Let me just start by saying … no. But I’d like to be more detailed than that, of course! 😉
Over the years, as I’ve worked with various authors on various communities, I’ve heard just about everything. One of the things that makes me roll my eyes the hardest is that judgmental claim: “You’re a sell-out.”
They say it about different things:
About authors who are worried how a certain plot point will be received in their genre. About authors who are trying to figure out how to best appeal to readers in any way, for that matter.
They also say this about authors they believe focus too much on the marketing side of things and too little on the writing craft.
About authors who write fast—who write slow—about plotters and pantsers—about those who write to genre—about ghost-writers—about nonfiction writers—about those who share only a little about their personal life—and about those who share a lot about their personal life!
There is so much variance that it’s almost ridiculous the amount of times I’ve heard this applied to various writers.
Yet these judgmental people still insist on this fact … If you consider writing to be a career, if you don’t see it as a purely invaluable art, you are a sell-out.
How could someone say this to an author who’s just doing their best with the gifts they’ve been given? We do not all have the same paths—nor are we all idealistic about writing.
It sort of makes you wonder if the person saying those kinds of things isn’t bitter about their own lack of success.
Perhaps if they saw writing as more of a business and didn’t get hooked on that “art” label, they wouldn’t be trying to make everyone else’s day miserable with their sadness.
There are lots of ways to write for money. You can publish amazing books that are written in a certain genre and focus on marketing. Or you can work as a ghost writer or a copy writer. Perhaps you could teach writing. A lot of people even make a living blogging!
That’s not even the beginning! Writing is a flexible skill, after all.
However, some people would say if you’re not ONLY writing your passion projects, if you dare to write to genre, if you focus on your career, you are a sell-out.
Sadly, that is not the case, and I’m very sad to see so many authors bullied for choosing to write novels that are profitable or something similar.
You’re a writer if you write. Don’t let anyone take that away from you.
Don’t let them say that you can’t be a writer and build a meaningful career—don’t let them say you can’t be a writer and write to genre.
On the flip side … don’t let people say that you have to write to genre, that you have to build a career! For some, writing just isn’t fun if they’re not writing something that wouldn’t appeal to most readers—and for some, a career is the last thing they want to worry about.
However, that shouldn’t make you feel like you’re wrong to want to succeed as an author!
Success as an author doesn’t have to come in the same shape for everyone. No one should make you feel bad for achieving it in your way.
There’s nothing wrong about smart business practices, and the “starving artist” is a myth, a product of outdated information and outmoded techniques.
Also, it’s not fair for those people to try to judge your heart.
Maybe you just love writing novels that happen to fit in a niche!
Or maybe you care enough about the people who read our books to try to give them something they enjoy. There is no shame in that. No shame in wanting to write something that people who love your genre will want more of!
In the end, it’s not healthy to make writing solely about competition—about more books sold and higher ranks achieved on Amazon. It’s a marathon not a race, and that kind of thinking will only depress you. Your worth is not in that, and you need to find it in other things (as a Christian, in God!) if you ever hope to be happy.
However, this is true of every business, and it has nothing to do with whether or not writing is some unimpeachable art. It has to do with what is important in this life and what is not.
Rants on social media, blogs, and other platforms about how horrible it is that some writers want to succeed in their chosen field will only make you seem bitter and unwise.
Instead, let’s focus on building each other up. Let’s focus on writing what we want to write. Whether that’s the most to-market book that ever marketed or an obscure genre-combo that no one really wants but you.
The end goal for you may be financial success or it may be artistic integrity. But your goals will matter little if you don’t take time to build relationships and encourage people along the way!
For now, writers, I’m signing off. Keep writing what you want to write, don’t give up on your writing career, and choose encouragement over discouragement!
Thanks & have a splendiferous day, writers!
Reveries Co. Manager