Thursday, October 6, 2011

Selling Out vs. Selling Out

I try to relate "what inspires me" (I hate that cliche) to write my blog posts. Sometimes, I just can't do them justice. And, I am afraid, this may be one of those times.

Today, I witnessed my landlady, a very kindly lady, getting verbally harassed by her husband for not putting air in her tire. She'd just gotten in a wreck on her moped. She wrecked due to this faulty moped tire, and he was yelling at her for it. Then the conversation turned to that of the house my guy and I rent. Perhaps you remember me saying we were going to buy it. We're not, at least not anytime soon. Our landlady's husband decided to revoke one of the "ideal" conditions she had given us. That, in and of itself, got me pretty emotional.

I can't really go into all the details, but the conversation left me want to save her. To help my landlady. To do something! But what could I do?

And this is not uncommon for me. I am frequently in a position where I cannot afford to help someone out. Sometimes the person I can't afford to help is myself. So, I bring you to the meat of this article: selling out.

I do not doubt my ability to write a fantastically literary piece. It may take 10 years or more, but I know I could do it. It. Would. Be. Great. But, what about in the meantime? I cannot sit and watch others around me go through life barely making it through because I'm too proud to write anything but "literature".

So, my choices are to sell out or... to sell out.

That's how I see it. I can either write divine literary fiction, complete trash (and then pimp it out like a spambot)or I can write the best fiction I can that will sell. I've ruled out the first option. Let's be honest with ourselves. Most of us have some "great" in our minds that we aspire to. Edgar Allen Poe, Jane Austen, J.R.R. Tolkien, J. K. Rowling, Emily Dickinson. These are some of my favorites. But, I'm not them. So, either way, what are my other two options? It's selling out.

Some people say writing for money is garbage. I say that those people obviously must be selfish and blind (unless you are financially able to help everyone in your current state). I know too many people that I want to help. Some would argue that I am "not true to my craft" or that "it's not about money". Well, guess what, as a writer, I study people. I see their pain. I feel their pain. It is what makes my writing better. I refuse to see that pain and to use it strictly for literary gain. I see their pain and I'm not too self involved or blind to realize I can do something to change it.

On the other hand, I refuse to write complete and utter trash. Well, that's not true... most of my first drafts were complete and utter trash. Trust me, I'm not being modest. I could write trashy smut novels to earn my dime. (And no offense to erotica writers; there's no correlation here.) I'm talking about the writing that is strictly nothing but an inconsistent series of well-penned heightened emotional moments of swoons or gasps. Bad writing. Playing to the major plot points that sell, and then ignoring the quality of writing.

Ya know, Twilight caught a lot of crap for the content matter. I give it hell because she used the same repetitive adjectives (not to mention the adverbs galore). That is what I detest. If my content has to have swoon moments and gasps to sell, then I will make sure I do my absolute best to make the quality of writing between those moments worth reading. I will make sure that the characters are built in a way that swoon moments really are swoon moments... and not just because some chick and a hot guy are hooking up.

So, guess what. I'm a sellout. But, at least I'm not a sellout. The guys in my book are attractive, it sells. The girls in my book aren't bad either. There are quasi love triangles, that sells. Truth is, I enjoy what I'm writing. It's not putting all of my bleeding heart on my page (as the literary masterpiece would be), but it will sell. Selling results in being able to help out more people more affectively, and it is more important than my pride. If I'm gonna sell out, and if you're gonna sell out too, at least do it with some dignity.


  1. Well, there is the THIRD option here which is to sell something that isn't your books.

    Your skills.

    You could write and sell tips on how to write quick scenarios, offer classes and courses through the internet, freelance on the side and still write how you want.

    The average author has 3 months before their stuff is either reprinted or pulped. That is a very short window. You can always do support stuff as I have done with my free ebooks and blog of short stories. Gets the platform built.

    There are always shades of gray. You can write well and still sell for profit, just not in the traditional way to start out with. Not the greatest dream but it will keep you fed.

    Fantastic article. Very charged! Best of luck and remember we are here to support!

  2. I don't ever want to be accused of being the artist with his nose in the air because people don't understand his art. Writing/storytelling is not for the Literary Illuminati,IMHO. The way I became interested in writing was from reading, reading popular fiction that moved me, that made me feel for the characters and I gave my applause to the authors in the form of cash. The publishers and authors understood what I liked because I put money in their pockets for the books I wanted to read. A simple formula that has worked for a long time. If you want to suffer for your art more power to you. I'll suffer for mine getting cramps in my hands signing royalty checks.

  3. so, As I understand it...the two real options are to either write the real story that is in your soul or to pick a level of selling-out you can live with?

    I don't mean to get on the high horse, because I can hardly pay my rent. Dostoevsky rushed publication of "The Gambler", which was a horrid novel compared to the ones he wrote soon after, to pay his debts.

    As far as there being a distinction of levels of selling out, I don't know if it is all that important. Think of it, if you are selling out---the only thing that matters is the readers' enjoyment. so, if people like reading Twilight, what does it matter that literary critics think it is has major failings?

  4. Honestly there's only one kind of selling out- doing something you don't believe in for any kind of gain.
    If you like good lookin' guys n gals, that's your prerogative. If you don't like it but you're doing it to make money then you've sold out and that's just stupid.
    If I were to do something I didn't like in order to make money, it would be something more profitable than art, like washing dishes or pornography.