We talk a lot about how writing is a craft, while publishing is a business. And this is true. So true. Neither side is right or wrong. They are just different, with different goals around the same core product. Writers NEED to write. Publishers NEED to sell.
Alright, what about the juicy and subversive parts?
Okay, here we go.
SUBVERSIVE COMPARISON #1. Writing is a drug, and publishing is the cartel.
That’s right. I’m comparing books to street drugs.
Let me explain. For the writer, words on the page are a buzz, a personal high (“YES, I made that word count today! Yay me!”). For the publisher, words on the page mean the bills get paid.
For the writer, connecting with readers about their stories is like smoking out together with friends at the same party (“Dude, I freaking LOVE your protagonist. I could totally live in that world forever and ever and ever. I'm serious, man. If you stop writing this series, I'll literally die. I can’t put it down.”)
But for the publisher, writers who connect frequently with readers on social media will sell more books. This is a crucial difference that I think many writers fail to understand. Which leads me to…
SUBVERSIVE COMPARISON #2. Writers who want to become successful in today’s market must understand both user and dealer, without succumbing to the trappings of either role. So yes...forgive me, but I’m just going to say it…today’s top published authors are like veteran drug lords.
Now wait. In my last post, “How to Sell Your Book Without Selling Your Soul,” I made a big point about using “idea-based marketing” techniques to get your book in front of readers, so that you’re not always having to pimp yourself out to everyone you see. Now I’m saying that you need to be like the hardened leader of an illegal drug cartel. Which is it?
I guess I can understand your confusion. Illegal drug cartels might be a stretch. What about legal ones?
SUBVERSIVE COMPARISON #3. Writing is the cure for cancer, and publishing is the pharmaceutical company that wants to fund the research and secure the patent.
Better now? It’s certainly a more noble comparison. But the pharmaceutical industry has a lot of problems, too. I mean, not everyone out there is trying to cure cancer, right?
Business is business.
People who become successful in any industry—be it publishing, the illegal drug trade, or pharmaceutical cancer research—learn the rules of that industry and work to master them.
Violent beheadings aside, I think it’s still fair to say that writing is like a drug. The written word is powerful and dangerous. Always has been, always will be.
And you know what?
I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Certainly not anything involving a Mexican drug cartel. (Though one of my characters might…)