We Work For Money


Write without pay until somebody offers to pay” – Mark Twain

There are a lot of writers who attempt to produce “art.” It is polished. Loved. Studied in depth and then gently caressed into the beautiful flower the author has nurtured in their heart.

But as any good gardener knows, you can’t pop a hot-house orchid outside on the first night of spring. You have to harden it. Put it out a little at a time. Get it ready to face the grim realities of wind and weather. Granted you don’t do so with orchids, but you get the idea.

I think this is the hardest truth for any author to face. But one author has already mentioned a few things to keep in mind.

1. You must write.

2. You must finish what you write.

3. You must refrain from rewriting, except to editorial order.

4. You must put the work on the market.

5. You must keep the work on the market until it is sold.

Know who said it? It wasn’t some guy you heard about through the local echo chamber. The author was Robert A. Heinlein (1947 essay “On the Writing of Speculative Fiction”). Heinlein is one of the fathers of modern Science Fiction writing. Some call him the grandfather, even.

A lot of authors I hear talk about writing today want money. They are always talking about “you don’t become a writer for the pay” and such like. But they aggregate to articles about success. They want success for themselves and their books. They want to get to the big leagues where they can write and have their art appreciated.

And yet every time you talk about how you have to write and sell your writing any way you can, they get all artistic. They start talking about their craft. They start saying how anyone who sells for less than what they think their work is worth is undermining the general worth of authors.

And they forget rule 5. It is about the market and selling.

the critics are welcome to criticize.
they do not have to attend the party.
and even if they attend the party with rolling eyes, they will not be charged.
they will be hugged, they will be accepted and entertained, and they will not be given the hairy eyeball if they leave the room without tipping.
chances are they’ll tell a friend about the next party, and their friend will probably leave a dollar. and tell someone else.

taking my stand as a virtual street performer is the best thing that’s happened to my career and i revel in it.
and i love bringing people along for the ride.

i believe in the future of cheap art, creative enterprise, and an honorable public who will put their money where there mouth is, or rather, their spare change where their heart is. – Why I’m Not Afraid to Take Your Money, Amanda Palmer

No one wants to undervalue their work, but value is what the market is willing to bear. You might be a writer, but you work for money. You need that money to continue to make art ((Can anyone say ‘starving artist’?)).

Levi Montgomery wrote an epic blog post, Only the Fireside Has Changed, in which he makes the case for the artist to be paid verbally by praise and recognition.

Only the fireside has changed. Now it’s not smoke and embers, but email and Twitter and Facebook. It’s comments on author blogs. It’s not face-to-face anymore, but that feedback is still important. That need is still there. Reach out through the screen or the page, find your storyteller, tell him or her that the story has touched you. – Levi Montgomery, 2011

As a blogger, I can attest that I too want comments and praise and recognition. I want my hit counts to go up and my net footprint to increase. Who doesn’t? But you can never forget rule 5. I hone my message and I appeal to my audience. You might even notice the new donations button in the sidebar.

There is a market and if you don’t appeal to your market, if you scorn your market for not supporting you ‘enough’ [whatever that might mean], if you push away your fans and your crowd, then what you will find yourself to be is a starving artist.

We go where the market directs. If that means you drop your book price to $2.99 on Kindle or you drop it to $.99 in the hope of rising on a tide of interest, then do it. No one’s  asking you to stop being an artist. No one’s telling you to give up your dreams of ‘the big American novel’. But if you follow economics, on the way you may find you get that footprint for which you are looking so hard.

Most of all, don’t scorn those who do succeed or are willing to change and do what you will not. Those who find success are the ones you should emulate, not the ones to be hated and derided. They aren’t ‘sell-outs’ or ‘hypocrites’ for changing tactics to achieve what you, in your own heart, desire. Have a little humility. Get off your artistic high-horse and….

Be a writer. Be an author. Be a craftsman. Be a storyteller. Just remember, we work for money. A little fame won’t hurt either.

Originally posted on my blog on April 4, 2011.