'How to Write for Money Without Selling Out Too Much'
May 30, 2013 2:42 AM   Subscribe

io9: 'Everyone's A Sellout'
But the "selling out" thing isn't about whether the work is any good, so much as the question of "artistic integrity." Which assumes a simple model in which the artist has a "vision," that forms perfectly in her head, and she then executes that vision with perfect precision — unless she pauses to think about how best to attract an audience of paying customers, in which case the vision becomes compromised and, I guess, blurry. That business, of having a vision and executing it, describes none of the actual process of creating something from scratch, unless you're some kind of minimalist who writes a six-word story or just paints a big dot on a canvas.

via jscalzi's Whatever: Thoughts On Selling Out

Brain Pickings covers Bill Watterston's famous 1990 speech at Kenyon College: "Selling out is usually more a matter of buying in. Sell out, and you’re really buying into someone else’s system of values, rules and rewards."

At You Are Not So Smart, Selling Out. The fifth podcast is concerned with authenticity.
Both books present an upside-down view of the quest to avoid the mainstream and seek out the authentic. The books help explain how it came to be that so many people seem concerned about selling out both as a consumer and a producer. Most interesting though is Potter’s assertion that there really is no such thing as authenticity when you get right down to it. As he puts it, “there could never be an authenticity detector we could wave at something, like the security guards checking you at the airport.” Oh, and he says countercultures actually create the mainstream they rebel against.
. Rebel Sell, previously.
posted by the man of twists and turns (41 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
Compare and contrast with jobbing journalism, where artistic integrity becomes editorial integrity. Does the 'no such thing as authenticity' idea hold up, still? Are you doomed to colour the story you tell in the wash provided by whoever's paying you? Does it matter more for journalism, and is it easier to 'not sell out'?

The more I think about these things, the less I know. But they are connected, they are important and they utterly refuse easy answers.
posted by Devonian at 2:54 AM on May 30, 2013


It also helps to create a fictional controversies where writers and artists can portray themselves as standing up for artistic integrity whilst still giving the public exactly what it wants. This is well-worn territory.

"All this machinery making modern music
Can still be open-hearted.
Not so coldly charted, it's really just a question
Of your honesty, yeah, your honesty.

One likes to believe in the freedom of music,
But glittering prizes and endless compromises
Shatter the illusion of integrity."
posted by three blind mice at 3:30 AM on May 30, 2013


Authenticity and integrity are obviously relative and nebulous.

The threshold for 'this stinks of catering to an audience only for dollars' vs. 'this artist is doing their best work interfacing with an audience and attempting to maximise the value of their art for reward (monetary; prestige; appreciation for artistic effort; genuinely following their artistic vision) shifts depending on the observer.
posted by panaceanot at 3:42 AM on May 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


jscalzi seems pretty obsessed with writers and money if you ask me.

If you want to write for money, then write for money. If you don't, don't. "Selling out" is a bullshit hippie/hipster phrase that essentially comes about because people can't believe that an "Artist" isn't making art explicitly for them and isn't doing it for free. It's an expression of Entitlement, and we should hate it.

I love programming, but I also love being paid to program. You can pick my shit up off github, but my Netflix account aint going to pay for itself. I know that my lovely electronic devices were probably produced in sweatshops, but it doesn't stop me buying them.

We all sell out. We all squander our moral vision in the pursuit of our own happiness. We all sing a song that's less about how we see the world, (our true artistic vision) and more about getting laid and getting paid.
posted by zoo at 4:00 AM on May 30, 2013 [8 favorites]


^ dude, what a sellout

he was cool when it was just an ox and a giraffe
posted by lordaych at 4:14 AM on May 30, 2013 [8 favorites]


Also, I think it's weird to call out a writer's "obsession" based on two articles when writers write about stuff in large amounts and as an amateur wannabe writer I hate when people say "you said a lot of stuff about thing, that must mean thing is your life" when I cranked out that rant in 10 minutes and it's not *that* important to me, so nyah.

While there's plenty of wide-eyed naivete going on in what people label as "sold out" vs "authentic," there's more nuance to it than what you might experience in the world of writing code, though you could argue that the big badasses in that arena resisted all attempts at "selling out" until the opportunity was too massive to pass up. Just those folks. I mean there are analogies, like if you thought Ruby was just the shit and your boss said you're fired, this is a PHP shop motherfucker. But it's not the same comparison, and I'll resist any efforts to piece-by-piece try to relate say, literature, music, or sculpture to instructions given to machine in an elegant way that makes them easier to read.

I write code too and it's creative and expressive but it's not what we're talking about here...more often than not I think the people who resist "selling out" that we actually know about are people that did "sell out" by finding some niche, but resisted attempts to completely churn their music into garbage.
posted by lordaych at 4:22 AM on May 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also, there's a difference between say, writing Spam Blog copy, writing for BuzzFeed or Gawker, writing for The Nation, writing YA fiction tirelessly sculpted to sell to dummies, or are just writing your own sci-fi and hoping someone will pick it up. And then you get picked up and after a couple of books are being asked to shift things in a certain direction so you do...it's a continuum, not SELL OUT OR DON'T GRRMF
posted by lordaych at 4:31 AM on May 30, 2013


There's also an artist's 'original manifesto'... does anyone consider The Beastie Boys as sellouts, for instance? They were fighting for the 'right to party'.



R(emember)IP Adam Yauch.



If Radiohead released a disco vocoder record they would be pilloried, those French robots? Accepted good form! (except for the grumpkins "it's sacarine and doesn't move me" opines)
posted by panaceanot at 4:49 AM on May 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


> It also helps to create a fictional controversies where writers and artists can portray themselves as standing up for artistic integrity whilst still giving the public exactly what it wants.

A random text generator can also, eventually, replicate everything you have to say as well.

Your glib response is only useful if all people are exactly as cynical as you think they are.
posted by ardgedee at 5:04 AM on May 30, 2013


You can dig all kinds of crazy creative ditches in your back yard but right now the world needs straight ditches three feet deep and by the way a machine does it now so sit here, wear this safety vest and hold this lever and the union will make sure you get $45K a year, COLA increases and a pension.

As a working artist I find this "sell out" argument tiresome.

If you want to do what you want, that's cool. But really no one is going to give you money for that out of the blue. No one is going to help you sell and market it, unless you pay them. Or do the admin, or finance, or legal work unless you pay them for it.

On the other hand if you want to get paid no problem, then find something someone already wants to pay you to do, and do that.

If you've been paid for doing X before, people are going to want to tend to pay you for more X. If you start producing Y, you're going to have to deal with grumpy people who wanted X and also have to start trying to push your Y business. But maybe you have bills? A family? X beckons.

So for me that "sell out" label is basically the whine of some entitled jagoff who doesn't know how the sausage is made: it's pretty simple, you either do what you want and maybe go hungry, or you do what the market wants and you eat that month.

And if you're lucky you find a confluence between what the market wants, and what you can produce in good conscience, and then you count your blessings.

Someone else's opinion of any of these situations means exactly what the bank will cash it for: -0-.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:05 AM on May 30, 2013 [9 favorites]


I think the only time fans really have a valid point in labeling an artist a sellout is when the artist's work changes from content that built up their fanbase to content that appeals more to the lowest common denominator. Nobody talks about David Lynch being a sellout because no matter what big studio he works for, he still makes the same kind of weird films that he has always made (aside from the one normal film), and the same fans who loved Eraserhead will find a lot of the same qualities in his new works. Whereas if a band that has several popular independent albums within a certain genre and sound signs with a major label, and is then pressured by the label to make their new songs more radio friendly by sounding exactly like every other major label band, I think the fans can validly reject these changes as prioritized for profit at the expense of quality. So for me it's less about whether the artist is paid more or is aligned with large corporations, and more about if monetary concerns lead to the work itself suffering.
posted by burnmp3s at 5:22 AM on May 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


Metafilter: I cranked out that rant in 10 minutes.
posted by nathancaswell at 5:27 AM on May 30, 2013


There's a particular challenge writers and artists face: There's a threshold at which they hone their craft for long enough that they find themselves on a particular kind of brink: People are willing to pay them to create their own work in their own ways, but not necessarily enough money to live on -- or not enough to live well on.

At that point there's a decision they have to make -- push on making what they want in the way they want to do it, giving up the day job, hoping that the money will come to support them while they continue working by the terms they've set for themselves. Or Negotiate The Compromises -- merchandising, or unchallenging multipart fantasy serials that the fans will eat up, or screenplays for properties they can't control, or ancillary merchandising, or whatnot. For some people, this negotiation is easy; they enjoy the merchandising system, they'd always dreamed of writing for movies... this transition to the life of a working commercial artist is as much a work promotion as anything else; they feel no death of the soul, because they got what they wanted.

For other people, the Thing They Wanted involved continuing to hone their craft. This may result in a huge fanbase anyway; the Thing They Wanted resonates with the public -- but most often the best to hope for is a small, ardent following, always enough to know and appreciate you, not necessarily ever enough to sustain your livelihood. To judge artists against each other based on their career decisions, or assume that all artists are whores and the ones who aren't honest with themselves about it -- or can't make a day job of it -- will get what they deserve, is needlessly cynical.
posted by ardgedee at 5:37 AM on May 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


Money money money money money money money, money money money. Money money money money money: money money

Money moolah money money money.

Money money money money money money money money? Money, money money money money money money.
1) money
3) money
611) Money

Money money/money money money money. Money money money
money money...money money money money money money.
posted by larry_darrell at 5:47 AM on May 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


Zoo:

"jscalzi seems pretty obsessed with writers and money if you ask me."

I make my living by writing. I don't have any other job but writing. Also, for the last three years I have been president of an organization of professional writers, many of whom have seen any number of attempts by publishers (and others) to drive down their ability to make a living from their writing. So quite obviously I have an interest in the subjects of writers and money. Additionally, I feel it's beneficial to write publicly on those subjects, because I have the professional and personal experience to write with authority on such matters, and these are matters which in my not uninformed opinion should be written about.

Your use of the word "obsession" here comes across as stupid, snarky and dismissive, and maybe that's what you intended, for reasons of your own. In the real world, however, my "obsession" is no more obsessive than it would be for any professional with an interest in his or her field, opining on subjects that relate their livelihood, to an audience that has an interest in those subjects.

But, I don't know. Maybe you would call a medical doctor "obsessive" if he wrote on his blog about doctors and money, or a programmer "obsessive" if she wrote about the financial issues regarding her field on her blog. Maybe you think any discussion of any professional field (and the money issues therein) is "obsessive." However, if you do, as a writer, may I suggest you recalibrate your definition of the word "obsessive."
posted by jscalzi at 5:50 AM on May 30, 2013 [25 favorites]


"Not selling out" is a luxury. It's well worth having an area of creative endeavor in your life in which you afford yourself that luxury. It probably won't be your day job.

But saying "not selling out" is some impossible ideal is ridiculous. Anybody who wants to can "not sell out." Just do something you care about because you care about it. Create something because you love creating it. Not on the job, but on your own. Congratulations! You didn't sell out!

You could "not sell out" all day if you were independently wealthy, or if you were very lucky and/or clever and found a way to get people to pay you for the stuff you'd be doing anyway if you didn't need to get them to pay you.

But it's not some elusive phantom. Anybody can have the experience of "not selling out" in small doses, in their spare time.
posted by edheil at 5:55 AM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Of course, at a certain point as you refuse to sell out, and you hone your craft, Jack and Kyle of Tenacious D will show up and say "CONTINUE." Or else they will say "STOP." And then seriously, you must stop.
posted by edheil at 5:59 AM on May 30, 2013 [5 favorites]


Writing for money versus writing what you want is usually a complicated problem. I had to deal with that last year. I'd been making a living off writing for a couple of years. As the money I got from my first novel got used up I had to spend more and more time freelancing and translating. Then I realized that I wasn't writing what I wanted to write anymore. The amount of time and energy I spent on writing for money meant that I had barely touched the novel I was working on for half a year. So I quit free-lancing and got a day job and went back to writing what I wanted to be writing in my non-work time. Being a writer is complicated, and you have to figure out what works best for you. I understand the fear of selling out, I've written something like a thousand poems but I've got a weird mental block that makes it almost impossible for me to turn my poems into a commodity by publishing a book. I know publishers who'd be happy to put a book of my poems out, even. I'm aware this is a really odd affliction, and my poet friends rag me about it all the time... I've promised my friends I'll put together a manuscript of poems once I finish the novel I'm working on.

I came of aesthetic age in the 90s, when you still had a sharply defined counterculture, so the concept of selling out is pretty well ingrained in me. In the early 90s, the term selling out was a very easy to understand term. It meant becoming part of a multinational corporation, whether it was through signing a record contract with EMI or getting a job with Goldman Sachs. This only applied to people who had not been part of the mainstream. A stockbroker, by definition, couldn't sell out. You had to be part of the counterculture to sell out.

Of course it was more complicated than that. I don't remember anyone seriously suggesting that Sonic Youth had sold out by signing to Geffen, or R.E.M. had sold out by signing to Warner. It was fairly obvious that these bands were still doing what they wanted to be doing. There was always a subclause in that whole selling-out concept that stated that it was okay to sell out as long as you didn't compromise your art in hopes of making more money.

Nowadays selling out is a much more nebulous term. The old counterculture is mostly gone. There isn't a mainstream/underground split like there used to be. It used to be that there was an alternative economy. For certain books and records you'd need to go to special stores, which sold them. You wouldn't find Godspeed You! Black Emperor records in regular stores, you'd have to go to a special kind of record store. Same went for science fiction, avant garde literature or, for that matter, to see non-traditional theater, dance etc. Now everything is sold through Amazon and iTunes and the traditional bookstores have graphic novel sections. The term selling out, which was born in an age of this split economy, is much harder to define these days. There is no sharply-defined counterculture to belong to anymore. Heck, a lot of the old weird stuff is now published and sold through Amazon, the megacorporation that other megacorporations find a tad too behemothy. Still, I don't think that publishing your strange, weird novella as a Kindle Single constitutes selling out, even though Amazon makes money hand over fist from that arrangement. Bu then again, I'm not entirely sure what selling out is anymore.
posted by Kattullus at 6:03 AM on May 30, 2013 [10 favorites]


I'd sell out, but nobody's buying.
posted by jonmc at 7:12 AM on May 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


When it comes to my art, I would never sell out. When it comes to my personal life, unfortunately, due to the ubiquity of our system of top-down economic coercion and exploitation, I'm definitely on the market for rent. My paying career has nothing whatsoever to do with my creative life, so at least I've still got independence and autonomy in one little corner of my life.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:14 AM on May 30, 2013


There seems to be an assumption, when people talk about selling out, that it's easy to just write to a market. The times that I have tried moving in the direction of what is easy to sell, I've crashed and burned. The first novel I actually managed to sell was one that struck me as a bit self-indulgent and of interest to absolutely no one else.

I'm not saying that I would sell out if I knew how - I work a customer facing job, I spend enough of my time trying to make other people happy - but the thing is, I really don't have any better guide star to what I should write than the things I am passionate or curious about. I try not to be solipsistic about my writing, or so weird that nobody else cares, but I would like to write the kinds of books that come from who I am, and not from what is trending right now.
posted by Jeanne at 7:20 AM on May 30, 2013


So you wanna be a photographer! has gone around a few times in the photography world, is relevant to this topic, and is a fairly sensible and non-judgemental look at the consideration of turning a creative pursuit into a career.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:22 AM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: no one is going to give you money for that out of the blue.

---

Scene – Dockside warehouse.

Police (on bullhorn): “Put down the best seller list Bandello!

Rico: Yah! Come and make me dirty copper! Yah! I’m writing a post-apocalyptic elf romance novel right now see? Yah!

Diamond Pete Montana: Gotta hand it to you Rico. The old bean is working all the time!

Police (bullhorn): These characters you’ve created are cardboard! Dangerous cardboard! The series won’t end well! Someone is going to get a bridge dropped on them, and soon! You’ll never be considered a legitimate artist!

Rico: Yah? What's that gotta do with the price of eggs? Yah, there's money in the big town, all right. Clothes and dames...fans, see?

Diamond Pete Montana: The dirty critics’ve got us surrounded.

Rico: They can’t take my artistic integrity. Maybe I’ll self-publish, see? Vanity press, yah!

Montana *gasp*: Don’t do it Rico!

Police (rushing in): Drop the manuscript! You’re not ready for professional publication!

Rico: Yah! I told you a little buzzard like you will never put any rejection slips on me.

*explosion* - “Fifty Shades of Grey Elves”
posted by Smedleyman at 8:01 AM on May 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


Somewhere along the line, this idea that artists should starve for their vision took hold and I hate that. I feel like that's all this article is about-- if you change even a single thing from your original vision, you've sold out. Really?

Taking editorial input is hardly the same as selling out. When my editor tells me that I missed some emotional logic or that my characters are too strident to be likable, it's not to make a book more marketable. It's to make sure that I'm telling the story I actually want to tell. When I write a novel, everything makes sense in my head. Unfortunately, not everything in my head makes it to the page.

Changing something for a marketing reason-- if it makes sense within the context of the book, why wouldn't I take it out? I would never change something integral to the book, so I don't see how that would be selling out either. I had an editor ask me to take out a conversation about tampons because "boys would read the book without the tampons." Same editor excised some lines that made a character explicitly gay. I left out the tampons, but put the gay back in. The former made no difference to the story.

I can decide what my next book is going to be-- if I know that vampire novels are not currently selling, yes, I could write a vampire novel. But that would be stupid. Vampires will come back around, and I like paying my bills while practicing my art. It's not like an idea, once had, can't be delayed. (I will, in fact, one day write a vampire novel. When they're selling!) Whatever I pick next is still something that matters to me. It would be madness to spend 2-3 years intensively working on an idea that doesn't interest me.

And really, the only way I could write a book that doesn't interest me is if I were doing a write for hire. Which I've done! It's not under my name, it's a very nice paycheck and I do my very best to create a good and worthy book based on the outline. It's not a message I would have chosen to write on my own, but so? The pseud on the cover isn't claiming that it is. And the work that I put into it isn't careless. I still want it to be a good book, even though I wouldn't have written it on my own.

It may be romantic to think about artists freezing in a garret, warmed only by a candle and a vision, but it's certainly not realistic. People who do work that other people value deserve to get paid. That's not selling out, that's basic capitalism.
posted by headspace at 8:09 AM on May 30, 2013


I'm currently kind if creatively paralysized right now cause while I can just churn the product out and come up with stories for other people's characters or stories I don't really care too much abut so there is no pressure - actually working in a story I really, really care about with characters I want to spend a lot of time with is completely activating my panic button cause it's NOT selling out.

Seriously, I'm great at selling out, it distracts me from the concept of failure.
posted by The Whelk at 8:47 AM on May 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


I agree with you, headspace, almost entirely, but I really want to revise your penultimate sentence to "People who do work that other people have hired them to do deserve to get paid" because first off value is not always entirely or even mostly about remuneration (nitpicky) and more importantly the fact that someone's done something someone else values doesn't in any way create a "deserve to get paid" relationship. Capitalism requires a willing buyer and willing seller; "deserve" isn't really a part of that.

Okay thanks.
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:48 AM on May 30, 2013


headspace: That's not so much what I understand selling out to mean, and I doubt many others do either. Collaborating with others is almost always a central part of the creative process--"selling out" means writing/creating commercial material for no real reason other than to make money, doesn't it? That's how I understand it anyway.

Capitalism requires a willing buyer and willing seller; "deserve" isn't really a part of that.

That's got nothing to do with Capitalism though, really. What you're describing is just plain old trade. Capitalism is a specific system of trade that emphasizes giving the bulk of returns from the products of labor to the owners of the production mechanisms rather than to the workers who depend on access to those mechanisms of production to do their work. In other words, if I'm a roofer but I can't afford all the tools to do roofing work on my own, I might make a deal with someone who does own those tools to let me use them to do the work in return for a cut of my revenue. Capitalism is the idea that the owners of the tools "deserve" to get the biggest cut in such arrangements. That's all it is. Free trade has nothing to do with Capitalism, per se.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:00 AM on May 30, 2013


Okay. My deal there was basically that it's easy for people to get into the mindset of grousing about "I did something cool but no one will pay me for it" which is wrongheaded on many levels. It's endemic in a lot of artistic communities especially when grants fall through or artwork doesn't sell or attendance is poor. Feeling that the creation of artwork is something that automatically merits payment is the typical underlying assumption and it needs to be addressed with a reality check.
posted by seanmpuckett at 9:07 AM on May 30, 2013


That's not so much what I understand selling out to mean, and I doubt many others do either.

I don't either, but that's what the first five or six paragraphs in the iO9 article discussed. I shouldn't have edited out the part where I said that I was specifically responding to that. My apologies!
posted by headspace at 9:32 AM on May 30, 2013


Well, of course. And that ought to be obvious, but that's just life, not Capitalism. Framing it that way makes it seem like people who are criticizing the more exploitative aspects of Capitalism are just malcontents who aren't any good at their trade. A lot of people dismiss critiques of Capitalism on those grounds, so it's just good to be clear about these things.

Capitalism (at least, the laissez-faire kind that Marx and others have criticized) is when the only guy who owns a guitar in town (but has no interest in actually playing it) only agrees to let Django Rheinhart use it so long as Django agrees to turn over a big enough share of whatever he manages to earn playing it that he can never afford to buy a guitar of his own. It's not just any old buy/sell arrangement.

But sure, there are lots of folks who still (consciously or unconsciously) believe in the labor theory of value that economists and most people used to prefer before more modern economic theorists came on the scene. Under that theory, the work put into making something is what makes it economically valuable. Obviously, unskilled people often work twice as hard to produce something not even half as good, so that theory's pretty self-evidently flawed.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:20 AM on May 30, 2013


I don't either, but that's what the first five or six paragraphs in the iO9 article discussed.

Ah--got you. I thought you were taking the validity of that definition for granted. That whole "I liked 'em before they sold out made any money from their art" fetish thing that caught on so big in the 90s still has "a tight grip on the short hairs of the public imagination" (to steal a line from Elvis Costello), but there shouldn't be any shame in honest trade. It's perverse how some people seem to expect all artists to be martyrs.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:30 AM on May 30, 2013


Doesn't the charge, "So and so sold out," nearly always boil down to meaning, "They're writing for someone else's approval now instead of writing for me"?
posted by straight at 11:34 AM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


When editors and producers make changes for commercial reasons the result is entertainment, not art: The purpose of the editing and producing isn't subservient to the purpose of art. To go all Jodorovsky you'd seek to actively prevent art and try your best for your products to make depressed, lazy addicted morons out of your consumers by hacking their wetware. (Then sell them some sweatshop gadgets.) Weaponised science isn't the privilege of the food industry duh.

But TFA headline was only clickbait anyway, regarding what was said upthread - about the specificity of 'sellout' and that it would still have to be 'everybody you ever heard of is a sellout'.
posted by yoHighness at 12:42 PM on May 30, 2013


I’m open to accusations of being a hack, which is fair enough (I would disagree, but then I would, wouldn’t I).

I just liked that line.

I actually find Scalzi's pragmatism refreshing. I came up as a (never financially successful) writer through the gay and lesbian community in the 90s, and accusations of "selling out" were rife. The idea was that you wrote whatever you felt you needed to write, and that was really important and some kind of revolutionary act, and if the only place that you could get published was a small press that would put out a run of a thousand copies, well, so what?

I wish I'd had a bit more pragmatism as a young person. I remember a teacher I respected a great deal talking to me in high school about ways I could make money writing. She specifically mentioned technical writing, but I thought that was beneath me. Now that I'm older and know myself better, I think I'd have really enjoyed technical writing. As a college teacher, I used to have to produce documents that would hopefully make things that my students struggled with clear (What is a complex sentence? How do you know when your paragraph is sufficiently developed? and so on). I really enjoyed that part of my job, and felt great when I knew I'd put together a handout that my students would find easier to read and more helpful than their textbook.

Something that has stayed with me for a long time is an interview I read years and years ago (maybe when I was in my MFA program, which was full of queers and mostly taught by queers and very lefty and idealistic and political in a certain way that reflected its time and place) with a writer who started writing romance novels under a pseudonym, and had had some succcess. The interviewer asked her how she chose her pseudonym, and she said she had chosen a name that would get her shelved next to the number-one selling author in her genre.

My reaction was some shocked combination of contempt for such a mercenary decision, and awe at her genius in thinking of such a simple way to get her books more exposure--getting them on the shelf right next to the books people were most likely to come looking for. If I decided to start writing sci-fi, maybe I'd choose Susan Scalzini as my pseudonym and ride on some very successful coat-tails.

Also, I think Old Man's War (my favorite Scalzi book) will make a great movie.

Also, does anybody else find it weird when a MeFite gets linked and we talk in the third person about someone who is actually here right now?

I've RTFA but not the comments here, so I'll do that now.
posted by not that girl at 1:50 PM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


A thing I have experienced that I wouldn't call selling out but that disappoints me is when a blog I follow gets well-known, and the writer starts getting paying gigs elsewhere, and stops doing the kind of writing that made me follow them in the first place and starts doing hit-generating posts. I'm thinking in particular of starkravingmadmommy, who used to write these hilarious and heartbreaking essays on her blog, and then started getting paying gigs. I am really happy for her that she is making money with her writing, but I miss the hilarious and heartbreaking essays, and am not very interested in the kind of "10 Things Parents of Autistic Kids Wish You Wouldn't Say" or "The Five Most Ridiculous New Products For Moms" articles she's writing for nickmoms or wherever. She's still funny, but that shorter, chopped-up format doesn't let her genius shine. I guess this is one example that might look like selling out; I think it more accurately probably reflects a trade-off, and given that she has kids to support and a husband who has sometimes been out of work during the time I was following her, it's probably a good trade-off for her.
posted by not that girl at 2:04 PM on May 30, 2013


jscalzi: "Your use of the word "obsession" here comes across as stupid, snarky and dismissive, and maybe that's what you intended, for reasons of your own."

I guess that's the part where you drop the mic.

I'm kind of tempted to push you a bit on this, see how many more words I can squeeze out of you for free(*) , but you're right. The word "obsession" in my comment was too strong. My only intention was a gentle ribbing with no desire for malice. Apologies if I upset you.

(*) This is also gentle ribbing. In case you were wondering.
posted by zoo at 2:09 PM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


No worries, Zoo, and thanks.
posted by jscalzi at 2:35 PM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'd sell out in a hot second if I had the knack, create a pseudonym based on an inside joke between me and my late best friend, and use the income from one career to support the other.

As it happens, I don't have the knack, as I decided back in 2004 to sell out and write a piece of fluffy marketable pop trash and ended up doing a sort of difficult take on Nancy Drew novels in which a frustrated fading infomercial star gets caught up in a perverse mystery in which an awkward billionaire living in a replica of Fallingwater in North Carolina gets drawn into a terrorist plot by a Presbyterian terrorist attempting to dirty bomb Dollywood to show up Alan Alda with the inadvertent assistance of a potter obsessed with sexual impermeability, a former stalker of Grace Jones turned trailer park maintenance man with the seeming ability to time travel with laundry equipment, and a bicycle freak hung up on a WTC widower. Turned into a trilogy, I realized that this was not the way to sell out, and I abandoned the whole mess in a snit and descended into a nine year funk.

Selling out ain't easy.
posted by sonascope at 8:45 PM on May 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


I find myself wondering what the financial situation of the people on different sides of the "never sell out/sometimes you have to sell out" debate is. It's a hell of a lot easier to never sell out when you don't need to worry about where next month's rent is coming from.

I'm in the latter situation, which is why I feel free to pour three years of my life into a comic book about a queer robot lady.
posted by egypturnash at 9:27 PM on May 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


writing YA fiction tirelessly sculpted to sell to dummie

Some of us write it because we love it
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:51 AM on June 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why Hipsters Hate On Lana Del Rey
You might think of authenticity as something musicians obsess over in the scruffy avant-garde period, or in the intimate early days of a scene, when the music is untouched by industry, imaging, and global sales forces. But this is wrong. The fetish for authenticity, and the heated debates about its meaning, are almost always triggered by the industry’s arrival on a scene—and accelerate from there.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:03 AM on June 9, 2013


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