An author friend on Facebook posted that he writes only for himself, and that to do anything else would not be true to his "emotional core."

But don't you think that nearly all writers need some editing from time to time, and that there's a learning curve to producing salable fiction? If your emotional core involves long rambling passages that don't advance the plot, and page after page of flowery descriptions, and a lengthy weather report at the beginning of each chapter, and dialogue filled with obvious information dumps, etc., then your emotional core might need an adjustment.

It seems to me that we've all learned some things about what it takes to sell books along the way, and that we naturally incorporate those things into our work as we compose. It doesn't mean we're not being true to ourselves, or "selling out." Just that we would prefer to be commercially viable than not.

And when you get down to it, those of us who write genre fiction are catering to a certain audience anyway, at least somewhat. We learn, by example and by trial and error and by advice from our peers, etc., what works and what doesn't work. Your stories can spring from your emotional core till the cows come home, but if your thrillers don't thrill and your mysteries aren't mysterious and your erotica isn't erotic, then you're sunk for sure.

Thoughts?

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Everyone writes to an audience at some level, even if it is to an audience of one. The question is, how large an audience does one want to write to, and how does that influence the author's decisions?

Even that isn't really 'selling out," if it involves tweaks to the author's intended vision. To me, a true sell-out os someone who has altered course dramatically for no other reason than to increase sales.  A couple of authors come to mind, writers who were getting good reviews for well-written and well-conceived stories who switched to implausible thrillers (for one) and supernatural elements that seemed primarily intended to cover up holes in the plot. That's selling out.

Altering a plot because it plods or combining a couple of characters to avoid confusion or cutting scenes because they don;t do anything isn't selling out; it's writing a better book.

I added another paragraph while you were commenting, Dana, but I don't think it affects your argument.

To me, a true sell-out is someone who has altered course dramatically for no other reason than to increase sales.

I don't know. Good reviews don't put food on the table. Personally, I would prefer to think that my work is evolving organically as I evolve as an author. If at some point it appears that I've altered course dramatically for no other reason than to increase sales, then so be it.

I didn't read the Facebook comment the way you did, Jude. Ultimately we take both the praise and the blame, and therefore we might as well have done what we thought was right.  As for making big bucks, or finding a publisher, or an agent, chances are that you need a subject matter that sells, whether it's teen vampire stories of rampant sex in the offices and boardrooms of big city business.

Genre writers have chosen a format because they themselves like such books. What they do with it should be very personal. The rest has more to do with pacing and characterization, or perhaps if you have chosen to do the puzzles, with intricate laying of trails and clues and using slight-of-hand to confuse the reader-detective.

But once you have chosen your way, your audience is defined. It may be large, or it may be small.

Shakespeare wrote for an audience. So did Dickens, Jules Verne, and Conan Doyle, to name a few. Hard to believe it's a bad course of action for writers.

Shakespeare wrote for an audience. So did Dickens, Jules Verne, and Conan Doyle, to name a few. Hard to believe it's a bad course of action for writers.

Great point, Jack!

Not to forget that Shakespeare was a businessman.  He was heavily invested in the acting company, and the acting company cooperated fully with him. We don't have this sort of cooperation between author and publisher any longer because publishers need us only if we make big money for them. It always comes down to sales and power. Very few other great authors have made money at thi game. 

Given my students' comments on having to read Shakespeare, I have my doubts the bard would have made it nowadays.  :)

Another good point!

Shakespeare is for adults, if you ask me, Ingrid. And we'll be seeing a bunch of him soon:

http://publishingperspectives.com/2013/01/william-shakespeare-hes-h...

Given my students' comments on having to read Shakespeare, I have my doubts the bard would have made it nowadays.

He would be using modern language, of course, living in L.A. and making five million per script.

And dating Victoria's Secret models.

Well, it's all a matter of degree right? I used to work for a movie producer who'd say (in his Scottish accent), "It's called show business - show, little itty bitty word. Business, great huge word." (you really have to roll that r). But he was in show business, not the pizza business or the car parts business. Or banking. He was selling movies not real estate.

So, it's going to be a mix of art and commerce.

What I've learned is that I have no control over sales but I have some control over content. There's no consistency to what sells. Why Jonathan Franzen and not Jonathan Dee? Why Stuart Neville and not Adrian McKinty?

Your books may or may not sell, the least you can do is make them as much the books you want them to be.

One more thing. I did some research for a book a while ago and spoke to guys who were in bands in the 60s and 70s and were now on the "casino nostalgia circuit." A few of them mentioned how the songs that became their hits (often the 'one hit' of their one hit wonder careers) were rarely the ones they thought would be hits when they were recording them.

"There's no consistency to what sells. Why Jonathan Franzen and not Jonathan Dee? Why Stuart Neville and not Adrian McKinty? Your books may or may not sell, the least you can do is make them as much the books you want them to be."

I believe this with all my heart, John. 100% agree. 

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