Friday, May 13, 2011


The statistics experts say that your chances in winning a big lottery are astronomical. It would be easier to seek out a bolt of lightning to randomly strike you in the head. Yet, against all odds, gazillions of people play the lottery. So many in fact, that it is reliable income for states with lottery programs. Now, I'm going to draw a connection to this "lottery" premise here and I want you to stick it out with me as you follow this whacky train of thought.

I think there are a lot of similarities in people seeking to publish and people playing the lottery. The biggest similarity is that people seeking to publish want money and lots of it. The astronomical odds against us in following this endeavor don't matter. Who gives a shit about the math, right?

Yup...I said it. Show me the money.

In order to understand my thought which came as kind of an epiphany on the way to Subway, I need to provide you with some background. Namely how our capitalism in the U.S.A. encourages blatant stealing and mimicking of successful products that are the cash cows for the top 1%.

Samsung is accused of copying Apple with their tablet. The new Internet Explorer 9 looks like a carbon copy of Google Chrome. Bing's search engine copied Google's programming so closely that they were called on it by Google who deliberately inserted parts of code that would show up as red flags if someone copied their stuff. We have Facebook essentially copying what Myspace did and countless others. Now you have Google going to war with Facebook in the social networking scene. It goes on and on. Stories look like other stories. Young adult fiction is dystopian after dystopian with female protagonists written from first person point-of-view. And blah blah blah. Why does this happen? Simple answer: there are a finite number of good ideas period.  But there are a ton of people. So how do you work a limited number of cash-generating ideas to a ton of people? You steal/copy that's how. Then you put spin on it. Spin is key. Allow me to elaborate.

The people that are not part of the 1% in our country don't make enough money to be happy. They can't afford the things that they want so they look to try and sell something to increase the frustration of being stuck in a fixed middle-class (or low class) income. They look to create a side-business. Now, I do think that writers go into this whole enterprise with a realistic point-of-view. As Amanda Hocking said on her blog when she was destitute, "I think I'll publish some of my stories on Amazon. Who knows...I could maybe make an extra $300  a month and that's more than I have now." Writing can be done by anyone with essentially no education. So the world is awash with it and everyone wants to sell you their book.

Don't get me wrong. There's nothing wrong with this and I'm not pointing fingers at anyone. I do think that writers don't tell the truth when they say, "Oh I'm just wanting to get published so I can be read". I think if you're saying that to yourself, you're telling a big lie and your nose is gonna grow just like it did for Pinnochio.

My opinion on this is just because I'm just noticing how the world it behaves. To clarify, I wish it were different. I wish that people had enough money to buy the things that they need to feel satisfaction and happiness. Maybe if that 1% was spread out amongst everyone and EVERYONE had at least a million dollars, there'd be less struggling going on. Does that make me a socialist? I hope not because "Socialist" is a frickin' dirty word. Please don't call me that...I don't want to get stoned by representatives from Fox News.

So yeah, I think that people that are trying to publish are doing it for one reason. They HOPE that they can make some money.  The bigger the payoff ...the better! It isn't about having this overwhelming drive to pen words to paper and that they cannot sleep at night, etc. It's about wanting to be respected, have money, influence, and possibly a little power. The Rejectionist says it perfectly in her tagline on her blog "You'll be sorry when we're famous!" Yup! Money! Power! Prestige! It's a lottery.

People crave these things because they see others that enjoy them liberally. I actually think that if people had tons of money, they wouldn't write. Be honest, if you made $600,000 a year, I seriously doubt that you'd go home to your mansion, from your vacations, and your house full of supermodels and say, "hmmm...ya know...the world just really isn't complete until I pen this fiction about a high school vampire."  I know I'd probably never write again if I had enough money to buy my dreamhouse and live the way I desired. James Patterson doesn't. Sure he publishes but other people do the work. It's a money-making machine and he's livin' the fat life because he created his brand. He's not a writer, he's a businessman.

Most of the writers that I know and have heard of started out poor. J.K. Rowling, Allie Condie, Stephanie Meyer, and the list goes on and on. People who were maybe scraping by or downright destitute...but they didn't have the life they wanted. Nope...they didn't have the big boat and the money to take dream vacations, etc. So they took a look at what they had to offer the world with the idea that they'd like to sell it and make some darn money. It's the desire to shake off the cloak of mediocrity. Prove me wrong in a comment. Name one writer who STARTED their career filthy stinking rich and then decided to write anyway and published a debut fiction novel that wasn't a tribute to their own greatness (Here's looking at you George W. Bush).

Part of the business is obviously building this thing we call a platform, i.e., followers on blogger, twitter, facebook and other places that we collect for "free" and who can help us in getting the word out when the time is right for such things. Others do it better than some. I've noticed that the most successful bloggers tend to be the most original. They have authority behind their words and give advice about writing. But you know, there's only a finite number of things that you can say about something and therein lies the problem. You get people doing what Samsung did to Apple...repeating advice that has been mentioned over and over and that can easily be found on the web. Copycats because you gotta blog about something and you need to play the game to social network.  I just find the whole thing interesting. I follow some World of Warcraft's a game that has 11 million subscribers. However, despite so many people, there are only a handful of blogs worth noting. Those have thousands of followers because everyone else knows this too. If you didn't get in early and carve a niche for yourself, then you're saying what the "experts" have already blogged about and hence, you have nothing to offer.

So yeah, I guess the key to the business is finding something to offer. Agents have it easy because they have poor writers out there seeking to make a buck that follow their blogs in droves hoping to learn the secret to the goose that lay the golden egg. Everyone writes the same kind of stuff because that's the formula that makes money. It's the stuff that publishers are buying.  It's a whole supply line of people waiting for a payday (not the candy bar).

Anyway, that's all I had to say. Have a great weekend and am happy that blogger is back. I hope if you read this that you get your payday. It's not right that 1% of America is so disgustingly rich. I hope you get a piece of that pie. Please don't be mad at me if I think you are trying to publish to strike it rich. It's just what I think but at the same time, I hope it happens. If it doesn't, you can always say, "I just wanted to be read." No one will think any less of you for it.


  1. Good post.

    I'm not writing to be rich; I'm writing to be not poor. I'd be quite happy making just enough to get by (what I'm doing now), but to do it as a writer. My dream is to quit my "day" job and have an extra 40-60 hours a week to write, read, spend time with my family, etc. Money isn't important to me; time is.

    Also, if I were rich, I'd still write. I love to do it. Being rich is suppose to allow you to do what you love, so I'd write.


  2. Thanks for the response Dan. Just to clarify, I'm not talking about writing. I'm talking about publishing.

    So, if you were rich, would you still attempt to publish in a traditional sense? Or would you blow off the whole traditional publishing scene and just self publish with no marketing because you didn't care? Afterall, you just want to "write". That's what I'm saying.

  3. I think everyone wants both to be read and to make some money. Play the game long enough and read the statistics and you know the getting rich part isn't going to happen. Of course you still HOPE it will happen. Haven't figured out how to fully kill that hope yet.

    Of course I never understand why people get literature degrees or especially creative writing degrees. About all you can do with those is become a professor teaching other dummies who are going after a relatively worthless degree. That's why I went into accounting instead. I mean, you can learn to write without a degree so you might as well get one that will let you make a living at the same time.

    Crap, now I'm racking my brain trying to think of any writers who might have been rich beforehand. Did John Grisham have money before he started writing books? Wasn't he a lawyer first? Or maybe there was a woman already married to someone well off. But I don't know because I don't have a literature degree!

    Great post!!!

  4. Michael, this is a great topic.

    Often, well-meaning friends and relatives suggest that writing should be only a hobby.

    Working as a waitress while writing my first novel, a customer told me that only 2 writers in a million writers are self-sufficient writers (means they could quit their day jobs).

    My response? "Great! That means I have a chance."

    Writing novels, stories, poetry, and articles just to file them or hide them under the bed is just plain silly.

    Writers write to be read - and hope for some monetary gain to make it even better. Why write, if not to be published?

    @ Rogue Mutt - President Obama got a publising contract (correct me if I am wrong) and he wasn't poor.

    Many of the celebrities get publishing contracts based on the platform of their fame - perfectly understandable. After all, who wants to read about a nobody unless they have a fantastic story to tell?

    Today, job-searching-and-applying-exhausted, I started researching what it takes to become a Freelance writer. It is different from novel-writing for sure.

    Thanks for the great topic, Michael.


  5. Say, Michael? Didn't you post on my latest blog? Blogspot was down yesterday and part of today and all the html changes I made didn't stick and your comments and my answer to them are gone.

    Guess the Cyber gremlin was hungry yesterday and ate it all.

    such is the life of high-techie stuff

  6. Hillary Duff. Because according to her ghost writer she totes did half the work. It's hard to think up examples of people who are wealthy before becoming writers because those stories aren't the ones people want to hear.

    In all seriousness if my parents won the lottery and I didn't have to worry about income etc. I'd write. It's one of the few things I've always done since I could pick up a crayon and scribble. As for publishing, probably. Self-publishing is too much effort to be honest. Between having to get copyright permissions on pictures, fonts, isb numbers, and learning formatting etc. It's the difference between cutting your own hair and going to someone. Some people are good at DYI and others know their limits.

  7. I've been trying to think of folks that were rich, or at least in the top 1% before the first published fiction. Nick Sagan maybe (I'm tempted to throw out William Shatner, James Doohan, or Levar Burton, but that probably isn't fair, they were published because of their celebrity so they didn't have to go through the same hurdles others do, and I think it's safe to assume a ghost writer was involved.)

    Let's see, I can't really think of anyone that would jump out though. Nice thought experiment. I wonder if it has something to do with motivation, it's hard to put the work into something like writing when you've got more money than you can spend.

  8. Celebrities usually don't go out seeking to write; some publisher (knowing they can make a buck off of said celebrity) approaches them and asks them to do a book.

    I'm in agreement. Generally speaking. People that want to write will do it and leave it at that. I'm looking at Dickinson and a few others when I say that. People who -want- to publish are looking at money or prestige.

    I'm not excluding myself. I wrote a book for my kids, but, now that it's written, the publishing part is about making money from it. However, I will say that because the 1st book was for my kids, even if I won the lottery tomorrow, I would still write the sequel (and the next sequel), because my kids won't forgive me if I don't finish the story.

  9. Nothing wrong with wanting to make money. I think that there are more poor people than ever in the United States and do to the socio-economic inequality, more people are seeking to be published than ever. I respect all my fellow struggling authors cause I'm in the same boat, trapped in a dumb middle-class income of stagnation. In this post, I'm just hypothesizing that if a person starts out filthy stinking rich, that there is no desire to publish AT ALL. Not one bit. None of this "you gotta steal time to write" etc. bullshit that ppl tout on their blogs. It's about money. You "think" you can make money doing this. It's exactly like what Lucinda said above..."one in a million, so you're saying I got a chance..."

  10. Well, I don't know if I believe I have a chance. However, I do know one thing: it's like wanting to ask a girl out on a date. If you don't ask her, the answer is no. If you do ask her, the answer may still be no, and depending on who the girl is, it may definitely be no, but you can't possibly get a yes if you don't ask. If I make just 10 bucks off my book (which is about what I've made so far), it's 10 bucks I didn't have before.

    I can think of a reason someone with money would decide to write, and that's for the prestige of it. The accolades. Not that I have any proof that it's ever happened. But I could see that happening.

  11. My ADD wouldn't permit me to read this entire post; but I think it would be fairly easy to get a bolt of lightning to strike me with the help of a metal rod and a thunderstorm.