This morning, I decided to start a thread at the Writer’s Cafe at Kindleboards. It turned into this (I’ll just reproduce the post here).

On Facebook, someone said:

“I give my boss (who owns a small editing company) a weekly update of all the hot topics in book publishing news, and I get so tired of reading about people recommending self-publishing as essentially another get-rich-quick scheme. I feel like it’s all about the business end of things rather than the honor and prestige of producing a quality piece of literature.”

To me, this rings true. I understand that we’re mostly interested in talking about the business end of things over here (I like to talk about these things too), but that’s really the point. Indie authors are for the most part, all about the business end of things. Does this help us when readers see this? Does this help us in reality?

Why aren’t we talking–with other writers, on our blogs, on Facebook and Twitter–about books that have inspired us, whether classics or recent indie works? Why aren’t we analyzing what goes into great writing, great scenes, great characters, great plots, great dialogue. Why aren’t we lauding great books over great sales, at least more often than we do? Do we love words or do we love numbers? Poetry or spreadsheets?

We all have different goals and we’re all in different situations. I don’t believe that anyone’s goals are better or more important than anyone else’s goals. I have enough trouble judging the worth of my own goals. Entertaining thousands of readers through a combination of good books and smart marketing is a worthy goal, period. I think most of us want to write the best books we can and market them as well as we can so that we can reach more readers and make more money.

But, I offer this question: what is your heart’s desire as a writer? Because that is what you will tend to create in your life. Is it money? Fame? Respect? Craftsmanship? The journey or the destination? What are the inevitable outcomes of these goals? There are no right or wrong answers–just wherever you really are. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying money or fame.

I ask myself this question a lot and the answer isn’t always clear. But mostly for me it comes down to the journey of crafting good (hopefully great, perhaps someday classic) books. For me, that goal is more sublime. Money and fame come and go, and fame in particular is a mixed blessing. Respect is nice, but there’s no freedom in being enslaved to other people’s opinions.

What reading and books are all about–for readers–is beholding something touched by a muse of inspiration, raising your consciousness to behold the beauty and magic in a great story crafted with love, skill, and devotion. When that’s the goal–for an author–the only number that matters is one. One reader is all that matters. Whether that one reader is you, the author, or someone else–that’s up to you.

I respect anyone who wants to make enough money to live comfortably, support a family, or support their favorite causes. I respect anyone who wants to go on the roller coaster ride that is fame; life is short and at least fame brings you into other people’s lives. I respect those who wanted to be respected. Critical appreciation is as good a measuring stick for value as anything else.

Here, there are no right answers. Only honest and dishonest ones. Life will eventually show us the value of our goals, and then we’ll change again.

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This entry was posted on Monday, November 28th, 2011 at 12:02 pm and is filed under Better Writing, Craft of Storytelling, Magic, Marketing, Passion for Writing. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

11 comments so far

Ryan E Stevenson

Great post, and an interesting statement. I wonder if the business advantages of the “self publishing” discussion are so predominant because, in some way, it puts into focus the piece that writers would otherwise be less able to influence? Otherwise, traditional publishing mandates that a writer eventually dust their hands off and leave things to someone else (at least, in chunks). But with self oublishing, perhaps because we’re more accountable to those pieces, the conversation focuses there.

Just a thought, poorly articulated through my phone’s tiny keyboard. 🙂

Thanks again for the post!

November 28th, 2011 at 12:48 pm
Moses Siregar III

Great point, Ryan. Indies wear hats as author and publisher, so a lot of business has to be talked about, especially in an environment that constantly changes.

November 28th, 2011 at 12:52 pm

Interesting thoughts. I think that there are plenty of indie writers out there who are doing exactly what you’re pleading for, but they might not be so active on the forums or blogs that you frequent. As more writers make the switch to indie publishing, the online community is not only going to grow, it’s going to fragment into a whole bunch of smaller micro-communities, perhaps by genre or writing group or just friends who know each other.

As for why I write, the question makes me think back to that interview you did with Tracy Hickman, about the book signing in the VA hospital and the soldier who gave him his purple heart. Nothing else seems like a more meaningful and fulfilling way to make a living than telling stories that have the power to change people’s lives. It’s something I love to do, something I can’t not do, so I might as well pursue it as a career path.

November 28th, 2011 at 1:05 pm
Ryan E Stevenson

Interesting points! And thanks for the input on “why”, Joe. I didn’t actually answer that, but if I could be indulged a moment of introspection, I’ll answer. Hey, maybe my point of view isn’t as off as I think it is.

I don’t think I’d ever say I want writing to be my career. I say that same of all my artistic endeavours, though. I personally feel there’s a fine line between being an artist and being an employee hired for your talent. Even if you’re self-employed, at some point the monetization of art puts a different angle on it. I experienced that with my art; I drew all of the time, and was very close to becoming a comic book artist. But then I found that day when monetizing my art had drained my passion for it. I just wanted to draw Spider-Man over and over and over! Why couldn’t I get paid for that? lol. But that opinion is entirely my own.

I’m not ashamed to admit that entertaining others is my 100% primary driving goal. I don’t think I have the talent to move someone emotionally, but I do think I can distract them and give them a story they want to read, and I think that’s an okay goal for me. I have been tempted to only charge enough for my books that I make the money they cost me to produce, and nothing more.

I like your point above, Joe … “it’s something I can’t not do”. Probably the nicest double negative I’ve heard all day. I like it!

November 28th, 2011 at 1:16 pm
Moses Siregar III

Joe, Ryan, awesome.

While responding to the KB thread, I realized that the crafting of the book and the hope of taking readers on a thrilling ride are really my two biggest motivations. I write to take readers on that ride (that’s the ultimate purpose, not money as much as giving people that experience), but the creative and crafting hours are the sublime part, the real gold that has to be the first thought in my mind. Hopefully if you take care of that first part first, everything else will follow.

November 28th, 2011 at 2:53 pm

The fact that indie/self publishing or however someone wants to describe it is so new and that authors are now confronted with so many additional aspects of the work required to create a book beyond simply writing has instigated that reaction you’ve noted, where everyone is talking about books. With the industry still so unsettled I think that’s the biggest concern for everyone.

At the same time influences and why we write, what we write, etc. can still be very personal and not something everyone is willing to share or capable of articulating. I personally can say that I write because I want/need to – at times there’s a pressure in my head to get a story out and a story that I want to read but why a certain story? I don’t have an answer for that. And in terms of marking influences, with so many mediums out there these days is it ever easy to truly track the marked progress from one creator (author/auteur/artist/musician) to the next? If anything I think future academics are going to have a hell of a time tracking such things and documenting them for posterity for two reasons. 1) So much information is out there and can be difficult to track 2) Digital information is easily corruptible and lost.

But the thought occurs to me, maybe people also aren’t asking the question, “Why do you write?” Moses, on your own podcast AISFP it’s not a question I can remember hearing within the last three months as I’ve been catching up with your backlog of episodes. The same could be said is true of the interviews on ISBW and Litopia among other literature podcasts. So maybe if we start hearing it there then we’ll start seeing it more online.

November 28th, 2011 at 5:38 pm
Moses Siregar III

Great points, Sven.

Re: the podcasts, very interesting. I think we get more of those types of questions out when it comes to the authors that we interview, but you’ve given something to think about.

November 28th, 2011 at 8:14 pm
Kirsten Corby

Well, two thoughts, Moses — first, I don’t think you can blame anyone from trying to earn a living from their writing. It seems indie e-publishing is allowing some people to do that in a way midlist writers have not been able to in a *long* time. So don’t begrudge the money talk, it’s important. People’s livelihoods arise from it.

Also, I daresay there are blogs and other venues that do discuuss the “craft” of writing in some detail — like Absolute Write and the Writer’s Digest website maybe? But this indie publishing thing is still new. People are still figuring it out. So it makes sense to me that the more functional, bottom-line aspects of it are in the forefront of people’s thoughts right now. As independent publishing matures, that may change.

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3 Trackbacks/Pings

  1. Why I Write and Why do You? « The World Writ Small    Nov 29 2011 / 8pm:

    […] inspiration for asking this and thinking of it comes from a blog post by Moses Siregar III entitled ‘Socrates: “The Unexamined Life is Not Worth Living” (For Writers)’ at Science Fiction Fantasy Books and his discussion on why indie/self publishing is taking up so […]

  2. Will Our Life’s Ambitions REALLY Fulfill Us? |    Dec 14 2011 / 5pm:

    […] == 'yes') {document.getElementById('splittitletext').style.display = '';} } aartipaartiaartipaartiSocrates: “The Unexamined Life Is Not Worth Living” (For Writers) // 0) { //0==expires on browser close var cdate = new Date(); […]

  3. smelly washer    Feb 27 2012 / 5am:

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    […]Socrates: “The Unexamined Life Is Not Worth Living” (For Writers) | Moses and Dionysus Walk Into a Bar …[…]…

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