Cities and suburbs, real and imaginary.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Burning Down the House

It's hard not to think of writing as a business, because we're f***ing inundated with information about the business of writing, and the business of publishing.

That's just the latest big, shiny thing to try and sell an idea of the future to writers, that actually has very little new content if you've been paying attention. Once again, someone is making a small fortune in self-publishing by selling the idea of self-publishing. 

There's another way of thinking about the business of writing.

F*** the business. Produce things that matter in the way that will get the widest audience for those things that matter. Not everything is best distributed through a mainstream publisher, and that's fine. But, almost everything that's worth saying is worth saying loudly, at the top of your lungs, and generally that means a publisher, small or large. Produce something that's gotta be worth screaming from the rooftops. If it's that important to say, and if it is trying to make the world a better place, and it burns you up inside that people don't listen or don't hear...

That's the real business of publishing. It's why everyone started in the first place, to produce messages that change the world. Making money doesn't mean anything, and doesn't last. Gaming the system won't work, and even if to does for a little while, it won't work for long.

So, never mind the bollocks, and get to work producing things that matter. When it's done, figure for yourself whether the message will reach the widest-possible audience through a publisher or through yourself better. It isn't about units sold, or percentage of dollars earned. It never was. It's about getting the message inside of you out into the world where the world can be changed by it.

The business is simple: Stories that don't matter, don't last. Don't aspire to be good enough to get published. Good enough is the plague of the Kindle store. Good enough is the plague of the otherwise noble cause of NaNoWriMo, where good enough to get published is the rallying cry of aspiring authors everywhere, and good enough is the goal, once achieved, where aspirations, all-too-often, stop.

Aspire to greatness. Aspire to make a message that people would willingly carve on their skin. Aspire to speak to human history, and your place inside of it. Aspire to change the world. Don't stop trying to get your writing better. Good enough is not actually good enough.

When the house is burning down, would someone try to save your books from that fire? Write that book. That's the real business of publishing.

Everything else is just selling something.

(full disclosure: I'm selling you something, too. I guess the difference is I don't want you to buy anything from me because of this stupid blog-post. I don't see any uptick in my sales from blogging, in fact, and expect none to come as I type these words.)

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