What is selling out as a writer?

daria cookies
daria cookies (Photo credit: Rakka)

In the fantasy of writing, you write your stuff, and your stuff alone. Editors pursue you for your naked talent. Readers thrill to the cult of your personality. You make art, for art’s sake – and that’s all you do. You have standards, principles, high-falutin’ ideals. Ghosting? Never. Marketing copy? Perish the thought! Your own marketing – what phantasms are these?

You are so twentieth century midlist.

This is the 21st century. We have Ipads now.

There’s nothing wrong with making art for art’s sake, and between the Internet and the easy availability of low-cost self-publishing, there’s a lot more of exactly that now. Publication no longer equates with success. Self-publication no longer equates with failure. Self-publishing is no longer a vanity enterprise restricted to random kooks and people frustrated by too many rejection slips. It’s a real, it’s viable – and it actually opens up market niches once thought closed for good.

For those of us who write occult/Pagan stuff, we’re actually revisiting old stomping grounds on this. I’ve made a hobby of collecting the pamphlet books that dot metaphysical bookstores. Many are local, unique, created before the Internet and thus unpublishable in a traditional venue. I have no idea how they get made or get sold in bookstores. Now, the production of even these books is legitimized. Eventually, grudgingly, occult shop owners will update their education to reflect the new market reality and the plethora of choices available to them once they get past their frustration that the world up and changed again.

All the old hallmarks of a writer selling out no longer apply.

So what then defines a sellout?

Honestly, I think the only true “sell out” of someone who just wants to write for a living is resorting to plagiarism. That’s just low. I find ghost writing a bit iffy, but not because of the ghost writer him/herself – I just think it’s tacky to hire someone to write a book for you. If you’re a semi-literate hack with the morals of a weasel and enough celebrity to merit a ghost-written book, just spare us the conceit of the ghost writer. It’s not like we don’t already know you’re a semi-literate hack with no shame. I’m not a big fan of text link ads but I don’t begrudge the bloggers that write them.

In the words of Daria Morgendorffer to Trent Lane, “A gig’s a gig.”

Selling out as a writer? Honestly, the people saying that are claiming a purity that working writers just don’t have time for – because most of us have day jobs.