This is a topic I have been thinking about for a while.

I have been building my collection of Hard Case Crime novels and reading about some of these pulp and post pulp era authors and the struggles they faced in their careers. Some produced significant numbers of books under various pen names and often for small returns on each book.

But they were writers and writing was how they made a living. We all know names like Laurence Block and Ed McBain but few of us couldn’t even imagine trying to locate every books they ever produced, let alone read all of them.

It seems to me that a significant number of authors these days have a different attitude. It seems they feel they are artists. They produce a book and it is a great and wondrous thing, like a work of art. It must be appreciated and they expend a great deal of effort promoting and discussing it.

I recall an author I spoke to some time ago when they were promoting their book. I asked the standard questions: Tell me about the current book in the series, what are the plans for the next and what projects do you have in the works. They had a short story I found interesting and I asked them if they ever considered turning it into a novel. They told me their publisher wasn’t interested so there was no point. So I suggested they see if they could get another publisher and get it published. It would expose them to a different audience and might even be fun. Well, they looked at me like I just said their mother was a hooker. They told me they had a publisher and they were required to produce one book a year. That was all the writing they needed to do.

I have also heard of authors who said that if they didn’t have a publishing deal, they wouldn’t write anymore.

When I see that, it makes me wonder if they even like writing.

There is that old saying: “A writer writes.” It seems in the age of self-promotion and self-marketing, we have lost sight of that simple axiom. Often I hear people say “if I don’t focus on marketing instead of writing, I’ll lose my deal.” Well, I say back that no one buys books because they think the author is a great promoter but because they think the author is a good writer.

If you can write well, you can find another publisher. Maybe it won't be the biggest and best in New York but the book is out there.

I am reminded of “American Skin” by the multi-talented Ken Bruen. This book was published by a small press to rave reviews. But he was not contracted to write it and yet he did. Why? Because Ken is a writer. He is writes everyday because it’s his job and he takes it seriously.

I also think of James Sallis. I am willing to bet a number of people will say who? James is a prolific talented writer who has a wide portfolio. He is another example of that drive that a serious writer has.

I think it is sad that so many authors just want the big deal so they can slap together a book in a few months and they kick back the rest of the time pretending they’re minor celebrities.

When an author treats writing like a something you do so you don’t need a job, how much real success can you have? I have heard of a few six-figure advance guys who, a few years later, have dropped off the face of the earth. Successful writers who have longevity in the business work hard writing.

It is never about holding up your book in one hand and patting yourself on the back with the other.

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I've really been wanting to comment on this thread, but I've been on another crazy deadline.

I'm a working writer who (just barely) makes a living at it. I've written nine novels under my own name, some of which are products of passion and some of which are strictly day job material. That being said, I love my day job. I write tie-ins and novelizations and as silly as they may be, I have a ton of fun writing them. I don't fuss and fret, polishing every sentence to perfection. The deadlines are too tight. I just rip through them and shamelessly enjoy myself along the way. I like to think that feeling of fun will carry through to the reader.

I don't think of myself as an artist. I'm proud to call myself a pulp writer in the classic sense of the term. I'm not saying I would quit writing if there were no paycheck. I'm just saying I probably wouldn't write SNAKES ON A PLANE.

I also think it's perfectly possible to have a passion for the art of writing and still be realistic about making a living. There are plenty of graphic artists or studio musicians who balance art and commerce all the time. Many writers have day jobs and that doesn't take away from their artistic brilliance. My day job happens to be writing and I've never had trouble separating it from the heartblood writing. I have no idea if my "real" writing is art or just more lovingly-crafted pulp. I'll leave that to the readers to decide.

Thank you for your comment. You gave a practical example what I trying to say in my rather incoherent way.

I have nothing to add except I have really enjoyed what I have seen of MONEY SHOT.

I look forward to adding it to my Hard Case collection.
Thanks Kev. Glad you enjoyed it.
I'm a writer. I simply wish to write entertaining and fun stories. Beyond that... nothing.

I'll leave the determination of what is art to future generations. If it lasts for any amount of time, chances are it has at least some artistic content. After all, isn't what is truly art simply what is universal, over time?

Or not.


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I'm a writer and I write. Sales matter only in the sense that they make it easier to get future books into print. Writers (if they are serious about the craft) are artists. I know, because I used to paint and the involvement in the creative process is very similar. Artists can't stop doing what they do. Writers work through innumerable revisions because they are driven to perfect their work. This is not an economical use of time and has nothing to do with selling as many books as possible in a given year. The demands of publishers often interfere with the intentions of writers. In the mystery genre, there are both kinds of authors, those who write because it is a passion for them, and those who write to make money or gain fame.
I echo.
I'm not quite sure if this is an observation or a question.

As an observation, I think it is accurate--at least, accurate to my own observations. There are a lot of us out here who are grinding it out and doing the best we can do. Not from a money standpoint, but from the standpoint that this is what we want to do.

Would we take the money? Of course.

Big bucks to protitute our talent? I'm not sure prostitution is the way write our best, but I'd have to think about it. Big bucks could give me more peace to write what I want to write, but it might also make me totally lose sight of what I want to accomplish.

The point? I'm not an artist. I'm a writer who does his best and hopes a lot of people like it.


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