Getting Published Is Kind-Of the Point

seinfeldia
My New York Times bestseller.

If you’re interested in a career as an author, you’ll hear a lot of advice like, “Getting published isn’t the point,” or, “Don’t chase market trends just to make money.” Those are totally true … sort-of. I do believe you have to be passionate about the book you’re writing, rather than simply selling out, or you’ll go crazy/write a terrible book. Oh, the books about TV shows I would have already written if it were as simple as picking a popular one … but I have all of these hangups about there being a story to tell and a larger point and human meaning. And I even understand the idea that getting published isn’t the point …

except it very much is the point if you want to be an author. It’s literally the definition of being an author. (Sorry, but “published author” is redundant. Anyone who writes is a writer, but anyone who writes is not an author.) Now that I am a career author, I rarely experience the freedom of writing for fun. That said, I do experience the freedom of writing for pay. It’s a different kind of freedom, but it’s the one I chose: I prefer spending most of my time—a.k.a. my career—doing something I love. I love it like a longtime partner, of course; this means sometimes I hate it, sometimes I fight with it, sometimes I ignore it, sometimes I don’t understand why it won’t do what I want it to. It occurs to me that it wouldn’t be the worst thing to take it to couples therapy. To make a living this way, I gave up long stretches of writing “for fun.” That doesn’t mean I never do it for fun, nor does it mean that it isn’t sometimes fun and profitable.

This brings us back to the money thing: You—we— have to get over the fear of making money from a fulfilling enterprise like writing. Fulfillment is its own reward, but it is not money. It does not pay bills, and it does not buy freedom. The freedom comes from dollars: feeling confident you can spend as much time as it takes to write a good book, because your checking account is still full. It comes from—and I’m not quite there yet myself—being so financially secure that you can write any book you want, because you can afford to take a smaller advance or develop the idea until it’s undeniable to any publisher.

So don’t chase market trends just to make money, but don’t ignore them, either. For more on this, read this interview with bestselling novelist Jessica Knoll, or this piece she wrote about unapologetically going after the big money. Quote: “Money can’t buy happiness? I hate that saying.” She bought a Porsche. If you want to be an author, getting published is the point. You can do it. And maybe get that freedom money, too.

6 comments

  1. Thank you for saying it! I have thought about trying to become an author for so long, and constantly I am told, “Ah, but you write for you, getting paid isn’t the point.” Does it never occur that if I Don’t get paid then I don’t have the time to write, since doing things ‘just for fun’ or ‘personal fulfillment’ will get me evicted?

    This is almost as bad, as the infuriating statement I am told even more, “If other people don’t read what you write so what? That’s not the point.”

    HOW does that statement make ANY sense? (Did you ever get this one? I find it absolutely maddening.)

    1. LOL, to me the point of writing is literally so that other people read it. Sometimes weird people at cocktail parties ask me if I use a pen name and I’m always like, “Um, no, I want everyone I have ever known to know it’s me!!” I have been a performer my whole, life, so this checks out. (Though I’m tempted to say, “Yes, my pen name is Stephen King,” or something.)

  2. Besides the checking account and the freedom that buys, getting paid is a form of validation. It’s one thing to say you love my writing; it’s completely different level to say it by purchasing my books.

Leave a Reply to oncealittlegirl Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s