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Saturday, February 21, 2015

Selling Out...

      Years back, an editor wrote me (before e-mail days) that if I'd submitted an arthritis self-help book that touted some curative foods, then it would have a greater chance of being accepted. She was kind of 'hinting' the idea to me.
      Being one of a gazillion chronic pain sufferers, I was outraged by the idea.  Imagine if I bought a book that sang the glories of eating wheat germ every day as a sure 'cure' when it fact it was simply a sure scheme to generate big sales for author and publisher? Another disappointing attempt to find relief.  Another scam gone through because saps like me believed their words.
     I don't want to be one of those authors who make a quick buck at the expense of any reader. And that isn't just in the self-help genre. There is also fiction. How does a story make me come away from reading it? Sad? Uplifted? Hopeful? Depressed? Dark? Inspired? What do I, as a writer, hope to invoke in the reader?  After all, a person has bought my book and taken the time to read it. What will be the lasting impression of my words?
    There are books that I've read back in High School that linger with me to this day. (We're talking ancient history here.) I remember how disappointed I was when I saw the film to the book: Lost Horizon. The book stirred my imagination into a whole other world (Shangri la) and the movie didn't quite compare. I remember books that disturbed me as well...books I had no business reading as a teen, such as Valley of The Dolls.
      This is not to praise or criticize either book, it is just a reflection on how specific books might affect certain readers.We never know who will pick up the stories we write and the lingering positive or not-so-positive effect it will have on any given person. I prefer to make a positive impact, like the sower who sows the good seeds that yield a hearty crop. However, I keep in mind, that we might never really know the good fruit of every seed we sow. Some of our writing might simply be a piece or two in a local paper, but even if one seed takes root in a positive way, then our work has been fruitful indeed.
     Of course, there is the topic of 'free speech' and "free will' and I do not overlook these rights in both writer or reader. However, if I were asked to write a dark story full of violence and profanity for a generous advance and contract, I d have to turn it down. I'd lament the loss of earnings as a writer, but not the images and message I'd imprint on the minds of readers for the sake of publicity and 'making it' as an author. Such ideas were suggested to me by others, but I will not sell out my convictions for publication. 
     Equally important, I could not delve into such a story day in and day out during the writing process without slight insanity and much depression. I am not made of the stuff of Stephen King. (And this is not a put down to him. He is an excellent writer, just not my cup of genre!) 
    An accountant once told me that the IRS considers the annual income of any craft that is under $3,000 as a hobby.  I take it that many of us writers are long times hobbyists.  That's okay by me.  When I attain the legal status of 'writer' I hope it will be from a work that I am comfortable with and that will in some way enrich the soil of society...even if just a little.

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