The Compensation of Writing Fiction

Like Kristine, who states her opinion about the Amazon/Macmillan feud in “Bullies,” I have no quarrel with a publisher or a book seller making a profit. If they’re not in the business, my business is curtailed. Actually, being paid for a book is itself a great reward, even if the remuneration is small. Not all writers are driven to write whether or not they’re paid, but I suspect most are, at least at the beginning of their careers. When I was in graduate school, one of the most talented women writers decided not to continue writing. She had already published a couple stories, in good journals, and her decision seemed crazy. She said that being on the publishing end appeared more lucrative, and a better business choice. That made monetary sense, effort sense, and no sense. I was bartering with myself then: one good publication meant nothing–it could be an accident; three publications meant I was somewhat competitive, perhaps a decent writer; a collection of fiction meant I was definitely a writer, but a minor one (maybe even the designation of “minor” was presumptuous); three collections and I was a short story writer; five collections, a minor writer of note; a novel, a promising writer; three novels a novelist.

I’m short of all the upper levels, and not quite content where I am. Two collections and one novel published, numerous single stories, some poems; and a few good unpublished novels on my shelves. The unpublished books I consider my best work and believe that writing them was a compensation in itself, but certainly not the best compensation. All my criteria require outside judges applying standards shared by a literary community, and publication of the work in printed form. Now, having sold a book through the efforts of a wonderful agent, to an excellent publisher, “commerical” is edging its way into my standards. I have to learn more about what it means in practiceand if I want–and am talented enough–to rise to the bar.


About rmkinder

This entry was posted in commerical fiction, Writing, writing for free, writing for money and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Compensation of Writing Fiction

  1. Interesting observations, but I long ago had to come to terms with the fact that either I was a total failure as a writer (fiction) based on that criteria — or I wasn't willing to pay for success by giving up everything else important in my life. I also began to recognize that I might be writing my life — in other words, I might be actually discovering my life through my writing, and if so – was monetary compensation and public opinion the real point? Most of all, if — as so many of the writer's manuals, websites, etc constantly say – we write because we must (as writers/artists), then what does that say about whether we're compensated or not. Or . . . how we're compensated for our work, our passion, our souls. Depends on what you're writing about and for I guess. Further, the publishing industry, the buying public, and the fact that more people than ever seem to have time/inclination to write (good or bad) suggests that a lot of the criteria we use to judge ourselves are really weird compared to the past and publishing. Since publishing used to be a "gentleman's" business and competition was more open due to the nature of the publishing industry, I think today that getting published by publishers who are operated as bean-counting busineses solely doesn't say much about whether you're a good or bad writer. It just says whether you're a good or bad "bean-counter." Most competent writers could probably turn out a saleable novel if they simply followed the formula. I know some writers who do it, and I applaud their resourcefulness while questioning whether I have the heart for it. In the fifties and sixties, they used to call commercial fiction writers "hacks" ala pulp fiction. I just am not sure I can stay interested in such a book long enough to actually write it or put my name on it.Of course, I've been rethinking that lately . .. 🙂 Hm . . . maybe I need a psuedonym and then I could write "in persona" and enjoy it?


  2. Persona! There's the ticket!


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