On Writing and Selling Out

Warning: ahead is a rant about the idea of authors “selling out” as the only way to make money, which probably stems from my annoyance at the objectification of queers for profit (as it was presented).

I went to a small (SMALL) convention last weekend, which wasn’t aimed at readers/writers, but rather queer anime/manga (with some other sorts thrown in). While there, I went to a panel, the name of which I don’t remember, but it was something like “How to Make Money Selling Your Book” or something of the sorts. I’m always curious to learn more, so I grabbed my notebook and scurried off.

Now, I’ll note by saying that the presenter was an author who earns a living by selling her books (according to her). I was not familiar with her name, and I didn’t google her (before or after). And I will say she was very upfront about everything. 
Her advice for selling enough copies of your book to earn a living? Sell out and whore yourself.
I might be truncating it a little. Just a bit. But the general gist of everything she said was, “Do what makes money.” Screw your “morals” or “muse” or “standards.” If a movie producer wants to option your book for $$$ but you have to let them change your one male character in a romantic pair into a female so it’s not gay? Go for it.
Don’t write X if X won’t make you money. Write Y. If you want to write X, well, have fun at your day job! *insert derisive laughter here* (Because having a day job is laughable, I guess?)
I’m not stupid or naive, I know that writers should be at least a little bit aware of what genre in their scope makes money. Yes, they should be familiar with what’s popular and how to reach the biggest audience (ie, which vendors to prioritize, perhaps). 
But the way she presented this to the group was that your work really means nothing and you shouldn’t think that it does. And that your only two options were not making money and holding on to your pitiful little dream, or make money by whatever means possible. As if there was no middle ground. As if there aren’t authors who haven’t sold out (as far as I know) who make a living off their books.
Is it easy? No. Is selling out probably going to make you more money faster? Yeah.
Will it make me feel really grossed out and leave your panel halfway through? Definitely.
Because this con was sort of supposed to be a celebration of queerness, and while I know a lot of people make money off of it, I’m a little squicked when someone comes into what should be a safe space and says “this is the type of gay porn you should be writing for older straight women.”
And maybe don’t mock people who would like to only write what they like (and what makes them comfortable). Possibly–here’s a wild idea–offer suggestions for how someone can make money without selling out. Because “selling out” is shitty advice (even if it is the most financially rewarding). If that’s the only advice you can offer to help someone make money selling their book, then you’re a shitty presenter.  
Did you get the feeling I didn’t like that session? Because I didn’t. I do recognize a lot of what she said was true (and maybe factual), but her presentation style and her view that there’s only ONE way left a lot to be desire. And I just needed to rant about it.

In Contrast to Burroughs

And I mean Augusten, not William.

I’m too lazy to dig up the articles that were previously posted about Burroughs and his autobiographies and how some people said they were made up. Some people got agitated and grumbley about it.

Then I read this.

My favorite quote: “Any writer has the right to shape materials, and undoubtedly Steinbeck left things out. That doesn’t make the book a lie.”

Now, obviously some of the flak Burroughs got was from the people he was writing about and how “he was telling lies,” but some people (and this is what I’d like to focus on) were upset because he lied in an autobiography.

Just seemed a study in contrasts at least.

Though, the quote above does make me think how much needs to change before an autobiography becomes a lie?

And can a book ever lie? (Assuming it’s not for educational purposes. I hope those don’t lie…too often.) I think something was said about books that ‘the truth the reader takes from them is the truth that the book held.’

Or something.

(Side note: if you try to figure out the correct quote in google by searching for “the truth of a book” you won’t find the answer, but you will learn that Jehovah’s Witnesses have something called The Truth Book and there is a book about escaping childhood abuse among them of the same name.)

On Reading

A recent author inquired (I can’t find the post) if we (as readers) are annoyed when a writer (like she does) jumps around in sub-genre. Do we want an author who writes consistently or who writes whatever he/she wants? (Not that these can’t be one and the same.)

Personally, I like both and said as much, but I thought I’d explore that a little more in depth.

When I’m in the mood for a certain type of book, I rarely start a new one because I don’t know what that book will give me, in most cases. In some instances (such as with Andrew Grey), I can be fairly certain I know what I’m getting, especially if it’s his Farm series. But for the most part, I prefer to go into a book only knowing the barest of details and with minimal expectations.

This usually works. Assuming my expectations are always set at 3 (for acceptable writing, plot, characters), most books meet it, some go above it, a few go below it. My only real requirement is I’m a huge fan of happy ever after (HEA), or potential happy endings. (Life sucks enough, I don’t need to be heart broken after reading.) If a book is good enough (as judged via reviews on GoodReads), I’ll risk the non-HEA. (Side note, I recently got the two books in the Infected series by Andrea Speed. I’ve heard the ending is not so HEA, which worries me, but I’ve otherwise heard good things.)

So I start new books without needing anything from them except basic good book protocols. If I need something, I go to something I’ve already read, because I know the emotions it evokes (or the events that occur to satisfy that need). I don’t want the author to feel trapped in a writing style, and I think I’d become bored if I kept reading the same book over and over again in slightly different plots. And yet…

And yet I read every book of Grey’s Farm series and am chomping to read the next one. Why?

Aside from my insane need to buy books (I just picked up Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay, first of the series [and I think what the show is based on] at Good Will for $.25), I’m attached to the characters we’ve been introduced to and look forward to hearing more about them. In addition, Grey is very good at giving exactly what he gave in the previous four books in a way that’s just different enough (for me, at least). Okay, when I read three of them in a row, it probably wasn’t a good idea (I get a little sour on things), but I still read and enjoyed them. It’s like eating chicken every Monday. Sounds boring, right? But it isn’t just plain chicken. It could be chicken parm, chicken in white sauce on shells, chicken sandwiches…you get the idea. That’s how Grey’s Farm series feels to me.

So why am I chomping at the bit to read the next of Grey’s books (Love Means … No Fear, fyi) and not just reading it?

Well, for one I want to finish the book I’m reading (The Lexicographer’s Dilemma, the review should be up by end of the week), two I shouldn’t be buying more books (I have over 20 that I already own that should be read), and three, even if I’m really in the mood for one of his books (aka, something with emotional struggle that has a HEA), I can’t really excuse buying his new one when I have four others that would work, plus a kindle full of other stories that match that description. But damn you, Grey, I still want to buy it.

Okay, so this wasn’t really about reading, it was about me resisting the temptation that is an author who produces cookie cutter books (I mean this in a good way, not a bad way). But to make it less off topic, what do you do? Do you like your favorite authors to surprise you? Or do you want what they write to be what they always write?