The selling of books and complications therein

Justine Musk has an excellent essay on her career as a novelist in the mass market paperback salt mines and it is very good. It involves numbers and market realities and other concepts that make the writing-is-art! crowd nervous and/or cranky.

Note: I do not think writing-is-art and publishing-is-a-business are mutually exclusive notions. I think that in order to do the one it really behooves you to understand and get your head around the second. Even if in doing so you conclude that you’re better off self-publishing. Or writing your novel in a series of haikus on the back of Anzaac bickies and floating them out to sea at dusk each night for the next ten years.

Have I mentioned that it took me many many years to make my first professional sale? I seriously thought about doing the floating biscuit (cookie) thing. If only I weren’t so bad at writing with icing.


  1. Eric Luper on #

    From the date I made the conscious decision to write for young people, it took me around 5 years to make my first professional sale. And it was a tough 5 years. I attribute the persistence to being too stupid to stop. And great people around me.

    I’ve met tons of folks who look at writing solely as a business. These are the ones who talk incessantly about action figures and movies and cereal box promotions.

    I’ve also met tons of people who look at writing solely as an art. These are the people who come to critique sessions and then scoff when someone recommends a period rather than a semi-colon.

    I have had times where I’ve drifted too close to one or the other of these mindsets, but I find the healthiest place to be is someplace in between. I guess that means scoffing at someone’s suggestion that my action figure should have a laser gun instead of a crossbow.

    Crossbows rock!

  2. Hjalti on #

    I’m in the strange position of making quite a decent month’s pay from my published fiction, despite giving it to my growing group of readers for free and never having made a sale. I can never quite decide whether I’m missing out or merely stupidly lucky.

  3. Amber on #

    O Anzac biscuit

    My words do not deserve your
    Golden loveliness.

  4. hillary! on #

    I find it sad that really good writers never get any notoriety. But horrible writers get it ALL!

  5. hillary! on #

    YAY! IT let me comment!

  6. lili on #

    you can’t have ICING on an ANZAC BISCUIT!!

    for SHAME.

  7. Justine on #

    Amber: Awesome!

    Lili: No, not if you’re eating them. But is perfectly acceptable if you’re floating them out to sea with your novel writ on ’em.

  8. lili on #

    what a ridiculous waste of a perfectly good biscuit. Can’t you write your novel on a less nommy biscuit? Like some kind of lame Arnott’s digestive or something? (although I quite like them).

    What about on white bread? With tomato sauce? Or mustard?

  9. Justine on #

    That’s the whole point, Lili! It has to be something nommy and wondrous. Otherwise there’s no sacrifice and suffering. Sheesh!

  10. Mary Elizabeth S. on #

    I floated a short story in a pool once. Folded it up into a paper boat and watched it sail around until it sank and turned to wet gunk. ‘Twas very therapeutic.


Comments are closed.