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.


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Yes, working for hire is different. That's why I prefer writing books. But I do like money, so I take the writing for hire jobs.

And I think that literary fiction takes a hits around here. After all, where would crime fiction be without Hemingway?

That question startled me, John.  You consider Hemingway a major crime fiction influence?  

Yes, Hemingway's 'reporter-style,' terse (matter of fact?) prose style had a huge effect on writers like Hammet and Elmore Leonard. Leonard and George V. Higgins (and by extension their whole school of crime fiction) really came from Hemingway.

Looks at a Hemingway story like "Fifty Grand" or "The Killers."

I will do that.  I guess my whole idea on him is from the stuff they make you read, which I guess I saw as best seller stuff. really.  

Thanks, guys.  

I know Dashiell Hammett was a big Hemingway fan and was influenced by him, and Hammett himself was hugely influential in crime fiction, more influential than anyone I can think of, in fact. Hemingway influenced nearly everyone for awhile.

Or Wilkie Collons

Or Edgar Allen Poe

Or Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Okay, Okay, I'll lighten up a little.


Where's the LIKE button?


I think selling out is when you write the type of stories you don't like or even hate just because you think they will sell. I can't write something I don't like, sorry. I have to be emotionally invested and excited about my work that's why I only write what I enjoy and I don't write according to a trend. To me whenever you aren't writing from your  heart, it's selling out.

I know a writer who switches genres when the wind blows and she makes no bones that she does it to try to get sales. The funny thing is that her books are not selling. she's written romance, erotica, paranormal and Historical romance because she felt these genres would get her books to sell. Nope. She's finally learned that just because you write to a trend does not mean your book will sell. Look at all the Twilight knockoffs but how many of them have come close to the popularity of Twilight? I can't name any. Some of them might sell well, but I haven't heard of one of the Twilight copycats becoming a phenomenon.

Every author has his or her own audience. So no matter what you write, whoever reads your books is your audience. You might as well write what makes you happy because if you don't then you won't last in this business. You'll get discouraged and upset if you write to trend then realize it takes more than bandwagon hopping to sell books.

When someone writes only for sales and takes nothing else into consideration, well in my opinion that's selling out.

And yes all writers need editing! I don't care who you are and how long you've been writing. Stephen King has, needs and uses editors. Editing has nothing to do with selling out. Editing is making your product better. I always cringe when  I hear authors use "not getting their work edited" as an excuse, claiming they are just being true to themselves. Please. If you put a book out there that you expect readers to buy you should put out a quality product. Also I see so many authors claim they write for themselves, only. We all write for ourselves but if we're published we write for our audiences too. It does not mean our audience controls what we write. But people who claim they write for themselves are full of it because if that was the case, why would you get your work published? You wouldn't. If you are putting books out for others to read then no, you're not writing just for yourself.

Best Wishes!

Well said, Stacy!

I dont think 'writing for yourself' and not for an audience makes you not a sell out.

If you want to have an audience you have to be able to communicate to others besides youself. True, I do write for myself, but if a majority of others do not understnad what I wrote and only I do, I think I failed as a writer in some respect.

I always associated a Sell Out to be someone that chooses money over their art, anyway. Not one that writes to an audience. All writers should be able to communicate with their audience, maybe not all, but most.

There's an important distinction between "writing to an audience" and "knowing your audience."


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