it, the fact that it could pass the standards of publishing companies, is like an added bonus. If that makes sense.

    Also, there's quote by Joker or something: ''If you love something, don't do it for free''. Or maybe it was ''If you're good at something, don't do it for free''. Writing is great to do for free but it's also nice to do it for money but it shouldn't be done primarily or solely for the money.

    Sorry for the rambling on and such.

    1. Honestly, Michelle, I feel the same way. Writers should write because they love it; because there's a story they want to tell the world. To quote you: "We'd like our words to be read." I couldn't agree more. And yes, getting paid for it is an absolute bonus. I just feel like there's a problem when somebody decides to write for the sole reason of making money; things get a little fishy there, for me.

      And total props for the Joker quote.