Okay, I'm totally getting ranty today. Sorry. I am fairly opinionated on this topic. As I expected, yesterday's post brought on this question:
Are you saying it's bad to write for money or fame?
Well, yes and no. I mean, obviously I'm not writing solely for the heck of it. I have an agent—I hope he'll sell my book. I'm not hiding my manuscripts away, content for my grandchildren to stumble on them someday. I would love to have a little cash in return for all this work I've been doing! Who wouldn't?
But at the same time, there are dangers in writing solely for money/fame.
First off, let's be honest here, if you really want money and fame you're kind of in the wrong business. Very few authors make enough to even quit their days jobs, let alone qualify for "money and fame" status. Yeah, we have J.K. and Stephenie, and Suzanne is totally up and coming to this status. Most people know Mr. King and Mr. Grisham, probably Patterson too. But even most of the bestsellers aren't household names!
Let's take Neil Gaiman—writer rock star to us. He's got movies, awards, everything, right? When the average person asks me for book recommendations and I say try Neil Gaiman, the number one response:
"Wait, Neil Diamond writes books?"
Then I'm like, "No! GAIman! With a G. Did you ever see Stardust? Coraline?"
"Oh...those are books?"
Not. Kidding. *face palm*
Let's look at a few big YA Bestsellers/Legends: Melissa Marr, Holly Black, Cassie Clare, Ally Carter. I've dropped all their names, only to get funny looks as if I'm speaking a different language. The book world is small—sometimes when you're online all the time it feels huge and influential, but you can't forget the average American hardly reads fiction. Depressing, but true.
Secondly, writing with money and fame as the sole goal can actually hinder your progress towards that goal. It might cause you to rush when you should wait, skip an edit because you really have to get this book to an agent NOW before mummies aren't hot anymore.
And then you'll be going out with a half-baked manuscript, one that might not make it in the current difficult market at all. And say you do get an agent; maybe you'll spend nine months editing that baby and your whole "Mummy Trend" will be poof anyway. And if you get past edits and onto submission, maybe every editor will say, "Yeah, we have too many mummies, and this voice just doesn't stand out." And even if you DO get a book deal, maybe it won't be for as much as you thought and your book won't get the attention in-house that you hoped and you won't get a huge print run and there's no way you'll make a list even if you do have a decent online following.
It kind of breeds permanent unhappiness, doesn't it?
If there's one thing I've learned in the last five years of serious writing, it's that cutting corners does not work. There are no short cuts—you will NOT be the exception to the rule. And even if you are, the public will ream your book for poor writing, etc. Yes, maybe your millions will console you, but not as well as you'd think.
Wouldn't you rather do your best work AND have wealth and fame? I would. Then I'd feel like I earned it.
And third, writing with visions of your 3-book-deal and 7-figure advance can only keep you working so long. When the going gets tough, that dream looks less and less possible. Then maybe you start to wonder why you're writing at all. Maybe you're not even good enough to get any deal at all let alone one so big! (I've thought all this, promise.) Then you get depressed, and I don't know about you but my writing suffers intensely when I'm down.
You can't get anywhere if you can't get the words on the page. Writing is the soul of everything—if you are too depressed to finish that book, edit that book, submit that book, then you can't get the rest either!
It's simply putting the cart before the horse.
So there are the dangers of writing with only profit in mind, and that's why I encourage staying focused on actual writing. Because when you work on the craft, the rest will follow! You can't control the profit side; it'll come or it won't.
Focusing on your story, on improving your writing, on making your book the best it can be naturally fosters success! If you really want that whole money part, you best be putting your time into the craft.
Writing, the craft, the work—that's the horse. Success, money, fame, or whatever—that's the cart. Your cart ain't going nowhere without the horse!